Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits energize summer practice

Leader sportswriter

Improved numbers to go along with improved strength made for a good opening fall practice for the Lonoke Jackrabbits on Monday morning.

A summer of intense weightlifting and conditioning was evident in the physiques of the 46 players on the practice field behind the field house. Coach Doug Bost and staff are expecting a total of 51 players for this year’s roster, all with a renewed sense of intensity heading into the 2012 football season.

“Ever since we started in the summer with team camps, 7 on 7, and even days where we were lifting and running, the energy and the excitement and enthusiasm out of the kids – it’s been great,” Bost said. “We told them before we started practicing today to just keep bringing that every day. It just makes us a better football team when everyone’s buying into it.”

Defensive coordinator Drake Widener worked with the offensive and defensive lines while new coach Clint Shadwick worked primarily with quarterback candidates Nick Watson and Grant Dewey. Bost took the rest of the group through everything from kickoff protocol to passing drills, with the entire team going through a no-contact scrimmage lineup for the final 15 minutes.

Shadwick is the new addition to the coaching staff after working under Greenbrier head coach and former Harding University coach Randy Tribble for a number of seasons. Bost said that experience fits into the Jackrabbits’ system well with a bigger emphasis on passing this year. The quarterback battle between Dewey and Watson that started back in the spring is ongoing through August camp, with both players taking plenty of snaps on Monday.

Lonoke got off to a tough start to the 2011 season with games lost late due to tiring lines, which led to criticism of the team’s work ethic. They managed to find their way into the class 4A playoffs but were one and done, prompting the coaching staff to do some soul searching in preparation for the offseason.

“We went back as soon as the season was over last year and we just started making a list of things that we needed to improve on as far as a coaching staff and the kids,” Bost said. “And we just started in on it. Offseason, we added a bunch of auxiliary lifts after we did the main lifts. Big-gun Friday is nothing but biceps and triceps; kids love big-gun Friday. They just really bought into it, and running went right along with it. We really feel like we have come a long way from where we were last year.”

Another Achilles’ heel for Lonoke last year was turnovers that led to missed opportunities, but the first two weeks of practice will also address that and other minute details.

“We told them PATD, and that’s pay attention to detail,” Bost said. “That’s one thing we added when we made our list back in November. We made a list of everything we’ve got to pay attention to. (We had) 20 turnovers last year, so if you’re a skill guy, it’s high and tight carrying the ball. That’s what we can really get accomplished these first couple of weeks of fall camp – get those little things down.

“They’ve been running offense and defense all summer, so we feel good that they know that, but we’ve really got to nitpick little things and get perfect at it.”