Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil players increase strength

Leader sports editor

Football practice for the Jacksonville Red Devils gets into full swing today. The first official day of practice was Monday. Jacksonville spent most of the first two days in the film room and getting paperwork taken care of. Today, the team will be on the field from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for offensive practice.

The Red Devils had high participation over the summer, especially from the senior members.

“We had more participation this year than any summer since I’ve been here,” Russell said. “I’m really proud of the commitment from the players.”

Finishing games poorly has been one of the problems the Red Devils have faced in recent years. Last season, the 5-6 Red Devils held leads in four of those losses, and held second-half leads in two of them.

That prompted a decision to alter the off-season program this year.

“This summer we hit the weight room a lot with a goal to increase strength and not just maintain strength and endurance,” Russell said. “We put a program together and you can really see the increases a lot of the guys have made.”

Two players that made huge strides in strength were junior Carlin Herd and senior Chuck Hamilton.

increase we saw,” Russell said. “From where he started, he’s now doing five repetitions of five at 95 percent of his max from when he started. Chuck Hamilton is now doing five reps of five at about 90 percent of his original max. We haven’t maxed again yet, but I know we’re going to have quite a few with a brand new, bigger max. There are several that have increased quite a bit, but those are the two that have gained the most.”

Jacksonville held team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays and had linemen camps on Mondays and Wednesdays. Like last year, Jacksonville went to the Gus Malzahn 7-on-7 and linemen camps on July 19. The skill position players took part in a 7-on-7 tournament, but didn’t do as well as it did last season, when it went 5-2.

Jacksonville started well, beating Nettleton 26-2, but lost its next game 13-12 and won just one more in the seven-game guarantee event.

“It was just one of those days where we didn’t catch the ball very well,” Russell said. “But hey, that was just practice. We’re going to learn from it and get better. That’s what those things are for.”

One thing that has remained consistent in this group has been senior leadership. The seniors have had the highest participation percentages, and have even showed up to help with other projects.

“They came out here from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon to help us build a filming deck,” Russell said. “It’s just been a smoother year so far with this bunch. Of course this is the sophomore group I came in with, so I think we’re more comfortable with each other. We’ve had the same coaching staff together for all three of those years. And that makes everything a little easier for everybody. We’re 23 days from taking the field at War Memorial Stadium against Cabot and we’re excited.”