WEST JORDAN Coach Art Erickson has spent the past three years trying to grow something at Copper Hills.
This fall, however, he hopes to finally reap a harvest.
"Progress," "improvement" and "growth" have been buzz words inside Copper Hills' football programs throughout Erickson's tenure, and a year after starting out 3-1 before finishing 4-6, Erickson and Co. hope to take some big steps forward in 2008.
"I've spent three years here sinking roots, and we hope something now can flourish above the ground," said Erickson.
To that end, the Grizzlies will look toward new-found depth as something that will help them get there. For the first time since he's been at Copper Hills, Erickson said he feels he is legitimately 2-deep at every position.
Graduated stars Kedrick Moeai and Sealver Siliga may be gone to the University of Utah, but Erickson said the key to success this fall for Copper Hills may be its ability to have solid players at every position, rather than try and rely on just a few guys.
"I think it was a needed transition for us to improve ourselves in one thing, rather than try and do (multiple things)," Erickson said of having his players concentrate on one side of the ball.
"We have had good players here, but maybe too much was being asked of one or two guys who were doing too much. So it could be a maturation of a coach, maybe. I think it's also a maturation of a program, and everybody wants to be better . . . It was a step that fits what we're doing here in our circumstances."
Inasmuch as Copper Hills has been working to not have to rely on just one guy, however, it's apparent that senior Clint Jex will be counted on to have another huge defensive season.
In 2007, he ranked third in the state with 12 sacks, and much is expected from the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker.
"Clint brings, not only that experience, but that leadership in terms of performance leadership not just bravado in the weight-room, not just yellin' and screamin' at your teammate, but performance leadership," said Erickson. "That's the key element he brings for us."
Jex will be joined by several returning seniors in key positions, but expect some of those roles, if not several of them, to be filled by juniors."There's several juniors that will be asked to play significant roles," said Erickson. "The thing I like about this junior class is that they augment the senior class very well. There has not been a pecking order in terms of age or class between juniors or seniors."
Copper Hills Grizlies prep football preview
COACH: Art Erickson, a product of Cache Valley, enters his fourth season as Copper Hills' head coach.
KEY PLAYERS: Senior defensive star Clint Jex (DE/OLB) has received recruiting interest from a number of schools and should have a big year this fall. Around him, look for Bo Duckett, Tanner Hamblin, Dakota Bowman and Clint Facer to be key players on defense. Going the other way, watch out for RB Brian Bell, Chance Sprague, Chandler Allen, Taylor Targos Josh Soter and John Gerhke, among others.
QUESTION MARK: Can Copper Hills turn the corner and really head in the right direction? Erickson will be the first to tell you coaching is a bottom-line business, and the Grizzlies must prove they're capable of getting to the next level.
LAST YEAR: 4-6, missed the playoffs.
PREDICTED REGION 3 FINISH: Sixth.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: As always, getting to the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment for the football success-starved school of Copper Hills. Qualifying for the postseason would be tangible evidence of progress, and anything above that would be a huge, huge bonus.
Aug. 22 PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Box Elder, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.Oct. 23 BINGHAM, 7 p.m.