Tuesday, August 02, 2011

SPORTS >> Offensive line sets the tone for Badger football

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers had a great first day of football practice Monday morning and afternoon. The Badgers had a very productive summer, doing conditioning and weight training twice a week, and participating in six weeks of team camps at Conway High School against a variety of teams that presented different looks.

The result of all the summer work paid off on the first day. Head coach John Shannon is in high spirits after just a couple of days of practice.

“I really feel like we’re kind of ahead of where we are normally at this time,” Shannon said. The heat didn’t really bother us too bad yesterday. The mornings were really humid and the afternoons were really hot, but we handled it really well and I thought practices went really well.”

One of the highlights of the first day was the work of the team’s experienced offensive line. With two three-year starters and two two-year starters, Shannon is looking to the offensive front for leadership, and he felt he got it Monday and Tuesday.

“I’m really pleased with the effort they’ve given us,” Shannon said. “They worked hard, had a lot of enthusiasm and gave everything they’ve got. We ran offense for about 45 minutes straight, non-stop, and they didn’t miss a beat.”

Ethan Boyce and Tyler Love will start for the third year at tight end and guard. Steven Savage is in his second year at tackle and Lucas Ratz is a two-year starter at the other guard position.

The offense as a whole turned in a good first couple of days. On Tuesday, the team did 30 minutes of 7-on-7 and 40 minutes of offense again. Execution began to tail off a bit near the end, but Shannon was still pleased with the effort.

“To line up and go for 45 minutes, just running play after play after play and not making any mental mistakes is pretty good,” Shannon said. “You could tell they weren’t as fresh at the end as they were when we started, but effort-wise I thought we handled things really, really well.”

Dustin Stallnacker has earned the starting nod at quarterback.

“He earned it in the spring and had a pretty good summer,” Shannon said. “He’s done a lot of good things, he just hasn’t done it in game situations. We’re really anxious to get him out there and see what he can do.”

He’s joined in the backfield by one of four sophomores who will figure into the starting rotation. Eric Thorn, who was a 1,000-yard back on the freshmen team last year, takes over starting duties at fullback this season in Shannon’s Dead T offense.

The other three sophomore starters are on defense. Daniel Gann will see plenty of time at defensive tackle. Dusty Skinner will play nose guard and Marcus Burns will see action at safety.

“This sophomore class is one of the most talented groups to come through here in a long time,” Shannon said.

Providing the leadership for the youthful group on defense is senior Bradley Gann. He is a three-year starter at linebacker and will captain the defense.

“He’s our leader on that side of the ball,” Shannon said. “We’re going to depend a lot on him.”

Beebe will try to maximize the single practice it will have on Thursday, the first day of full pads. The squad will see its first full-team scrimmaging during the morning session.