Bulldawgs learning on the fly at spring ball
By TJ MAXWELL
After missing last year’s spring practice season due to the Covid-19 pandemic and not getting spring training the year before due to a late departure by former head coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez, second-year head coach and athletic director Jason Hammett knows he and his staff have their work cut out for them.
“We’re taking it pretty slow right now,” he said following Thursday morning’s practice session. “We counted the other day and only like 14 of them have been through spring ball before so they don’t really understand that part right now, but they are getting it.
“They want to come out and have a live team session after day three, but we’re not doing that. We’re slowly building in and trying to work our technique and schemes in. It’s a building process. The good news is we’re only seven days in so we have 11 more practices to get better.”
Not having a lot of depth or experience makes that job even more difficult.
“We don’t have a lot of depth and we don’t have a lot of older kids,” said Hammett. “We’re going to be young and have some thin spots right now across the board. There are a few places where we have a little bit more than others.”
Senior quarterback Shane Richey, senior wide receiver Wyatt Nelson will give the Bulldawgs some experience on the offensive side of the ball, but that’s about it as three of the four running backs from a year ago (Brandon Ortega, Brody Sanders and Josiah Key) have graduated leaving returning junior Warren Fleming as the only returning running back. Junior Craig Brown, who spent time at tight end last year, will likely be added to the running back corps. Offensive line standouts McKenzie Agnello and Dan LLanez will also be missed, but returning are 6-foot-8 senior Rictavius Moore, senior Tyrese Hale and senior Terrell Tardy.
Defensively, linebackers Benny Shumaker and Aleczander Patterson, along with defensive linemen Zerrick Tripplett Brayden Camese and Marc Collins bring senior experience.
“We played six sophomores last year and they’re going to be juniors this year, plus some more juniors jumping in there,” said Hammett. We have a few more sophomores competing for jobs right now. It’s really going to be a process to find where those weaknesses are. It’s not really something that stands out right now because we’ve been moving kids around from offense to defense from a backer to outside linebacker and from a safety to a corner.”
The spring game that concludes the spring practice session, originally scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, May 20, will likely be moved to the morning of May 20 due to other events in the evening.
“The spring game is for the kids. It’s not for the coaches’ evaluation,” said Hammett. “The spring game is fun for the kids. As a coach, our work is done. Just like in a regular game - not to say we’re not game planning in the middle of the game or at half time – but, for us, the bulk of our work is done before then. It’s the same this for us right now. We’re just trying to get them ready for it.”
As everything else in the age of the pandemic, the spring game will be a little different as well.
“We’re going to have something for them at the end where they can have some fun,” said Hammett. “It’s probably going to be a little non-traditional this year because of our schedule. There are just so many things that are in the evening right now between banquets and awards programs, but we’ll be looking into that and announcing some more information on that later.”
Hammett said the 7 on 7 season will be a little different as well.
“We actually start our junior high 7 on 7 on Monday,” said Hammett. It will give them a chance to throw and catch and for us to look at what we have in the junior high.
“Then in June, we’ll have our high school 7 on 7 stuff. We’re trying to these kids throw and catch, work in space with the coverage stuff. That’s really our goal for 7 on 7 this year. We’re not going to any qualifying tournaments or anything like that this year. We had a big plan last year, then Covid knocked that out so where starting a little bit over on some of that. The biggest thing is having the kids go throw and catch.”
The Bulldawgs will just have three practices next week on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, but will practice every day but Wednesday the week of May 10 before finishing up with practices on Monday May 17 and Tuesday May 18 before concluding the session with the spring game on May 20.