Tuesday, June 02, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Devils still drilling basics

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville football team had its next-to-last spring practice on Monday, spreading the two weeks worth of practices over the final three weeks of school. The final full-pad, full-contact practice before preseason officially begins in August will be a scrimmage game at Jan Crow Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

“It’s going to be a controlled scrimmage for about an hour,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “Then we’ll do like overtime, divide into teams and line up at the 10 and have some live scrimmaging. We’re still in teaching mode right now. We want to do something to involve the community but we want to maximize every opportunity to work on things and get better.”

Hickingbotham had said at the beginning of spring that repetition and drills and more repetition would be a key component to spring workouts. That was the case on Monday. After an hour of offensive practice that featured the same reads and routes for backs and receivers, and the same stances, steps and schemes for the linemen, the defense went to work. For the entire last half of practice, defensive backs worked on three passing reads of the spread offense, while the linemen worked on defending the read option.

“That’s what it’s about right now,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ve got some kids that do some great things and then not-so great. We’re just inconsistent. A kid will make a great catch and then drop one right in his hands. Quarterback will make a great read and then throw one into double coverage. So we just have to find some consistency.”

One potential strength for the 2015 Red Devils is depth at lineman. It’s something Jacksonville has not enjoyed in recent years. This year’s team has a good number of big bodies and four returning starters, but very little experience behind the returners.

“We’ve got some guys that look like football players but they’ve never played before,” said Hickingbotham. “I think we have a few more linemen to work with than we did. If we can develop some of these inexperienced guys we have a chance to have some depth there. They’re getting a lot of reps because we’re not practicing two of our returning guys. They have some nagging little injuries and we’re not going to risk making anything worse. So (the younger linemen) have a chance right now to get better and prove something to us.”

Friday’s scrimmage will coincide with Clinton McDonald’s McDonald Association Collective Collaboration-Light Into Darkness charity. In lieu of an entry fee to the game, The MACCLID organization will be at the gate collecting canned foods for the Jacksonville Care Channel, as well as toiletries like toothpaste, tissue paper and paper towels for the Ronald McDonald house. Monetary donations will also be accepted and divided among the charities.