By Rob Patrick
This fall, when you’re watching the Bryant Hornets football team in action and everything goes just right — when a[more] quarterback and receiver hook up on a perfectly times completion; or linebacker shows up in the right hole at just the right time; or a guard makes a block just in time for a running back to break loose; or a corner gets back in position to make an interception despite a good play-fake — think of August.
Because now is the time that the Hornets — or any other team of players — get the repetitions (“reps”) that make crucial reads second nature; when players get to know so well what to do in certain situations, they don’t even have to think about it, they just react.
“We’re getting a ton of reps,” Hornets head coach Paul Calley acknowledged. “We ran 60, almost 70 plays today — first group, second group, sophomores — in about 50 minutes. We’re getting a lot of snaps but plenty of rest.
“We had a good day,” he said of Monday’s work. “We expected a letdown with the weekend and being sore and all that but we didn’t get it. They came to practice. They’ve been resilient. I’ve been really proud of them.”
The team continues to work in the morning on Tuesday but because of in-service for the coaches, will switch to evenings on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday will be back to a morning practice before school starts and the regular-season routine begins on Monday, Aug. 15.
“In our group work, we’re fine-tuning things and polishing and re-teaching and making sure that we have a good understanding of the schemes,” Calley said. “Then we get in the inside drill and we can actually coach the drill full speed. Then, when we come to team, we’re running a lot of 11 on 11. We’re filming it all and we’re coaching on the run then we’re watching film afterward, making corrections. The only way you can get better is to do it full speed.”
The Hornets are making something of a return to the spread offense this season so reps for the quarterbacks are crucial. Calley said it’s more a matter of progressions than reading coverages.
“We try to recognize coverage but we’re going to progress through our reads,” he explained, “It’s not really going to depend on the coverage. It’s going to depend on what happens with the first read. If the first one is covered, we’re going to the second.
“The quarterbacks are having a tendency to hang on to the ball too long instead of taking what’s there,” the coach mentioned, “taking the short stuff. We’re trying to hang on for the home run and, as the year goes on, they’re not going to give us time to do that. We’re going to have to make them defend the short pass and when we force them to do that then we can take the long stuff.
“We can take some shots down the field but it’s got to be 1-2-3-throw down the field,” he added. “It can’t be shotgun snap, hold, four seconds like 7-on-7 because we’re not going to have that much time.”
Calley mentioned that his offense has been getting some different looks from the defense.
“It’s going to help us as an offense,” he stated. “It helps us establish protection rules, let everybody know where they’re supposed to be, and the only way we can protect certain looks. It’s helping us with ‘hot’ reads and our screens.”
Calley seems to like the pace of practice, especially in regards to his work as the offensive line coach.
“It’s different for me because we’re going so much faster and there’s so much less to teach as far as formations and shifts and motions and different holes to run in and different schemes,” he related. “It’s kind of refreshing to me because I don’t have to worry about so much every day, blocking down and kicking out at a certain point, getting so-and-so in the right spot. We’ve got it spread and we’re flinging it.”
Without sophomore Wesley Akers who will be backing up starter Hayden Lessenberry. running back-receiver Karon Dismuke played some at quarterback on Monday for the first time this season.
“Wesley’s out with appendicitis and (Austin) Powell is out with a hamstring so Karon’s now our back-up quarterback,” noted the coach. “He looked really good today even throwing the ball.”
On Sunday, the Hornets were featured in a preview in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Calley was interviewed before he learned that promising sophomore running back Madre London had moved to Florida.
“That hurts,” he acknowledged. “He was our depth at running back and at one of the receiver spots.”
It did help that junior running back-receiver Jalen Bell returned to practice today as did the team’s top returning receiver, senior Sawyer Nichols. Still unavailable are receiver-quarterback Austin Powell and wideout Devon Sears.
“There’s not a lot of depth,” Calley stated. “A place where we thought we were going to have a lot of experience and depth, we don’t have either now. We’re going to have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. Hopefully, Sawyer and Dillon (Winfrey) will stay healthy. I’ve been really impressed with Ben Clark playing inside receiver and running back. He has really come on.”
The coach noted that Clark is also helping out on defense as outside linebacker.
“That’s the guys I’d like to brag on,” he said, “the guys that are having to play both ways and they’re splitting time offensively and defensively and they’re giving everything they’ve got. We talked about stopping that because they’re getting all the reps on one side then they flip to defense and they get all the reps over there then we’re doing the same thing in ‘team.’ They’re getting a lot but they’re going to get a lot on Friday nights too. Hopefully, it’ll get them in shape.”
Regarding the team as a whole, Calley concluded, “I’ve been very pleased with the attitude and the commitment. People are stepping up when we need them to step up and I feel good about it.”