As the defending 7A State champion Bryant Hornets were getting into their second week of spring practice, they were looking for enough dry days to put together a few in succession. A practice on the first Monday last week wasn’t what head coach Buck James was looking for. He said Tuesday was better, but the rest of the week was washing out by rain.
This week, the same pattern held force except, it looked like the Hornets would get a few more consecutive days to build on their progress.
“I would like a little more consistency, so we can evaluate some things,” James said. “Hopefully, we’re going to get in four days this week then two or three days next week and be done with it.
“We’ve got a lot of learning going on,” he noted. “We’re trying to get every kid the same amount of reps like we normally do. We’re trying to teach everybody what we want and how we want it and then be able to piece it together like that.”
Over three weeks, each high school team gets 10 days in full pads.
“You can’t have contact every day,” said the coach. “You’ve got to have a day in between, tackling and stuff but we’re just teaching on those days, just trying to learn our stuff. Really, it’s fundamentals, just the basics of offensive and defensive football. We try to work a little special teams each day, just to make sure we get that part of our plan in so our kids know how to practice it.
“We try to practice the same way we do in the season,” he explained. “We contact one day a week in season and that’s basically what we’ve done here. We’re really just trying to teach kids where to be. Hopefully that dog will bite when it gets time to go. I think knowing what to do, this time of year, is more important than who’s going to hit and do all that stuff. We’ve got plenty of time to figure all that out.
“We know what the upper classmen can do,” James asserted. “So, it’s just a matter of getting them in the right places and see how bad they want to go after it. A lot of it is learning how to practice, learning what to do then learning how well we can do it.
Much of it is focused on the younger players, freshmen becoming sophomores.
“We wait until 3:30 to start so we can get them out here,” James acknowledged. “They’ve done good. We’ve just got to do it at a higher level faster. And I bet if you talked to every high school coach across the nation, they’re going to tell you that same thing right now. It’s just getting all the right pieces in the right places, see who works together well, see who does it well.”
The point of emphasis in the spring through the summer and the fall will be re-tooling the offensive and defensive lines.
“That’s where we took the biggest hit,” the coach said. “We lost four of our five starters on offense and we lost three of our four starters on the defensive line. That’s our biggest place to fill people.
“We lost a good group of guys,” he noted. “Hopefully, the next group of guys will step up.
“It’s just a matter of time. Those positions are usually the last to come around. You just have to go through the process. That’s why I tell them every day, trust the process. Don’t look at game day or this practice or that practice. Look at what you can get done in the accumulation of every practice we have and where you are at the end of it.
“I feel like we’re going to have guys who can compete for us,” James continued. “It may not be who we have there right now. But some guys learn differently than others. We need some guys with a sense of urgency to play at a higher level.
“We’re not as big on defense, but we run well,” he related. “Offensively, we’ve got some size, we’ve just got to move together. The offensive line has got to be just one big rhythm machine. We’ve got to get those guys to understand what everybody’s role is on every play and what they can do to help them.
“It’s probably no different than where we’ve been in the past. It’s just that we’ve had some guys who’ve been out there on game night, that had played more than what we’ve got right now. But I expect them to step up.
“We have seniors and we have sophomores,” James said. “There’s not a lot in between. What we’ve had is a bunch of guys quit over the years. Because we had those guys that started for so long come through, a lot of guys didn’t want the wait their turn. The guys who did are getting their shot. Then the guys who are young, they’re going to get a shot too.”
Asked how being the defending State champs affects practice, James said, “Our sense of urgency could be a lot better. I’d think we would have guys that are just itching to get in there and go.
“For the kids, they live for the moment,” he concluded. “They don’t live for what might happen or what happened before. Times have changed for some of that stuff. But the guys that we have out there, about 141 guys, they’re getting after it. They do a good job. We’ve just got to get better at what we do. It’s a process.”