Leader Blues

Friday, August 08, 2008

SPORTS>>Coach likes 2008 Falcons

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Thursday morning’s cool, damp weather was a godsend for the players, but maybe not so much for the coaches.

“It got a little sloppy,” North Pulaski head coach Tony Bohannon said of day 4 of the Falcons’ summer two-a-days at North Pulaski High School. “It was cool and raining and we were afraid the heavy thunderstorms were moving in so we got everything done in the morning.”

Forty-five players reported for summer practice when the Falcons opened the 2008 campaign under scorching skies and near-100 degree temperatures on Monday, launching one of the most hopeful seasons of Bohannon’s 7-year stint.

“I feel good about this season,” said Bohannon, who has eight starters returning on both sides of the ball and players back from a junior varsity team that went 4-1 last year. “This is the best overall group I’ve had since I’ve been here as far as the number and the quality of the number. It looks bright.”

Still, Bohannon is trying to keep a lid on any undue optimism, given that depth will once again be an issue.

“We won’t have a lot of depth,” he said. “We’ll have a depth chart of course. But we’ll find out more as we work with these kids and find out who’ll play mostly JV and who will be our backups.

“But we think we’ve got some sophomores that are really going to step up and help us out.”

The Falcons will return to a strict T-formation offense after flirting with a more pass-heavy I-formation in 2007, when the
Falcons snapped a 32-game losing streak but still finished 1-9.

“We tried to throw the ball a little more last year,” Bohannon said. “But the change won’t be that drastic this year. The terminology will be a little different and coach (Rich) Rodgers will be our new offensive coordinator.

“But we’ve talked about it before: The ‘T’ is the ‘T’ is the ‘T.’ We’ll run more of the veer type like I’ve run before.”

Anthony Allen for now seems the lock for starting quarterback. Though Bohannon said Allen would be the team’s best receiver, he needs him behind center. Bohannon calls Allen a heady player who knows how to make reads on options.

“He’s just a super kid,” he said. “He does everything you ask. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

If there is a franchise player on the team, it would have to be Jerald Blair, who Bohannon calls “the real deal.” Blair is a speedy wide receiver and safety, who led the team in tackles last year, picked off three passes and returned several kickoffs for touchdowns. Bohannon said that withthe offense getting away from the pass this year, he’ll find other ways to use Blair.

“We’ve got to get the ball in his hands,” he said. “We can put him at wideout and at running back. We’ve even looked at him some at quarterback in the spring. He can really go.”

Bohannon said if there is one area of concern on offense, it’s at center, where the Falcons are struggling to replace graduated Caleb Phillips. The sophomore that Bohannon was counting on to take Phillips’ place has decided not to come out for the team.

Still, with 6-9, 330 pound Division-I prospect Cliff Copeland at tackle, and another 300-plus pound tackle possibly joining the team, the line could be solid. Bohannon said he is trying out a pair of prospects at center.

Defensively, the Falcons are making slight moderations as well, moving from a 4-man front to a 5-2.

“Defensively, the concern is learning new techniques and getting a handle on the Option,” Bohannon said. “Our new conference (the 5A-Southesast) is going to be more of a running conference than last year. It will be a whole lot easier to cover the run than it is those teams that run misdirection with the passes off of it.”

The Falcons opened summer football by participating in the Pulaski Robinson 7-on-7 tournament in June, but spent the rest of the month and all of July in the weight room working on strength and conditioning. Several others attended camps, though none went to the Razorback camp this year as they have done in years past.

“In the past, that’s where we always went,” Bohannon said. “Coach Rogers and I always worked at that camp, but they changed the way they did things up there when (Houston Nutt) left. My understanding is they’re bringing in college coaches to work it now.”
North Pulaski will participate in a scrimmage at Pulaski Robinson on Aug. 25 before officially opening the season at Searcy on Sept. 5.