Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills searching for linemen

Leader sportswriter

Finding more depth on the offensive and defensive lines is job one for the Sylvan Hills Bears during the second week of practice. Although currently sitting with a respectable number of 59 players, many of them are suited for skill/defensive backfield positions.

The goal is to avoid linemen going both ways during games, but first-year coach Jim Withrow says that for a few linemen, it may be unavoidable.

“The problem right now is, we just don’t have the numbers,” Withrow said. “We would like to have enough linemen where we didn’t have anyone on both sides of the ball, but a couple of these guys may not have any choice.” Among the linemen that may see dual action, Withrow pointed to senior lineman J.T. Long and said there were about three others that could also front both offensively and defensively.

The other big priority for the Bears this week and the remainder of the pre-season practices will be special teams work.
“We really have to harp on special teams,” Withrow said. “I thought we would be further along with that than what we are. We’ve gotten parts of our kicking game in, but the time it has taken us for implementing the offense and defense has taken away from that. Plus, we had one of our fullbacks get injured in a 7-on-7 game last month, and he was one of the ones we had on just about all the special teams coverage.

The injured fullback is senior Braylon Harris, who is suspected to have torn an ACL in his knee. Doctors have indicated that Harris may be able to eventually get by with wearing a brace until the end of the season, but the staff is waiting to see if Harris will be able to see the field.

Aside from Harris, the Bears are still healthy after a week of practices in the early August heat.

“They’re a little bit sore, and they have some bumps and bruises,” Withrow said. “So right now, we just have to make it though the soreness. In a week or so, we’ll be okay, it’s just one of these things where they will develop a little more mental toughness.”

Although currently sitting at 59 players, Withrow expects to pick up around six more players by the time the opener against Little Rock Catholic rolls around in two weeks. Three members of the golf team are expected to join, as well as one player who is still in AAU basketball. Two more players have not reported due to family vacations, and Withrow also suspects two or three sophomores will most likely join after the start of school.

With most of the offense and defense installed, Withrow says the progress may have been a little slow in some areas, but the overall effort has been satisfactory.

“High school football has evolved from the days of running two or three plays and lifting weights some in the offseason,” Withrow said. “We’re at that point now where the guys we have now are the ones we will look to; the guys about to come in may can help us later down the road. The guys have done a very good job of knowing what they’re supposed to be doing. We just have to keep doing it and improving every day.”