Leader Blues

Monday, May 21, 2007

SPORTS >>SH Bears learning new coach's way

IN SHORT: The 2007 Sylvan Hills football team turned out in strong numbers for the first week of spring practice; the first under new head coach Jim Withrow, formerly of Mills.

Leader sportswriter

The Jim Withrow era of Sylvan Hills football is now officially underway with the first week of spring practice this past week, although it hasn’t taken off quite as quickly as the new head Bear would like.

The numbers were strong for the Bears, with close to 65 players turning out for the spring drills. The players only got one day of non-pad practice in. Lightning on Tuesday cancelled the final prep day, but Withrow says the lost day is nothing compared to the task of installing a whole new team strategy.

“We’re making progress, but it’s baby steps right now,” Withrow said. “It’s a new coach, a new system, but we’re getting through it. The good thing about it is that they are good kids, and good kids will always make it through, but we have a long, long ways to go.”

Most of the Thursday practice was a full-on scrimmage between first team offenses and defenses, with the second-team defense also seeing significant time. While the offense looked shaky at times, both defensive units seemed to be strong in the linebacker department. The defensive line was green on its timing, jumping on quarterback Hunter Miller’s snap counts on a number of occasions, a penalty that was met with a number of grass drills for the guilty party.

“We’re at the point right now where we’re feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit,” Withrow said. “We’re kind of uninspired. We have to come out every day and work hard, and then that will translate into a new attitude. It’s just going to take a little time.”

One major element of the slow start is five starting seniors for next year who are currently out hurt. Unable to use any kind of data from the previous season, Withrow says the injuries will prevent him from getting a complete look at the abilities and chemistry of his new squad.

“If I had been here before, I would feel better about it,” Withrow said. “But I need to see everybody. That’s just what we’re dealt, and we have to live with it, but the positive thing about it is it gives us a chance to see some guys that we may not have got a look at.”

Withrow says all in all that the offense seems to be picking up the new system pretty well, and was particularly complimentary of the offensive line, and the work they have put in during the off season.

One thing Withrow is trying to accomplish with the new plan is to keep the skill players from having to go both ways on Friday nights, particularly quarterback Miller.

“He’s probably going to play more at quarterback than he is on defense until we get to the conference,” Withrow said. “In this offense, we’re asking him to do a lot, so it’s just going to be tough for him to play both ways all the time.”

The staff was happy with the numbers that turned out for the spring sessions, but Withrow says he would like to see the numbers even higher.

“I would like for us to be around 80 players,” Withrow said. “If we could get that, then we could go with a varsity group and a JV group, and eventually go with possibly a JV and a sophomore team. That’s all it is right now, is a depth game for us. As it stands now, we would have five or six kids that would have to play both ways, and you just can’t do that. If you lose one player, you are essentially losing two positions.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we use about 20-25 players a game. If we can get to that point, I think we’ll be okay.”
The plan for the remaining days of spring practice will be to touch on everything at least once before school dismisses for the summer, and fine tune the system starting in August.

“We’ll hit the special teams some tomorrow,” Withrow said. “When we leave next Friday, we want everything in place. It may not be well executed, but we want everyone knowing where they’re going. We just want to get the plan out there, and we can clean up the execution this summer.”