Tuesday, August 09, 2011

SPORTS >> Defense ahead of ’Rabbits offense

Leader sportswriter

Defense edges offense as the Lonoke Jackrabbits work through the second week of August football practice.

The Jackrabbits are working to install their systems on both sides of the ball, but with defensive drills coming early in morning practices, the attention and energy levels are more suitable to the heat exhaustion that occurs later when it’s time for the offense portion.

“We do offense second,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We just felt like they really got tired and wore down, and didn’t get the look we were looking for. Defense is coming around. That’s just a lot of running to the ball. But offense, you’ve got to use a lot of technique, stay on your blocks and all.”

Forty total players reported for the first week, but most had already spent the summer attending team camps or 7 on 7 tournaments. The Jackrabbits went to five team camps through June and July, making the first day of pads last Thursday less transitional than in summers’ past.

“Back in the day, when you didn’t do any team-camp stuff, yeah, people were excited to get pads on,” Bost said. “But we’ve had them on all summer, so it wasn’t just a big deal for us. You’ve got to come to work every day, and the kids are doing that.”

Practices have started at 7 a.m. this week for the dual benefits of beating the afternoon heat and teacher conferences going on in nearby Searcy. Lonoke has gone from 7 until around 10 a.m. this week, with some players reporting at 6 a.m. to prepare.

The temperature was already in the upper 90s when Monday practice concluded just before 10:30 a.m.

“It’s good to see the energy level that we have right now,” Bost said. “I like our effort. The heat was just ridiculous. They were here, did everything we asked them to do and gave 100 percent effort.”

The ’Rabbits will be experienced in some areas and green in others, but Bost pointed to his interior as the backbone of this year’s group. Justin Carpenter, Tyler Grady, Dallas Martin and Brendan Ellington are all returning senior starters up front on offense.

“My senior group is mostly made up of linemen,” Bost said. “The other seven are underclassmen. We like what we’ve got mix wise with the three different groups that we have.”

Martin and T.J. Scott will return on defense as starting linebackers while Ellington will stay at the line on both sides.

There will be inexperience behind the seasoned linemen with receiver-turned-quarterback D.J. Burton. Burton, a junior, saw playing time last year at a different position, and will be another to go both ways as a defensive safety.

“He’s a runner,” Bost said. “And what we’re doing on offense, there’s a lot more running – quarterback runs and what have you. Play action, he’s good at. He’s stayed every day since January and he’s thrown the ball, and he continues to get better at that.”

With football events going on practically year-round now, especially in the spring and summer, Bost said the main difference in August these days is getting back into their in-season platoons.

“A lot more group and individual work,” Bost said. “In the summer, you go to a lot of team camps and 7 on 7, but you don’t get them in their individual groups. So, those three days without pads, that a good time to get them in their groups and go over a lot of drill work.”