Coaches re-think purpose of spring football practice

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Practice makes perfect: Isabella quarterback Tyler Smith throws a pass during a practice this spring.

Practice makes perfect: Isabella quarterback Tyler Smith throws a pass during a practice this spring.

Maplesville football coach Brent Hubbert has seen high school football’s spring practice period change dramatically.

“For years, spring training was to run people off,” Hubbert said. “We went out there and killed each other to see who wanted to play.

“Now, it’s year-round. Our kids are playing three sports. If they haven’t quit through the strength and conditioning program, they’re going to be pretty tough. You start thinking about the reasons you do spring training, and there’s not really a reason to do it.”

Local teams do indeed take advantage of the opportunity to take to the fields each spring, even if the approach has changed.

Isabella coach Scott Booth said he was pleased with how quickly his players were able to catch on to new offensive and defensive schemes.

The defense will use different terminology, while the offense “added a couple of wrinkles to what we already do,” Booth said.

“Our guys caught on real well,” he said. “I think our first group is going to be fine, but some younger guys are going to have to step up.”

In particular, Booth pointed to the fullback position, which is crucial in the coach’s Notre Dame Box offense.

“We have two or three guys that look good; they’re just inexperienced,” Booth said. “We’re lacking in size and experience.”

Setting the tone for the summer and fall is also an important aspect of spring practice.

Verbena coach Mike Harris said his program enjoyed its best spring period in years.

“I haven’t heard anybody griping and complaining,” Harris said. “We only have four seniors, but they’re great leaders.”

Those seniors play at important positions, including Jared Mims at quarterback and Nick Adams, Jonathan Cleckler and Jacob Wilson on the offensive and defensive lines.

Mims was thrust into the quarterback position during a practice game at the end of the 2012 spring period because of an injury to the expected starter.

Mims improved throughout last season, but Harris said having a spring to practice at the position should help.

“He’s come a long way already, just his confidence level,” Harris said.

The Red Devils expect to utilize Mims’ running ability with an option attack this season.

“We were trying to do some things like us just call an option play, and then let him call what option he wants to run,” Harris said. “He got pretty good at it.”

On the heels of spring practice comes summer workouts, which Booth said are important for strength and conditioning but also for building team chemistry.

“You can’t practice if you’re out of shape,” he said.

The summer will also feature passing camps. Maplesville will host a camp, along with Chilton County High School, with about 10 teams on June 27.

MHS will also travel to Dalton, Ga., for the Southeast 7-on-7 Challenge, featuring 32 teams from several different states.

The workouts and camps will build on the lessons learned in the spring, whether those lessons were many or few.

“We just wanted to see people out working, cutting, doing things in a football way,” Hubbert said. “We just wanted to see how coachable they were, how they would respond to coaching.”