Note: For a preview of spring practice, go here.
By Rob Patrick
There was an unplanned break in spring football practice at Bryant Stadium on Wednesday, the[more] third day of the 10-day schedule. A thunderstorm rolled in and sent the team into the fieldhouse workout area then, when the sirens went off around town announcing the sighting of a tornado in the county, everyone filed into the halls of the fieldhouse.
“That kind of broke our concentration,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Paul Calley. “When we came back out we did some good things and made some plays. We made mistakes but they’re all correctible. The scrimmage went well.”
It was the first day the team got in some scrimmage time and, to some extent, the offense got the best of it.
“I thought (sophomore-to-be) Madre London did a good job running the ball,” Calley said. “Good Lord willing and we stay healthy, we’ve got some guys to get the ball to. We caught the ball well over the middle. We threw three or four balls over the middle and caught the ball, something I haven’t seen around here in a long time.”
Defensive coordinator, Steve Griffith said the unexpected break seemed to affect his group
“Once it all cleared for about 20 or 30 minutes, we went back out and I just don’t think we got our intensity going defensively,” he said. “I thought offensively, we had some individuals that did a good job. Our execution (on defense) wasn’t real sharp but we had some guys make some nice runs offensively. Don’t want to take anything away from those guys but hopefully we’ll come back with a better ability to tackle. That was the first time, we’ve actually looked to do a little live tackling and it looked like it.
“We’re going to have some film that we can watch and hopefully make some big improvements, make some corrections,” he added. “We’ll come back tomorrow and the next day, have a little scrimmage time and, hopefully, get a little better defensively.”
The scrimmage was fairly brief.
“We had more group work, more individual work,” Calley mentioned, “worked on some things that we need to get better at such as switching defensive linemen in the pass rush. Our receivers have to work on their depth on the screens a little bit more. Defensively, we’re still having a hard time lining up. We had to slow things down until they got lined up but we’ll get all that worked out.
“We’re getting a lot of people reps,” he noted. “As the week goes on, we’ll start to move people around and we’ll start to get more people reps in the position we think they’re going to be playing on Friday nights. We’re working a lot of people on both sides of the ball.”
Calley likes his group of skill players. And that’s where a lot of the experience on the team is with the return of starters at quarterback, Hayden Lessenberry; running back, Karon Dismuke and Jalen Bell; and wide receiver.
Regarding the receivers, Jason Hay said, “It’s fortunate for me that I’ve got almost everybody back. Sawyer and Dillon were key receivers last year and they’re back. Obviously, they’re ahead of everybody else. Jalen Bell and Austin Powell have both been working at C. They’ve been doing a good job. (Devon) Sears has been doing a good job at A. We’ve got a few guys in the mix there.
“But they’re ahead of where we were last year just because they had so much playing time experience,” he added. “That’s helped us. But we’re going to rely a lot more on throwing the ball so we’ve got to be more prepared than we have been.”
The Hornets are returning to the spread offense to take advantage of the talent on the squad.
“We’ve got some young guys I think are really going to help give us some depth too,” Hay said. “We know Sawyer and Weezy (Winfrey) are going to have to play some defense this year.
“As far as catching the ball, I like where we’re at,” concluded Hay, who serves as the Bryant boys head soccer coach in the spring. “It’s real hard when I’m not here during the off-season. They don’t really get the work as far as the individual routes, the steps. So we’re behind in that sense but they’ve caught a lot of balls and we can get that done between now and August. I’ll have plenty of time to fix that.”