This year’s Wildcat football spring practice has a new look to it. With Coach Craig Church instituting the hurry-up spread offense and the 4-3 defense, practice is more about teaching new things this year.
“A lot of what we are doing right now is installing a new offense and defense,” Church said. “We have to teach a new numbering, wording, and new signals. So, there is a lot of teaching going on.”
Church said that the practices have been fast paced and the kids are getting better at recognizing the signals.
“During practice, we go hard for an hour and then restart things for the last hour,” Church explained. “We also alternate days, offense then defense. We think the kids are buying into what we’re doing.”
Church went on to say the player’s effort in the three practice days has been great.
“These guys are showing some real physical and mental toughness,” Church said. “Some of our guys are playing timid, right now, but that’s because they’re trying to learn what we do and don’t want to make mistakes.
“We have some real playmakers on this team. We’re a little thin up front, but every team is. We have a lot of good young guys, and I really think we’re going to have some good senior leadership next year.”
“I like (Coach Church’s system) because it’s easy to learn and it’s the spread,” Austin Ray said. Ray is going to be a senior next season and plays wide receiver and defensive back. “(The system) is fast paced, so we’re going to get a lot of plays in.
“As a whole, I think the team is starting to get a good grasp of things. (Coach Church) makes it pretty easy to understand. I really think we’re doing well for where we are.”
About half of the practice is spent in position groups, and the other half is spent in offense against defense drills.
The receiving corps is being asked to run a wider variety of routes out of a larger number of packages. They spend time with a position coach going through the various packages before meeting back up with the quaterbacks and running backs to execute the plays they were just running through.
A large emphasis has also been placed on hand offs and reading defenses. The running backs spent most of a practice last week working on hand offs and reading the first defender. While it might seem like a monotonous task, those little things mean everything during the game.
The lineman have a new, often unseen, responsibility. Instead of being a largely run-blocking focused line, they now have focused more on pass blocking. Instead of opening holes for shifty backs, the line now has to focus more on keeping defenses away from the quarterback. The faster paced Wildcat offense will also force the linemen to get to the line quicker than they may have in past seasons.
While next season’s to-do list might seem incredibly long, the Wildcats should be up to the task. Get a first look at the new look Wildcats this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Stout Field.