Friday, August 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers get pads cracking

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers wrapped up their second week of preseason practice and their first in full pads on Friday. Head coach John Shannon felt like Friday’s practice could’ve been a little better, but was pleased overall with how his team responded to two-a-days and hitting for the first time since team camps wrapped up in mid-July.

“We went to three afternoon practices early in the week and have gone back to mornings the last two days,” said Shannon. “I thought this (Friday) morning was a little sluggish but overall it’s been a pretty good week.”

The Badgers scrimmaged for the first time last Saturday, and then again on Wednesday. Beebe has a three-year returning starter at fullback, the offense’s feature position, in senior Trip Smith. Smith carried for 1,906 yards as a sophomore, and ran for 1,643 as a junior despite missing the first three games of the season.

A big difference for him and the rest of the Badgers’ running backs is that this year’s group is running behind an almost completely new offensive line. It’s obvious just from looking that the new line is not as big as the line that opened all the big holes last season, but the fullback still believes he can break the 2,000-yard barrier this season behind all the newcomers.

“At team camps we were driving the ball down the field pretty well, even against the bigger teams like Conway,” said Smith. “Against our defense, our defense has been pretty stout and kept us in check. But I think we have a really talented defense. I think the offensive line has done a good job. I still see 2,000 yards.”

Shannon isn’t as critical of his offense, even in the two team scrimmages that Smith thought the defense won.

“Offensively I thought we looked really good,” Shannon said. “I thought we did alright on Saturday and I thought the offense looked really good on Wednesday. He (Smith) hasn’t broken the big runs against our guys like he did in some of the camp scrimmages, but we’ve moved the ball pretty well, especially on Wednesday.

“I think the defense’s success against us is two things. Number one I think we’re going to be pretty good over there. I feel like the secondary is going to be a key strength for us this year and we’re extremely pleased with both our inside linebackers.

“We have some new guys playing defensive line, but they’re strong kids and they’ve been looking pretty good there, too. The other thing is they know what to expect. We like to run the dive and the off tackle and they’re pretty good at guessing which one’s coming. So that gives them a little advantage.”

Leadership on the field is another key factor to a successful season, and Shannon believes this year’s team has that, especially where it’s most important – in the senior class.

“One of the things that made last year’s team so successful was the work ethic, and this year’s senior class is right along with last year’s group,” Shannon said. “We tell them all the time, we can fix your mistakes. We can’t fix your attitude and we can’t fix your effort. The senior class has brought great attitudes and great work ethic every day in practice. It’s a great group of kids to be around.”