Photos by Rick Nation
The Bryant Hornets football team concluded 2016 spring football practice on Thursday and new head coach Buck James was fired up.
“I think we came light years,” he said. “It’s been three days a week for three weeks. From where we started, from really basically ‘This is a ball and this is what offense we’re going to run’ to being able to execute and scrimmage and do it at a pretty decent level, I think was remarkable, on the effort of all the coaches and players.
“I mean I was really looking at a 2 or 3 (out of 10 rating) the first couple of weeks but I was probably getting a 6 or 7,” he continued. “Then the last two days, I think we got some 8’s and 9’s from the standpoint of execution and the kids trying to learn and trying to be able to get it done.
“I think it was a testament to their will to want to be good. They want to please and they want to do well. They want to be good players and they worked their tails off these last three weeks doing that.”
James credited his coaches including John Wells and Steve Griffith who have been coaching football for several years at Bryant but decided not to this year.
“Coach Wells and Coach Griff helping out — I can’t say enough about their class and the appreciation I have for those two to do that,” James reiterated. “That just doesn’t happen all the time. Our junior high coaches came out and did a great job. And our coaching staff — we had guys driving in from Fort Smith, Malvern, southwest Little Rock.”
Regarding the advances the team made, James said, “I really thought we threw and caught the ball well, a lot better than what I anticipated.
“But we still have way too many drops when I say all that,” he related. “But I thought we showed tremendous improvement from the times where we were just teaching the routes in the indoor to getting out there and having guys hitting us and trying to catch them.
“Overall, I have to give us at least a 7 or 8 for the whole spring because it was so slow at the beginning but our effort was a 10 and our attitude was a 10,” the coach mentioned. “We got to where we were really committed. We didn’t miss. Today was the first time we only had two kids out of pocket.
“With 142 kids, we’ve come a long ways. And we gave them all the same reps, all the same amount of snaps, the same amount of teaching and we got a chance for our threes and fours to catch up with our ones and twos. That’s what’s going to make us a better football team.”
Still, James said that players and positions and the depth chart are not set.
“We’re not solid at all,” he stated. “It’s wide open in a lot of places. We’ve mainly got our upper classmen in the spots in the ones and twos. Our threes and fours are maybe our underclassmen but we’ve had some moves. We’re looking at some things. We looked at different guys in different spots. We’ve looked at several sophomores on offense and defense. From the line positions, we’ve made a lot of changes in our guards and tackles and our centers.
“We’ve got an idea now where to start and where to go,” the coach said. “Team camps will be important because we’ll get to see against other people how we’re doing and where we’re at against them. Then we’ve got a couple of 7-on-7’s that’ll help us with our passing game.”
James cautioned, “Now, all we’ve done is put the foundation on the ground. We’ve got to build a big ol’ house on top of this and it’s going to be a brick at a time. We’ve got a long ways to go.
“We’ve got to have a great summer,” he asserted. “Our quarterbacks have got to be able to make at least 10,000 throws, quality throws. Our receivers have got to be able to run 10,000 routes. Our d-backs have got to learn to cover and our linebackers have got to be able to step up in their runs fits and be able to execute their pass drops. Our running backs have got to work on ball security and execution and their pass blocking game.
“Our quarterbacks are the guys that are going to set the tone for our team. We can only do what they do. If they’re good at something then we’re going to be good at something. We’ve got to be able to tailor to them.”
To summarize, James said, “This will be a work in progress all the way to August. I think it’s too early and it would definitely be unfair to say that one guy’s a better guy than the other when we’ve still got four months to go. But we’re going to give our upperclassmen the first nod. They’ve got the chance but when we play our first football game, the best will be on the field. It won’t matter what grade they’re in.”
The Hornets will play a pre-season scrimmage at Pulaski Academy on Aug. 26 then open the season with the annual Salt Bowl against the rival Benton Panthers on Sept. 2.