Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SPORTS>>New-look Lions see positives in wing T

Leader sportswriter

The 2007 version of the Searcy Lions will have somewhat of a familiar look this season, but it will be a new look from the previous two seasons. Last week was spring practice for Searcy football, with a new formation and new mentality in the works.

The Lions ran the spread for the first two years of coach Bart McFarland’s regime, with undesirable results. The Lions went 1-19 during the ‘05-’06 seasons with the spread offense in place, but the days of the wide-open offense at Searcy are over.
Under former coach Danny Mallet, the Lions ran out of the wing-T formation before McFarland came on board with the spread. This season will see a return to the wing-T, a move that the head Lion says was out of necessity.

“It suits our personnel better,” McFarland said. “The coaches and the kids seem more comfortable with it. We think it will give us a better chance to win. We need to get some more toughness, and we think this is the way to do it.”

There were 62 players on hand for the five days of practice, with 22 of them seniors. The offensive line had the most experience to come back, with all but one of last year’s starters returning. Justin Drain will be back in the interior this season, along with Blake Taylor and Murray Moore. Dylan Cook and Mikey Branch will complete the line for Searcy, giving them seasoned personnel in place where it matters the most with the new formation in place.

In the backfield, Jamie Carr and Trace Madden top the depth charts for the Lions, with John Moore and E.J. Bailey also listed as running backs.

“We’ve got a lot of good running backs that can make plays,” McFarland said. “They’re just average size kids, but as long as they can run the ball and gain us four yards, that’s what we’re looking for. We think it’s going to give us a chance to better evaluate situations and find out what we need to do in order to win.”

The majority of the spring sessions were spent on basic fundamentals as opposed to preparing for 7-on-7 summer football like the past two years. McFarland says that along with the new offensive approach, the Lions are also trying to instill a more traditional smash-mouth mindset.

“We have a different mentality heading into this season,” McFarland said. “That should help us a lot. That has been part of our problem in the past, but it was actually an accumulation of different things. It wasn’t from a lack of effort by any means, we just didn’t get it done.

McFarland says the numbers don’t matter as long as the kids in place can get the job done this season.

“We’re pleased with the kids we have,” McFarland said. “We’re going to coach them until our tails fall off. We had a real good spring; we learned a lot about our offense, and the kids picked up on it well. It doesn’t matter to us if we have 62 kids or 82 kids, we’re going to take the ones we have and coach them up.”