Leader Blues

Friday, August 07, 2009

SPORTS >> Badgers begin rebuilding season

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Fall two-a-days began for the Beebe Badgers last week with three-and-a-half hour morning sessions and two-and-half-hour afternoon workouts.

With the loss of most of their skill players and a big senior class upon graduation in May, the theme has been one of rebuilding for third-year coach John Shannon and staff, but the head Badger is happy with the clay he has to mold.

“Overall we’ve been doing well,” said Shannon, who has led Beebe to back-to-back playoff appearances with a combined 17-6 record since taking over the helm in 2007. “On paper, we actually look better than last year. We’re a little faster than we were last year and a little stronger than we were last year.

“The whole key is going to be what happens whenever those lights come on every Friday night. That’s the unknown right now that we’re trying to figure out. If they go out on the field on Friday nights and work as hard as they have in practice since January, we feel like we’re going to be okay.”

A total of 45 players, 11 of which are seniors, turned out for the first week of practice.

“That’s down just a little from last year, but I feel like the 45 we’ve got want to be here, and they’ve worked hard all summer,” said Shannon. “They’ve all got their 10 mandatory workouts in, so we’re happy with the 45 we’ve got. They’re working hard.”

Shannon said that part of the problem with the numbers being down is a small senior class.

The Badgers have one of the more stringent summer policies in the area with 10 mandatory workouts. Shannon said those workouts have proven beneficial whenever August rolls around every year.

“We’re trying to do a lot of teaching, a lot of fundamental stuff and a lot of conditioning,” said Shannon. “But we feel like with our summer program, if they made 10 workouts, they’re at least in halfway decent shape. It’s just a matter of getting them used to wearing a helmet and being out here six hours a day compared to the summer time when it’s basically two, two-and-a-half hours a day.”

The typical day for the Badgers last week started at 6:15 a.m. with weightlifting for an hour in the weight room before they hit the field just before 7:30. They went until about 9:45, and came back at 1 p.m. for their afternoon practice, which ran until about 3:30 p.m. There will be only two days of two-a-days next week due to teachers meetings and one Saturday practice before scrimmaging at home against Searcy on Aug. 25.

The first three days were helmets-only before going to full pads on Thursday.

“The first day you put those pads on, it really gets fun,” said Shannon. “And that’s how you find out who your football players are – who will hit, who will tackle and who will run the football. So we’re going to do lots of hitting tomorrow. We’ll do a little blood alley in the morning and scrimmage that afternoon.

“We’ll see if some of the kids that we didn’t get a good look at in the spring have grown up over the summer, and if some of these guys that we penciled in as starters are really going to be starters. So tomorrow is really when the fun starts.”

May graduation drained the roster of nine offensive starters and six defensive starters. With a limited amount of seniors this fall, there is a greater chance for an underclassman to earn a starting position this year.

“That’s the great thing about spring football, said Shannon. “We got those young guys back in May, and we felt like some of them stepped up then, and have done well all summer long. We felt good about them. We’re counting on four or five of those young kids to step up this year and play because we’re so inexperienced. They’ve done really well so far. We’re hoping that they really shine when the pads go on.”

With school starting a week earlier this year, Shannon said that it has been a stretch to fit everything in the more limited two-a-days format.

“We’re kind of pressed a little for time,” said Shannon. “It used to be two or two-and-a-half weeks for full two-a-days, now you get about a week-and-a-half, so we’re trying to get everything in now. But right now, I feel like we’re on pace.”