Calley assesses Hornets’ progress halfway through spring

The Bryant Hornets football team started the second week of spring practice on Tuesday with their fourth of seven practices in pads over three weeks. They’d engaged in contact on Friday then taken the weekend off for Memorial Day and head coach Paul Calley noted the effects.

“Our first three days were extremely good practices,” he related. “Yesterday there was a lull. The holiday, the sunburns, the over-eating, I’m sure had something to do with it. We still executed. We just didn’t have the enthusiasm we had the week before. We’ll have it back tomorrow, I think.”

After watching film of Tuesday’s practice, hitting the weight room and working on execution without contact today, the Hornets were set for day five of pads on Thursday. Day six will be Monday then they’ll wrap up the spring in pads on Wednesday, June 3.

Regarding the film sessions today, Calley said his staff would be focused on showing the team a variety of things.

“The first group was where I thought they would be,” he said of Tuesday’s work. “We had a couple of mistakes but nothing glaring with the first group. Our second and third groups, protecting the football is a point of emphasis. Getting the snaps, securing the snap, making sure that we don’t turn it over, is the big thing.

“The other hard thing too is when we go through the first eight plays with the first groups and we’ve got a quick whistle, not tackling to the ground,” he continued. “Then we go into the second and third groups and their phase and they are tackling to the ground. We don’t have everybody going to the whistle. Everybody’s in that pull-up mode and it’s hard to get everybody to hustle until the whistle blows. But I’m sure it’ll be that way until we play our first scrimmage.

“But that’s what you want to see,” the coach asserted. “You want to see hustle, mainly. You want to see the hustle and a little intensity and a sense of urgency. Some of these guys have a chance to earn some playing time on Friday night and I want to see them seize the opportunity instead of just kind of sitting back and letting things happen. They need to take control and be a little more forceful in some situations at every position. It’s not just offense. It’s not just defense. It’s every position. I think you can make yourself more noticeable, more recognizable defensively with an aggressive style of play.”

Asked where he’s seen the team make progress this spring, Calley stated, “I would say, in every aspect of our football team, we’ve seen progress. Every position has improved, not making as many mental mistakes. Physically, we understand things that we can and can’t do.

“Speaking from the perspective of an offensive line coach, I have been pleasantly surprised with my guys; their retention from last year and just their physical nature,” he related. “I really expected them to be a more finesse group but they have really matured and come on.

“I think our skill positions can be really good,” he continued. “Gunnar Burks has done a really good job of making things happen at quarterback, even when it breaks down around him. I think that’s going to be his strong suit. We’ve got our receivers back from baseball and they’ve performed well.”

At running back, the Hornets return DeAmonte Terry and Savonte Turner along with Cameron Coleman who showed flashes last season as a sophomore but struggled with fumbles

“Cameron Coleman’s hanging onto the ball,” Calley said. “DeAmonte and Savonte have been limited in their carries but Cameron’s only had one fumble. That was after a 40-yard run.”

The coach continued his assessment saying, “Defensively, we’re developing some depth in the line. I want to praise Walker Brown for his play. I wish he weighed about 25 pounds more but he can give us some depth. Dany Murillo has come on a little bit. Of course, the mainstays there are (Hayden) Knowles, Cam (Cameron Murray) and Mario (Waits). They’ve had really good springs. It’s been good for our guys to have to try to block them every day.

“Linebackers had a rough first couple of days but I think they’ve rebounded and done better,” Calley noted. “Devon Howard, in the middle, I think he’s been pretty solid. He’s got to have surgery again on his knee so he’ll be out the month of June. He’s still practicing but he’s going to try to get rid of the pain he’s been having.

“The secondary, I know they’re not where Coach (John) Wells wants them to be, but they’re making strides also,” he said. “Some of our younger guys at safety, Cameron Vail and Michael Jones, have looked pretty good. I think they’ll be able to give us some depth. Jaelyn Jones is coming back from an ACL tear. He was kind of tentative early last week but he was a little more sure of himself yesterday. Of course, Phillip Isom-Green was a part-time starter last year.

“We’ve got some athletic corners. Pierce Finney, Najee Hunt, Devon Davis, Collin Welch. None of the four are great right now but they all run well and I think Coach Wells will have them ready to go. We’ve got four seven-on-seven dates early in June so that’ll give us a chance to see them further with some balls in the air.

“We’ve already touched on some special teams,” the coach concluded. “I think we’ll be solid in special teams again.”

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