Shaw, who will enter his second season with the Warriors in the fall, said the program has come a long way since he arrived on campus last spring. The team has gone 1-9 in each of its last seasons. Their lone win in 2012 was against Sequoyah in Week 2.
“We look a lot better than we did this time last year,” said Shaw. “We have a lot we can improve, but we are in better shape than we were when I got here a year ago.”
One of the most notable differences is the median talent level. During the 2012 season the Warriors had some very talented players, but then there was a sharp drop off. Looking toward 2013, Shaw sees a number of talented players, but the talent chasm isn’t there.
Shaw feels good about the 77 players out for the team.
“I like to think that about 70 is a good number,” he said. “We have a lot of depth this year. A lot of guys are getting reps and a lot of guys are contributing. Last year we had the upper echelon of kids and then a huge drop off. We had starters and another drop off. This year we have closed the gap.”
Shaw said the difference has been made by recruiting younger kids and getting kids to stick with football after playing on the freshman team.
“We are still a young team,” said Shaw. “We will have a lot of young guys contribute, but we have closed that talent gap.”
There are also 35 rising freshmen practicing.
The greatest area of need for Cherokee is the line. Shaw said that while there won’t be many players taking the field on both offense and defense, those who do will often be linemen spelling each other or defensive backs taking snaps at wide receiver.
Otherwise, the Warriors have more depth than Shaw has seen in his brief tenure.
“We won’t have guys going the entire game both ways,” he said. “We return most of our skill kids and we have had some younger kids really step up. That has probably been our strength this spring.”
Among the returners are Spencer Ashley at quarterback, who has had an outstanding spring according to Shaw, and Andrew Harris, a wide receiver. Defensively Brandon Hrouda has had a solid spring, as well as new comers Brandon Monroe (linebacker) and safeties Asher Davis and Chris Miller.
The Warriors will play their spring game today at 5 p.m.