The emphasis during the 10-day workout period was to establish toughness and effort at every position, and Burton came away feeling like that is what he got from his players.
“Our priority in the spring was to instill effort, and I think the kids responded to that,” he said. “We want them to play with extreme toughness on both sides of the ball, and at every position, and to continue to grow from that in the offseason and into next season.
“I’m most proud that the kids embraced that energy and toughness and level of effort, and they played with that chip on their shoulder mentality.”
The energy came from a good mix of players ranging from sophomores to seniors. As many as 75 participated in spring practice, and Burton said competition for starting positions was intense in spots.
“We’re going to be young and inexperienced across the board, on both sides and at every position,” Burton said. “We have some starters returning, and there are areas where we’re literally figuring out who could be the guy to take over that role.”
Two positions where the competition battle shouldn’t be as intense is at quarterback and running back. Brenton Martin will be returning for his senior season as the team’s signal-caller, while KirVonte’ Benson is expected to headline at running back.
“We feel like KirVonte’ is as good as anybody in the state,” Burton said. “He only started playing football his sophomore year, and he’s had a lot of experience since then. We’re expecting him to explode this season.”
Burton also felt good about two other running backs, rising senior Nakia Bernard and junior Maurice Bennett.
“I think those guys can contribute to help spell KirVonte’ in the backfield,” Burton said.
The fifth-year coach also said that Martin has a great grasp of the offense and continued to impress in practice.
“Brenton has embraced his role as a veteran,” Burton said. “He has a solid grasp of what’s needed, and he’s stepped up his game. He had a solid spring in all phases.”
Marietta will have some question marks at wide receiver after losing starters Marcus Bennett and Jordan Mathis to graduation.
“We lost another starter, Marlon Gober, to an ACL injury,” Burton said. “He hasn’t been cleared to return to practice, but we’re hoping to get him back by the start of the season.
“Junior Jordan Dukes has shown a lot of promise, and sophomore Dewayne Smith is a talented kid who can start at wide receiver and safety.”
The offensive line was another major emphasis in the spring where Burton said he “feels good about six or seven kids.”
“Solidifying our guys upfront is where everything begins and ends,” he said. “That’s been a huge emphasis this spring. We need to have more depth there, and we have to stay healthy.
“We’re not blessed with big kids on the line, but we need to establish who we can count on in the future.”
The defense will be young with several sophomores and juniors holding pivotal roles.
Juniors Brian Marshall and Adam Williams should factor in along the defensive line, as will seniors Rick Assinzo and Jeron Holsey.
The linebacker corps could see sophomore Martel Sanders and junior Korbin Miller start, while the secondary should include senior and top returner Raymond Lester, as well as junior Devon Henderson. Smith and sophomore Daniel Charles could also play big roles.
Marietta will also return highly ranked kicker and punter Ian Shannon for his senior season.