Dalton football coach Ronnie McClurg has great expectations for his linebacker corps — Jake McIntosh, Preston Keck and Grant Raber — this coming season.

And he should.

McIntosh, who will be a junior this fall, led the area with 120 tackles in 2005 and was selected to The Daily Citizen’s All-Area team. As a junior, Keck was fourth in the area with 106 stops. And senior-to-be Raber ranked 18th with 55 tackles.

“They’re experienced players,” McClurg said. “I expect them to know the direction they’re supposed to be going and doing things they’re supposed to do.”

At this stage of spring practice, the three hard hitters have not disappointed McClurg, who is preparing for his sixth season as the Cats’ head man.

“I think that group is going to really be good,” McClurg said.

McIntosh also had two forced fumbles and a recovery during the 2005 regular season and added an interception in the playoffs.

“I was very happy with my play last season, but there’s always room for improvement,” McIntosh said. “This spring I’ve really tried to work on my reads, speed and agility, trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. This has been a pretty physical spring, but I like that.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound McIntosh plays inside and will be flanked by Keck and Raber.

One area in which Keck is trying to improve is keeping his body low to ward off offensive linemen.

“I have to do a better job staying below the blockers,” Keck said. “At times that was a problem last year. I have to be more efficient with that.”

Keck said the Cats’ defensive line has had a solid spring and he isn’t bashful about spreading the word.

“The defensive line is my favorite part of the team,” he said. “They’ve really stepped up and are creating a lot of lanes for the linebackers to fill. They’re helping us make a lot of tackles.”

McClurg said the Cats’ defense has “certainly been ahead” of the offense throughout spring workouts. He added that the offense “came to life” and had two good drives during Tuesday’s scrimmage.

STOREY LOOKS GOOD: Running back Kelly Storey has enjoyed a solid spring, McClurg said.

Storey rushed for 253 yards with a 5.3-yard per carry average in a back-up role last season and appears ready to increase those numbers in 2006.

“Kelly has had an excellent spring,” McClurg said. “Kelly gives you everything he’s got on every play as far as speed. He’s been real consistent.”

ANDERSEN IS BACK: There is a familiar face back in the Cats’ offensive line. Robb Andersen, who missed the 2005 season due to a head injury and complications, is back at right guard. McClurg has been “very encouraged” by Andersen’s play.

n THE SECONDARY: Tyler Wofford, Justin Suttles and Brad Wilkerson (corner) appear settled in at their positions. The Cats are still searching for a strong safety, though.

NO SURPRISE THERE: Place-kicker Adrian Mora has shown no dropoff from his All-Area season in 2005. McClurg said the senior kicker has had very strong workouts this spring.

CATCHING THEIR EYES: Andre Johnson, who will be a junior this coming season, has been impressive in the defensive line. “He really plays our five-technique and he’s getting better every day in practice,” McClurg said.

The coach also likes the effort being given by defensive lineman David Hall. “He’s got a good motor,” McClurg said.

MATURITY SHOWS: McClurg said quarterback Harrison Scott is making very good decisions in the passing game. Scott passed for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 163 yards as a sophomore.

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