Swing spring football: Brunell, Episcopal building community in spring

Eagles look to improve on 7-3 mark

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.NewsJax’s high school football Spring Swing continues daily throughout spring practice across the First Coast. Today, we’ll take a quick look at Episcopal.

Mark Brunell's arm has been tested during spring practice at Episcopal. The former Jaguars quarterback, News4Jax sports analyst and head football coach of the Eagles has thrown more passes in the spring than usual because the only quarterbacks he has in camp are eighth graders, while his experienced quarterbacks are playing for the Episcopal baseball team that has advanced to the regional semifinals in the state baseball tournament. 

"Our head coach, that would be me, has taken 95 percent of the reps. So, I'm back in the mix," Brunell said. "I'm throwing 7-on-7, offensive and defensive team. My arm hasn't hurt this much since 2011. Just don't ask me to run the ball. When the offensive line isn't protecting me, I get after them just like I did back in the day."

Brunell's offense will likely feature tight end Nick Elksnis. The 6-foot-5-inch, 220 pound junior-to-be is being recruited by some of the biggest schools in the country, including Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Miami and others.

"It's crazy. Once you get a really big offer, all of these schools come out that you haven't thought about," Elksnis said. "After I got my Miami officer, all of a sudden, coaches start following me on Twitter and started to come and talk with coach Brunell."

One of the young defensive players Episcopal will lean on is lineman Elijah Franklin, another rising sophomore. He's learning from another former NFL player on the coaching staff, former Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy, who coaches the defensive line.

Ed note: the above player who intercepted Brunell is named Ryland Fountain.

"Spring drills help you get your fundamentals better for the regular season," Franklin said. "(Hardy) has taught me a lot to get better. I feel like if I went somewhere else, I wouldn't as good as I am now."

We get a lot of young players that don't have a lot of experience, so you're doing a lot of teaching. A lot of development," Brunell said. "We're firm with the kids who have been around. We're fair. We want all of our players to have a good spring experience. Learn the game of football. Be a part of our family and really teach them life lessons that the game of football teaches."

Episcopal missed out on a playoff berth in the final week in 2018 but finished the season with a 7-3 record. Expectations for 2019 are high.

"I'm expecting a playoff run and trying to win our first state championship," Franklin said.

Episcopal 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, vs. Providence

Aug. 30, at Lake Highland Prep (Orlando)

Sept. 6, vs. Hilliard

Sept. 13, vs. Englewood

Sept. 20, vs. Baldwin

Sept. 27, Crescent City

Oct. 4, Cedar Creek Christian (homecoming)

Oct. 11, vs. Andrew Jackson (Senior night)

Oct. 18, at Paxon

Oct. 25, bye

Oct. 31 at Stanton

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