Friday, August 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY>>Badgers parlay strong summer

Leader sportswriter

Small details have been the focus for Beebe during the first week of August football camp. The Badgers stuck to three hour morning workouts in more favorable conditions before the mugginess of the afternoon heat took over throughout the week.

A total of 54 players, including 12 seniors, took to the practice field for the Badgers, with the sophomore and junior classes splitting even at just over 20 players each.

“The kids have been working hard,” Badgers coach John Shannon said. “We’ve got quite a few returning starters, so everybody is excited. Of course, you’re always excited this time of year. We feel pretty good, we had a really good summer, and had some good team camps over at Conway. I feel like with the returning starters we’ve got a chance to be better than we were last year. We’re hoping that if we can stay healthy and get a few breaks here and there, we can compete for a conference championship.”

Team camps and 7-on-7 football kept the Badgers busy throughout the summer along with mandatory workouts. That has given Shannon and the coaching staff a leg up this August with the majority of players turning out for fall already in shape.

“When I started coaching, you didn’t see the kids all summer long,” Shannon said. “The two weeks we had for two a days were basically, if nothing else, to get the kids back in shape. Now, we’ve got the kids year round, and we don’t spend near as much time conditioning in preseason camp.

“It’s more about repetition, because we have everything in. We can spend the preseason now just getting the kids all the reps until they know it like the back of their hands instead of just trying to get everything in on top of conditioning.”

Junior quarterback Aaron Nunez has looked good during the summer as a returning starter, along with three-year starting lineman Race Payne, who reported to camp in better shape than in recent years.

Gus Wisdom will be a three-year starter at linebacker, and has shown strong leadership over the summer. Shannon has also been pleased with the efforts of Jessie Glover, who will move to outside linebacker this year after starting inside last season.

“We will still be pretty young this year,” Shannon said. “We’re counting on some of these sophomores. Our sophomore class has probably got some of the best skill kids we’ve had since we’ve been here. Some of those kids are going to have to step up and play for us at skill positions. We’re returning about half the offense and a little over half of the defense from last year.”

Full contact is not allowed during the first week of fall practice as part of a new rule by the Arkansas Activities Association. That has changed the priorities of teams across the state, including the Badgers.

“Just the little things, like making sure we’re lined up right,” Shannon said. “Concentrating on our first step, our reads for defense, making sure the kids understand what we want. It’s just been a lot more teaching the first few days. On the offensive side, it’s just been making sure we know who to block and what calls to make.”

Most coaches have expressed unhappiness to-wards the new no-contact rule during the first week.

Shannon pointed out that taking away contact, and the opportunity to practice twice a day for the first week, takes away from the overall experience.

“I’m not a big fan of it either – I’m old school,” Shannon said. “This is my 23rd year, so I’ve been doing this for a while. I tell the kids all the time that my favorite part of the entire year is these two weeks of two-a-days. There’s nothing else going on, there’s no school, it’s just football all day long. I feel like we’re cheating the kids with them not going through two-a-days.

“It’s something that every kid needs to go through, because it builds character, it builds toughness, and you bond together as a team because you’re together all day long.”