Leader Blues

Monday, August 06, 2007

SPORTS>>Getting on the same page

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville football team held off from going into full pads this week. Thursday was the first day that teams were allowed to participate in full-contact practice, but the Red Devils opted to stay in shorts and helmets for a couple of key reasons.

The Jacksonville coaching staff decided to get the team fully up to speed on its packages before heading into contact.
“Our first bunch know what we’re doing,” Whatley said. “We wanted to start this week from the ground floor and get these other guys caught up mentally. Once we get them caught up we can go full speed, full contact and give them a chance to compete for some spots. It’s a little hard for those guys to compete when they don’t know as much as the guys they’re competing against.”

The Red Devils plan to put on shoulder pads on Monday, and will begin going full contact later next week.

The temperature went through the roof in the last two days, but the team played through it well. That’s another reason the decision was made to wait before donning all the pads.

“One thing is certain, and that is that concentration starts to wane when you’re tired,” Whatley said. “We’ve been able to get a lot of running in this week and that’s going to help when we put the pads and start running plays. We want to get our entire packages in on both sides of the ball before we start a lot of hitting.”

The team handled the running and the heat well.

“They responded and hustled,” Whatley said. “This is a small group so far, but it’s a good group. They listen, well-mannered, it’s a god character group.

Senior Cameron Hood is still in front at quarterback, but Thomas Blade is making steady progress. Quarterback depth was a major concern, but Blade has shown enough to ease some of the tension caused by depth concerns at the position.

“Thomas is coming along and getting better every day,” Whatley said. “He’s to the point now that we’re pretty confident that if one guy is having an off day, the other one can come in and make some things happen.”

Hood is also a standout linebacker, and the coaching staff would love to see him on the defensive side of the ball.
“Cam is just a football player,” Whatley said. “There are so many positions he could play. It’s almost an injustice to him not to let him play linebacker because that’s where he could really step up at the next level.”

About 55 players were on the field at the end of the week, with six or seven others that are expected to show up by the end of next week.

That number is a little down from the two previous seasons under Whatley. Strangely, it’s the sophomore class, which is usually the largest class of high school team’s, where the numbers are lacking. There are only six 10th graders on the squad.