By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Hornets football team had a lighter practice on Thursday, though it may have been the[more] hottest day yet on the Bryant Stadium turf. In conjunction with the work outside, however, the coaches and players had a little teaching session reviewing video of recent practices.
“The offensive and defensive lines watched film together then the secondary and linebackers were together as a group,” explained defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. “And we hopefully made a few corrections on some things that we in the scrimmage (Wednesday). We talked about some things we need to do better. Not so much adjustments but getting everyone to do things the way they’re supposed to play it, to be able to execute as we’re supposed to.”
“I got out all my frustrations,” stated Hornets head coach Paul Calley of the video sessions. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
Calley said the video let’s his players see what they’ve done to reinforce what the coaches are saying.
“They’ll look at you like you’re crazy when you tell them something on the field,” he related. “But then you can show them, it sinks in.
“That, and pointing out that if you give half-hearted effort, you’re going to get no results,” Calley added. “That’s what we did (Wednesday), got a little tired and it made cowards out of us. We just quit, offensively. And that’s everybody, offensive line, quarterback, running back, receivers — just kind of laid down.
“Granted, we’re not used to the heat but we weren’t going that many plays in a row,” the head coach continued. “You ought to be able to go six, eight plays. We’ve got to get to the mental toughness side. You know, I had a group of guys last year that, you could beat them down for two hours and they were not going to quit. That’s what made them good. This group has got to get to that level. Because they got to play with and practice with and see that group, you’d think they’d know how it’s done. They still don’t. They still have to learn the hard way. So we’re out there doing slammers in the middle of the scrimmage until I get the effort I need. And I think they understand now.”
And today went better, Calley acknowledged. “We corrected some things in the film room that I’ve been needing to correct. We haven’t had a good shot of it on film but we had it (Wednesday) and we got it corrected today.”
In particular, he mentioned, “Our quarterbacks are being really patient staying in the pocket, almost too patient sometimes. We’ve got to look at our third receiver, fourth receiver, check the ball down, find the void area and do a better job of not making the quarterback feel threatened.
“Too many times, the pocket collapses or somebody gets in off the edge,” Calley related. “Coach Griff goes to a three-front and it’s easy for them to bring pressure at the tackle. We made a lot of bad decisions there, things we shouldn’t have done.
“But it’s a group that has talent,” he emphasized. “We’re not super, by any means, but we can get to a level where we can compete every Friday night and that’s the key, developing the chemistry and playing for each other and competing every snap. Then, you have a chance to win football games. If you’ve got a weak link in just one spot, it brings the whole team down. So, we’ve got to keep moving people around, get them in the right spots and get the athletes on the field where they can best help us.”
Griffith said that Friday’s final spring session could go a long way towards that end. The team will scrimmage more extensively.
“Finishing up, we’re going to give everybody a chance to get on film and see what they’ve got, make a last big push for where they’re at going into the summer,” he stated. “We hope, by the end of the day, that several of those guys we had in pencil before we started, that we can put them down in pen and feel strong about them going into the summer.
“We know there are still going to be some spots where we’re not quite where we need to be to play 7A football on Friday nights in the fall,” he added. “That’ll leave us the summer with some of our team camps and stuff, to make a couple more moves and see if we can get the best 11 guys possible on the field defensively, the best 11 offensively then have a core of 11 guys available for all our special teams to give us the best chance to compete.”
Secondary coach John Wells assessed the progress of his crew, saying, “We decided to cut back on our coverage calls this spring for two main reasons: To make sure everyone learns our base coverage alignments and responsibilities, and evaluate our talent. We wanted to be able to evaluate our guy’s strengths and weaknesses so that we can adapt our schemes to their strengths.
“I believe that’s what spring ball is great for but it is hard to do if we’re trying to teach them 20 different coverages,” he related. “This plan can sometimes be tough on a coach because you have to fight the urge to start installing some of our other coverages. We stuck with our three or four main coverages by making our ‘play it’ calls which means we don’t check out of our coverage because of motion or a change in formation. I think we are better for it.”
Regarding the cornerbacks, Wells said, “I believe we have some corners that can play some man-to-man coverage. They made a lot of improvements in their bump-and-run technique. We had a good rotation at the corner position this spring with all four of them getting a lot of reps. Aaron Bell and Caleb Thomas finished the spring as our field corners. Dylan Winfrey and Sawyer Nichols finished up at our boundary corners. We tried to get these four on the field a lot because of the importance of our ‘nickel’ and ‘dime’ positions that we use a lot against spread teams and in third-and-long situations.”
Turning to the safeties, Wells noted, “We worked quite a few safeties trying to solidify a starting role. Jesse Johnson (field safety) and Travis Royal (boundary safety) made a lot of improvement since last season in their technique and footwork. I’ve seen a big spike in their confidence.
“Ben Clark, brother of Stephen Clark (Bryant’s leading rusher on offense and a factor in the secondary last season), probably got more reps on defense than anyone,” he said. “He’s a very good athlete. We know we have to find a spot on the field for him. He finished the spring learning the safety position, but we may utilize his talents at other positions as well.
“Karon Dismuke worked very hard at learning the safety position as well as his offensive duties,” Wells concluded. “We think he will help us on defense as well. He has very good instincts and is picking up on our scheme. Stoney Stevens ended spring working both safety and corner and is a solid back-up when we need him.”