Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SPORTS>>Seniors taking charge to help newest coach of Red Devils

Leader sportswriter

Senior leadership does not appear to be a problem for Rick Russell.

The seniors on this year’s Jacksonville Red Devils were sophomores when Russell announced he was leaving his job as defensive coordinator at Jacksonville to become North Pulaski’s head coach in May of 2008.

But with two years of maturation, and the return of Russell, the group of 21 senior Red Devils has taken the reins as team leaders.

“All summer long, the seniors have come up and worked,” Russell said. “They repainted the dressing room and cleaned out the lockers. They want to take pride in their senior year, and they’ve not shied from working.

“The facility is nicer and they’ve built some bonds together; hard working group, close knit.”

With the start of practice this week, Russell said the leadership has transferred to the field.

“Today was a really, really good day,” Russell said Tuesday morning. “I told them before we took our break that it wasn’t a good day, it was a great day. We’re getting a lot of concentration and fantastic effort — just night and day from yesterday.”

The number of dressed-out Red Devilsgrew from 45 on Monday to 52 by Tuesday, and Russell expects close to 60 once all of the required student paperwork is completed.

With temperatures climbing toward 105 degrees, the coaching staff has not focused on conditioning, but has begun the process of installing offensive and defensive schemes. Russell, who will run the defense, wants to have 80 percent of the defense and 75 percent of offense done by the end of practice today.

“We want to have three of our base set defenses in, all the different fronts for each defense and most of the stunts. So we’re doing a lot of teaching.”

The Red Devils will take on their rival Cabot in the season opener Aug. 31, but for Russell, their only opponent as of now is the summer heat.

“I’m not big on Cabot right now,” Russell said. “I’m big on getting better. During the weekly grind, you’ve got one week to prepare for your next opponent. So we’ll probably start approaching Cabot about that same time.”

Russell’s familiarity with the Jacksonville program has eased his transition.

“It’s comfortable; it fits,” Russell said. “It’s not difficult to go to practice and try and get to know new coaches and new players.

That’s a lot more difficult than the situation I have this year.

“I had some good relationships with the seniors and knew most of the juniors, and I’m proud of the way the players and the coaches responded to me coming in. It’s been a successful transition.”