2008-08-15 / Sports

Ready to get rough

As two-a-day workouts begin, Badgers look to build confidence, add wrinkles to run-based offensive scheme
By DAVID LOWE Staff Writer

PHOTOS BY GABE WOLF Junior running back Gabe Terrell breaks through as the Badgers practice their offense. Players donned full pads today and will scrimmage Glen Rose at home next Friday. Badger head football coach Ryan Bailey, hoping to save his team from complacency, tried not to praise players too much the first day of two-a-day practices.

Bailey had to give his athletes some credit, though.

"I told the guys [Monday]'s two practices were the best ones we've had since I've been here," the coach said. "They worked hard, they retained information, and it was fun."

Players worked hard to improve their conditioning this summer, Bailey said, as 50 to 70 athletes reported for the first six weeks of fitness training. Workouts last summer usually attracted a dozen players or fewer, he said.

"The kids came in in great shape, bigger, more muscular and faster," Bailey said. "The commitment level the kids put in has just been awesome."

Coaches have emphasized footwork and some offensive and defensive drills during twoa days. Players don full pads today and will begin working on what Bailey considers the key to succeeding with a new offense: aggression.

Head coach Ryan Bailey addresses his players before they begin drills. Athletes reported in better condition and with more enthusiasm than last season, Bailey said. In contrast to last year's passheavy version of the spread offense, the Badgers this season will attempt a more balanced approach with about 60 percent running plays, Bailey said. The coach plans to rotate between four or five running backs, as senior Ryan Abbott and juniors Aaron Reyna, Brode DuBose and Edward Grant likely will share playing time.

Offensive linemen will switch from a two-point stance to a three-point stance -- "a completely different world," Bailey said. Coaches expect a more aggressive stance from linemen, who will need to drive forward to create running room, rather than backpedaling as a pass protection setup requires.

"It's all about aggression. It's all about mismatches. It's all about power," the coach said of the Badgers' new offense. "If we can get these things right there, we'll be able to compete well."

Junior quarterback Vann Millican will look for the offensive line to drive forward and create running room. Because returning players have learned their offensive base well, Bailey said, coaches now can "tweak" the playbook as needed. Bailey and his staff plan to create packages of four or five plays that look similar at the line of scrimmage but give the Badgers different options -- while making opponents guess.

Seniors Frank James, Zach Swinford and Jesse Tobar, now recovered from injuries that hampered him throughout last season, return on the offensive line.

Several juniors, along with linemen from the junior varsity -- which tied for second place in district last year -- also will vie for varsity playing time.

"We've got a lot of guys who are competing for a job," Bailey said.

Many athletes will be expected to play both offense and defense, which should give the Badgers multiple backups -- although few will start at two positions. Junior Astin Murray will move up from JV and play several positions.

Linemen study their playbooks during a planning session with coach Ben Needham. Senior Seth Fry may back up junior quarterback Vann Millican, as senior Ryder Brown broke his hand in the spring and probably will not return to the field.

"Vann has progressed very well," Bailey said. "All the quarterbacks have progressed very well. [Quarterbacks] coach [Clinton] Burns has done a good job with them."

All but two coaches return this fall, and Bailey said that stability has convinced athletes to trust his staff and its system.

"Ninety percent of the coaches have stayed," he said. "That showed the kids they're committed to them, and the players respect that."

The Badgers will need to progress quickly, as they will have just one scrimmage before opening the season with a "zero week" game Aug. 29 at Manor. Lampasas' bye the week before District 25-4A play begins should give the team an advantage, though, Bailey said.

The Badgers' biggest advantage -- and greatest difference from last year's team, Bailey said -- may be mental.

"These kids are starting to get some confidence," the coach said. "Our kids really want it. They talk about it every day, about how much they want to make the playoffs and prove to themselves they're winners."

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