By Rob Patrick
Mondays are always important for the Bryant Hornets football team and, especially[more] so, for an inexperienced squad like this year’s model.
On Mondays, the players view the video from the previous Friday night’s game. The coaches, who usually watch and grade it right after the game, have it broken down and provide commentary — praise when warranted and instruction always.
Immediately after last Friday’s 21-14 win over the rival Benton Panthers in the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Hornets head coach Paul Calley had the impression that his offense hadn’t performed very well and the defense had. But, upon review of the video, he mentioned that both were less so.
“We didn’t make as many errors offensively as what I first thought,” he said Monday before the video session with his players. “It was compounded. It seemed like every time we made an error, (Benton) happened to have the right blitz dialed up or it worked out perfectly for them and it made us look a whole lot worse than what it really was.
“The effort was there,” he emphasized. “I don’t think the concentration level was there. Being young, it’s hard to impress upon them how important it is to be there mentally. I thought we had the focus when we came down after school. But, after we got to the stadium, it was a different group.”
In analyzing the game, Calley said that everything and everybody needs to keep working.
“There’s a lot of things we can improve as players and coaches,” he stated. “Being back in the spread is a little different. It’s going to take some adjustment on all of our parts to be efficient.
“Our kicking game, especially our punting game, has got to get better,” he added. “Our extra point/field goal team has got to get better.
“I was very complimentary of the defense but after I went back and watched the defense, we had a lot of loafs, had a lot of guys that weren’t nearly as physical,” the coach mentioned. “We had some that played as hard as they could possibly play then we had some that I thought didn’t play with a lot of confidence, didn’t play with a lot of effort. That’s another area that we can improve.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Griffith commented, “Number one, you look for effort. We had a lot of guys that gave very, very good effort. I would mention probably Tim Kelly and Aaron Bell as two guys that just gave tremendous effort all night long. Other guys did too, but those two really stood out with their effort play after play.
As for his assessment after viewing the film, Griffith said, “We saw a lot of good things, a lot of good hustle. We saw some very correctible mistakes in situations where our reads were just a little bit off; some situations where our angles as we attacked things were just a little bit off and could’ve made all the difference in the world; where we got over a block instead of under a block; some small things like that. We didn’t get to exactly the right spot we need in our pass drops. Those type of things, we feel like we can correct.”
The inexperience on defense showed, he indicated, “When you think about it, (cornerback) Dillon Winfrey is the only guy that started much last year or played full time. Other guys played some, Aaron Bell and Tim Kelly played a little bit and Jesse (Johnson) and Travis (Royal) played some. But, by and large, most of the time we had nine or 10 guys out there (Friday) — that was their first varsity game. So, we can probably attribute some of the mental mistakes to just nerves and their first time on a very big stage with a huge crowd and lots of noise. It was the first Salt Bowl in several years where the crowd was truly in the ballgame all night long.”
Both coaches emphasized that, with a trip to Fort Smith coming this Friday where they’ll play a Northside team that beat a more experienced Hornets team last season, 36-21, in Bryant, the improvements are critical.
“The main thing is just the overall execution of the scheme on both sides of the ball,” Calley said. “We’ve been teaching it a certain way and there’s a reason we teach it that way. It’s because that’s the way you’re going to be successful with it. Hopefully, they’ll pick up on it. Hopefully, when they see the film today and they see the mistakes they made, the light’s going to flip on and they’ll understand why we’ve been teaching it the way we teach it. That’s the biggest thing. If they’ll do what they’re taught, the outcome is going to be good. If they do what they want to do, then it’s not going to look as pretty.”
“We’re going to get a great chance against a very, very good offensive football team in Fort Smith Northside to see if we can get those things corrected,” Griffith said. “They’ve got outstanding receivers. Their quarterback, who played receiver last year, is very, very poised. They’ve got a huge offensive line. So it’s going to be a big challenge when we go up there. It’ll be a good gauge on whether we can make some of those corrections because, if we don’t, they’ll make us pay.”