The Bryant Hornets football team wrapped up their workout schedule ahead of the start of school today. Even with the early start of the season, it was kind of the dog days of fall practice this week. On the heels of a major scrimmage on Saturday, practice had to be moved from early mornings to late afternoons due to professional development sessions for the coaches.
“We were getting better,” said offensive coordinator Kirk Bock. “Coming in last Saturday, we played real well.
“This past week, we were a little bit lethargic,” he acknowledged. “We had some good points. We made some plays and did some things but a little lack of focus this week set us back just a little bit. Just the change in practice times — anytime there’s a change — and I’m sure we’ll go through the same thing next week with school starting.”
Classes commence on Monday.
“But they’re on the right track,” Bock asserted. “Physically, they’re as good as we’ve ever been. Now, just the mental part, staying focused. When we get there, we’ll be all right.”
New defensive coordinator Quad Sanders assessed the pre-school work, saying, “The biggest thing is our guys are learning where to lineup and where to be, understanding what our defense is about.
“The hardest thing for guys to do is adjust to a new defensive coordinator and his lingo,” he explained. “What I’ve been trying to do is keep the lingo the same for our guys to adjust a lot easier. Now that allows us to play a lot faster. So, I think we’re picking it up now that the communication’s there where it needs to be.
“There are a lot of other things that we can do better as far as tackling — I want to see more hats around the football and a little bit more communication, a little bit faster,” the coach mentioned.
Asked what he found when he arrived as far as talent, Sanders enthused, “Oh, man, the athleticism and speed is unbelievable. And I’m talking about all 11 guys and even the guys that are backing those guys up. They’re really fast. They’re really physical.
“That was shocking to me,” he noted. “Our perimeter speed is really good. We’re going to try to get a little bit more beef on the inside against the heavy running teams, but our speed and athleticism and physicality is unbelievable.”
Bock said there are still a few starting spots to be determined on the offense.
“We have a question on the offensive line and then we have a question on one of the receiver spots,” he related. “We have some prospects.”
“We’ve got some veteran linemen,” Bock noted. “We’ve got some veteran receivers coming back plus our quarterback and our tailback. When that first group is out there, they understand how to play the game for the most part. The younger kids are still trying to figure that out a little bit.
“We just need to focus,” he emphasized. “We get out there and get tired. And we’re doing things that most people don’t do. We go through a workout then we scrimmage. So, they’re tired. We want them to be tired. We just need to fight through some of that and stay focused.”
Said Sanders, “I think we know who our top 11 guys are, so to speak. But, in terms of how we’re trying to do things, to keep the competition open, to keep guys pushing — I mean, we’ve got 11 starters, a first group, but we’ve got some guys up behind those guys. We feel very comfortable putting those guys in the starting lineup. There’s always going to be changes in the lineup, every now and then, just to keep guys on their toes and pushing guys.
“We want two-deep everywhere and I think we have a solid two-deep,” he added. “We have some guys that’ll go both ways for us, to help us out within our two-deep. We’ve got some guys on defense that’ll play some offense to help those guys out with their two-deep as well. But I think we can do pretty good without bringing other guys over. It’s good to have the luxury of bringing some guys from offense though.”
Three-fourths of the secondary for the Hornets will be new starters.
“I didn’t get to see the last year guys, so I don’t know what replacement is,” Sanders commented. “To me, these guys are the best I’ve seen. That’s a plus, you know? I don’t have anything to compare these guys to, in terms of the past. I know they were really good, but these guys are really good too.
“It’ll be their first year playing, so experience is going to be key,” he said. “We need as much playing time as we can get early, all the live reps we can get, just to get them used to the game.”
The Hornets had a splendid 7-on-7 campaign during the summer. That was not just because the offense threw and caught well. It was good for the secondary and linebackers as well.
“No doubt,” Sanders agreed. “The only thing that hurts us in 7-on-7 is guys know it’s a pass. But with no pass rush, you have to cover for a little bit longer. So, if you can master the art of covering for a long time, that means when you get your front four guys on the ground, who happen to be pretty good, it makes you pretty good in the secondary. So, I love 7-on-7 and the fact that you have to cover with no pressure.”
Bock said there have been no major changes in the offense.
“We’ve just kind of built on what we did,” he related. “We always add things. We didn’t really have to overhaul anything. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been pretty smooth.”
The Hornets will scrimmage at Pulaski Academy in a benefit game on Thursday, Aug. 16. A Blue-White scrimmage, mostly featuring the eighth grade and freshman teams, is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 17.
Game week follows culminating in the annual Salt Bowl against the rival Benton Panthers at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m.
“We’ve already started putting some of the game plan in,” acknowledged Bock. “Before Thursday, the scrimmage, we’ll work on that a little bit then it’s go in hard after Thursday.”