Hornets’ practices moved up an hour to help contend with excessive heat

By Rob Patrick

Concentration waned a bit as the Bryant Hornets football team wrapped up its third day of fall practice in sweltering heat Wednesday. The team has been practicing in shorts and helmets but on Thursday, they’ll don the pads for the first time so head coach Paul Calley has moved up practice an hour to 7 a.m.

Workouts have been shortened as well. Originally, the Hornets were scheduled to run from 8 to noon with a break in the middle. Instead, they’ve been working out for three hours.[more]

“At the beginning of practice, it’s fairly pleasant but when you get past 9:30, the heat starts to take a toll,” Calley acknowledged. “We had some guys suffer from it today. Nobody went out but you can tell the concentration level’s not there and people start dragging around a little bit more. We haven’t been taking a lot of breaks. Our practice is a little slower right now. We’re doing a lot more teaching so there’s a lot of time standing around.”

Of the early start time, he added, “We’re going to try to be done before 10.”

Beyond that, Calley admitted a little disappointment. “We’re making progress but there’s still some areas we’ve got to make progress in,” he stated.

“I’ve said before that I really feel good about this group as a whole but we have some individuals that, right now, aren’t pulling their weight,” he continued. “We’ve got some seniors that need to step up and be leaders and we’ve got some young guys that have to feel a little more sense of urgency because some of them are going to have to help us. I don’t know if they don’t think they might get varsity time or what it is, but the sense of urgency just isn’t there. Sometimes that comes from a lot of success. People forget what it feels like to lose. We just need that sense of urgency during practice.

“I was disappointed the last two days with some people that missed,” Calley mentioned. “That’s unacceptable. I mean, there are circumstances where people have to miss practice and I understand that but, when you don’t have a good excuse, that’s not acceptable. And when you have your leaders that are falling down in those areas, it’s not good.”

Much of the actual work has been a review of the work the team did during the spring.

“We’re checking for retention there which, with the concentration level not being very good, has led to a lot of mental mistakes throughout, offense and defense,” Calley explained.

Tuesday, the team practiced in the evening due to teacher in-service and concentrated on special teams. That was a bright spot for the coach.

“I feel like that may be, overall, the strongest part of our team,” he related. “Both our kicker and our punter and our schemes — as much time as we spend on our special teams — it gives us a definite advantage there.”

The coach said he hopes that the contact work will bring a spark to practice. “We’re definitely going to have to pick it up from where we’ve been. It is hot and football’s a tough sport but these guys are going to have to get over the mental block they’ve got where they think it’s too tough. They need to get out there and get after it.

“I hope the pads do that for us but it’s going to be twice as hot, the fatigue factor’s going to be worse and we’ve got a three-hour practice scheduled. We’ll see how they respond. There’s going to be a lot of contact.

“I’m ready to establish the starting 11 on both sides of the ball,” he asserted. “We’ve got a good idea but I’m ready to get that solidified and then find some people that are capable to back up certain positions.”

The coach went on to say that it’s beginning to look like more players may have to play both ways.

“We’ve already decided as a staff that we’ve got some people that are going to have to play on both sides of the ball,” he emphasized. “The people that we need to step up in a back-up role haven’t done it so we’re going to take starters from the other side of the ball and get them ready to play where they’re not used to playing.”

Bryant is coming off an 8-3 season in which they tied for third in the 7A-Central Conference. As the league’s No. 4 seed in the State playoffs, they lost in the first round to Fort Smith Southside, the eventual State runner-up, 35-24.

The Hornets will scrimmage Pine Bluff on Monday, Aug. 23, then open the season against arch-rival Benton in the 11th Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Friday, Sept. 3.

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