SPORTS >> New era revs up ’Rabbit football
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
The 2006 Lonoke Jackrabbits hit the first week of summer practice hard this week, with four-hour workouts from the morning into the afternoon to prepare for their first season in the 4A-2 conference.
This will be the first season under new head coach Jeff Jones. The new head ‘Rabbit says that practices went well through the first week.
Thursday began full-pad practice for the ‘Rabbits, and Friday saw a number of offensive and defensive drills being run on top of conditioning and weight training to prepare for the upcoming season.
With the rapid progress that has been made, Jones emphasizes that he doesn’t want the team to get ahead of itself in the early going.
“I think we have made progress every day,” Jones said. “We’re taking the time to adjust to a new system, so we are not near where we need to be. We have a lot of work ahead of us, that’s for sure, but these guys are very coachable.”
One of the biggest things Jones was looking for in the Friday practice was leadership skills from the seniors.
Josh Martin is expected to have a significant impact on both sides of the ball, starting at quarterback and linebacker, with some receiving.
Almost all of last year’s offensive standouts graduated this past May, leaving a void for new leaders to step up and fill. Jones says there are plenty of worthy candidates, but he needs someone who will make thier voice heard to the younger players.
“We have a lot of leaders by example,” Jones said. “I would like to have more vocal leaders from our senior group. That’s one area that we definitely need to improve on.”
Although the Jackrabbits have an ample amount of seniors, only a few have seen significant playing time on Friday nights. Only two starters return defensively, and one lone offensive starter returning to the ’06 team.
Blake Wilson and Duane Lewis will provide senior leadership up front defensively, and the backfield will be filled out with a number of seniors.
Steel Gorbet, Duane Hood, Ryan Hopson, Brock Clement and Jessie Bradford will make up the core of the Rabbits’ defensive linebackers and secondary, giving them a lot of maturity where it will be needed the most.
Most of the team has stayed active throughout the summer, with weightlifting and 7-on-7 practice games. Jones says the work throughout June and July has helped the majority of the players report to the first week of practice in good shape.
“We’re trying to get everything in as far as conditioning goes,” Jones said. “The main thing is fighting through the heat. We have had a few bumps and bruises, and that is to be expected, but nothing unusual yet.
“We had weight room workouts and 7-on7 through the summer, and we feel like that has given us a boost going into our fall camp.”
The first test for the Jackrabbits will come on the 22nd, with a scrimmage game at Little Rock Christian.
Lonoke will continue the morning practices for most of August, moving to the afternoon once classes begin at the end of the month..