Wildcats look to become perfect technicians

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 2, 2007 - If practice does indeed make perfect, then the Sulphur Springs coaches are getting closer to that elusive goal.

The SSHS football coaching staff went on a retreat to Arkansas this week to review what they will be teaching the players come Monday morning.

"I think our main emphasis right now, coaching-wise, is to be perfect technicians," said SSHS head coach and athletic director Greg Owens. "We want every kid to be as good as they can be at their positions. As coaches, we're trying to be the best coaches we can, learn as much as we can about each position and try to be experts."

Coaches have gone to several clinics and talked to their peers this offseason to refine their offensive and defensive schemes. They have also conducted summer workouts and watched the 7-on-7 team come one game away from qualifying for the state tournament.

Owens said all of that has helped the players gain a better understanding of "why" they are asked to do some things.

"We think we've made great strides in learning the game, and in learning situations," he explained. "Seven-on-7 helped us with some of that and with managing the clock. The kids got better at understanding their positions.

"Our emphasis offensively and defensively is to do things right technically and to play harder than anybody. We need to play with passion and raise our level of play."

The start of the season comes at 7 a.m. Monday when the varsity and junior varsity players hit the field. They are asked to report to the field house about 30 minutes beforehand. Freshmen players need to report at 8:30 a.m. to be ready for practice at 9.

The Wildcats this year will hold both of their two-a-day sessions in the morning, taking an hour break and finishing around noon or 12:30. Two-a-day sessions always include a lot of individual teaching of positions.

"We're asking kids to almost be perfect at their positions," Owens said. "We know they can't, and we explain to them that we're not holding them accountable to be perfect, but that's their goal - to be perfect."

The Wildcats have tweaked their offensive scheme, making it faster-paced but also simpler. They utilize "wristband technology" that uses colors and numbers to tell each player what to do on a particular play. It is a version of what Kentucky used to run. While it looks complex, it is simplified for each individual position.

Defensively, the Wildcats will switch fulltime to a 4-3 defense to better utilize the strength of their front seven. With five returning starters among those front seven - linemen Rodney Evans, Jamaal Freeman and Tyler Francis and linebackers Brittan Diamond and Josh Dunn - Owens expects the team to be more knowledgeable and experienced.

"I think we're more savvy defensively," he said. "We've converted to a 4-3, which we think will help us hold up better up front. We were getting manhandled a little bit last year with some offensive linemen on our linebackers. So, we think this will help us out.

"We really concentrated on being more savvy and better football players this whole spring, and coaching them up on situations about what to expect and not just running around."

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