SPORTS>> Devils introduced to all-new system
By Ray Benton
Leader sports editor
The high-school football season officially got underway Tuesday. The Jacksonville Red Devils got their first official two-a-day workout under new coach Mark Whatley in the books. The focus for the first practice was a lot of teaching, but little actual football.
“There was just lots of organizational work going on,” Whatley said of the morning session, which began at 8 a.m. “We met early and laid the foundation of what we expect from them and what they can expect from us. We introduced our drills and worked a little on conditioning and that was about the sum of it.”
Whatley summed up the details of the meeting on expectations with few words.
“Like I said, it was about what we expect from them and what they can expect from us, and it basically boiled down to all you got,” Whatley said. “We want everything they’ve got all the time, and in turn that’s what they can expect to see from us. That’s the only way you can go in this sport.”
After taking the practice field, he showed the team the drills he would be running. Some were already familiar to the players and some weren’t, but he felt good about what the staff got in on Monday.
“We ran some excitement drills and pursuit drills, but mostly we just wanted to show them the drills so they’ll know them,” Whatley said. “We don’t want to spend a whole lot of time from here on out explaining what we’re talking about. We want to yell out the name they go to it. I think they picked it up pretty good. I hope they did, we’ll see.”
The evening session, which began at 6 p.m., consisted of a little more teaching of football and the system the Red Devils will be running under Whatley.
The skill position players ran 7-on-7 drills while the linemen practiced and lifted weights inside the field house.
The new head coach said it would be that way consistently the first three days.
On Thursday, the first day of pads, the Red Devils will get down to serious business.
“That’s how we’re going about this,” Whatley said. “The mornings will be drills and conditioning, and the nights will be a lot more football. We’re going to come back here and throw it a little bit. We didn’t get a whole lot of either done the first day, but we’re looking forward to getting back to it.”
Only 55 players were on hand the first day, but Whatley expects several more.
“We had 55, but we have a few out of pocket. We have a couple of key guys that we know where they are and why they’re not here, and we have a few that still have to get physicals.”
Assistant coach Jerry Wilson said he expects around 70 once everyone arrives.