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Cass Tech gets physical as preseason practice heats up

By: Tom Markowski, August 9, 2017, 8:13 pm

Detroit – Now it’s getting serious.

Detroit Cass Tech held its third official practice on Wednesday, its first with shoulder pads, and tempers flared during the first session as a brief altercation took place between players from the offensive side and a handful from the defense.

No matter. Coaches broke it up rather quickly and the players settled down. Coach Thomas Wilcher said afterwards that he was pleased that the players showed some intensity.

Practice will continue for all teams this week into next when scrimmages will be held. The season begins Aug. 24 and Cass Tech, the defending Class A champions and the team to beat again this season, will open that evening at the Glass Bowl in Toledo against Pickerington (OH) at 7.

Wilcher has many holes to fill notable on the offensive line, at quarterback, the secondary and there’s the graduation of receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is expected to see extensive playing time this season at Michigan.

“Maybe next time (we practice) we’ll be able to run some plays,” Wilcher said.

He was only half kidding. Unable to practice on this day were Aaron Jackson (illness), who is expected to replace Rodney Hall at quarterback, and defensive back Kalon Gervin (foot injury), one of the state’s top recruits. Both are expected back soon.

One consistent player was DeAndre Square (6-1, 200), an outside linebacker who committed to Kentucky. Square’s leadership qualities were evident all during practice as was his freakish athleticism.

The question mark for this team, one Wilcher said will not be cured quickly, is the offensive line.

“We might start all sophomores and freshmen,” he said. “It’s possible we’ll start a senior. It could be by committee.”

Other areas of stability are at running back where juniors Lou Nichols and Jaren Mangham are two of the best in the state. The receiver position has quality players including Brandon Gray, a transfer from Southfield A&T who committed to Washington State.

“I like how our defense is aggressive,” Square said. “We got each other’s back. We hustles to the ball.

“We have speed on offense and the O-Line will get there. The hustles on the O-Line has to get better. The defensive backs have to high point the ball, too.

“We have three goals. Run hard in the drills. Run hard back after the drills and run hard back to your spot. It’s all about effort and toughness.”