Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

SPORTS >> Red Devils hit first day of spring hard

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

There wasn’t much game-type action, but there were some licks dished out at Jacksonville High School Monday afternoon. The Red Devils finally got out for their first day of spring football practice in full pads Monday, and did so with good energy.
“They got out there and buzzed around and banged into each other pretty good for day one,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said. “We did mostly drill work, starting on the basics. We started over really trying to get the young kids caught up, but the energy was good.”

The defense, as expected, did most of the hitting drills. The offensive line and running backs got in on the action as well.
“We got the offensive backs out there working on blitz pick-up and stuck there noses in there pretty good,” Whatley said. “I was pleased with that. They turned it up a little bit.”

There were 69 Red Devils dressed out Monday, and 28 were sophomores to be. Those sophomores did well according to Whatley.

“They picked up on things pretty quick,” Whatley said. “We’ve had ‘em out here working with them in the offseason, and they seem to be coming along.”

The second day saw a little bit of 7-on-7 live action with the offense working against the defense, but the real scrimmaging likely won’t start until Thursday.

If all goes well, there could be a red-white type game at the end of the week.

“We’re just going to have to see how it goes,” Whatley said. “We’re not going to plan one in advance like last year. We’re just going to wait and see how we do this week, and make sure everybody gets through it without any injuries.”

Starting quarterback Daniel Hubbard entered spring drills still slowed somewhat by a broken leg he suffered in the season finale last year at Springdale.

He was limited on day one, but he did the things he was allowed to do well. “We’re being careful with Daniel and that leg,” Whatley said. “He’s got that rod in it, but he moved around a little bit and threw the ball really well. He’s going to get there, we’re just taking it easy for the time being.”

Hubbard, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, leads a decent-sized group of returning starters that Whatley has been very pleased with so far. There were a lot of starters off last year’s playoff team that recently graduated, but Whatley is very comfortable with the starters that are returning this year.

“That bunch of seniors stepped right in and didn’t miss a beat. That’s a good group and we hope to get some good leadership on this team from them. They’re starting out pretty good.”

A few of the key returners are obvious projected starters, but most of the holes left by graduated seniors haven’t been claimed by anyone yet. The staff believes it will have more answers in that regard at the end of the week.
One key area of concern is backup quarterback.

“We’re definitely looking for someone that can step in there if something happens,” Whatley said.