2011-08-02 / Sports

Back to the grind

Badgers start two-a-day football workouts with playoffs in their sights
Staff Writer

Head football coach Joey McQueen instructs players during the first day of two-a-days. 
PHOTO BY NICK FORRESTER Head football coach Joey McQueen instructs players during the first day of two-a-days. PHOTO BY NICK FORRESTER Editor’s note: Head Coach Joey McQueen is set to begin his third year at the helm of the Badger football program. McQueen was out of his office when contacted last week, but he arranged for Defensive Coordinator Jimmy Randolph to discuss the team in an interview with the Dispatch Record.

The wait is over.

The start of two-a-day football practices this week gives the Badgers their first opportunity since the spring to work on their plays under the supervision of coaches.

Less than four weeks remain before Lampasas opens its season Aug. 26 at home against Manor. The team plans to make the most of its limited time, however, as it runs through the offensive and defensive playbook.

The power running style of the slot-T will continue to guide the offense, but coaches may introduce a few tweaks to fit the skills of returning running backs Secody Howard and Justin Maldonado, and quarterback Brandon Scott.

“There’s some formation change coming,” defensive coordinator Jimmy Randolph said. “I know from my side of it I don’t want to line up against it.”

Scott, a senior, will take over the starting quarterback role from Colton Perkins, who graduated in the spring. Randolph said coaches are excited about the skills of the athlete, who also will start as a free safety.

“He’s very dynamic,” Randolph said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s a very level-headed kid that makes good decisions, and he is kind of sneaky-fast.”

Along with Scott, another 10 players or so may spend time on defense as well as offense.

Randolph said two-a-days will show him how much players have retained of the defensive scheme. Like last year, the team will employ a two-shell cover “numbers defense” to maximize the players capable of shadowing opposing receivers. Based on what sometimes is called a “splitsix” arrangement, the defense will use four down linemen, two inside linebackers, one outside linebacker who will play as a defensive back/ linebacker hybrid and four defensive backs.

The formation will give the Badgers flexibility, Randolph said, to cover a spread-type offense without leaving holes near the line that an opposing runningback can exploit.

“With four DBs, the worst you can get is a one-on-one with four guys going long,” Randolph said.

With players healthy and fit at the start of two-a-days, he said, preseason preparation should go smoothly and quickly.

Kicker and backup free safety Josh Barbero has recovered from a broken foot, which he injured in April, the defensive coordinator said, and no other major injuries have been reported.

“To my knowledge, everybody is good to go,” Randolph said.

The summer conditioning program -- which included sprinting, weightlifting and agility drills -- deserves much of the credit for readying players for games, the coach believes.

“We’ve had gobs of kids here all summer,” Randolph said.

“They’re going to be so much further along than if they hadn’t come,” he added.

Good conditioning, the coach has said, allows the staff to devote more time to running plays than if players needed extensive fitness work during two-a-days. Players will practice in 40-minute chunks this week, working first with their specific skill group and then alternating offense versus defense for the next two periods.

Although the team will work in just shorts and helmets through Thursday, each practice will incorporate some sort of tackling technique work, Randolph said.

Friday’s session, set for 6-8:30 p.m., will see players don pads for the first time, primarily to prevent minor injuries like “dinging a knee or bruising a shoulder,” Randolph said.

Coaches hope the team looks alert and energetic during two-a-days, although players are not expected to deliver crushing hits during contact drills.

“We want them to be sharp,” Randolph said. “We want them to be intent to the fact of knowing what to do, where to go and how to do it. We’re not looking to knock each other’s noses in, but we want them to be aggressive.”

The main hunger desired is a yearning for a return trip to the playoffs, which eluded the Badgers in last year’s 5-5 season.

Coaches and athletes will discuss goals early in practices, Randolph said, to make sure players are committed to what the team plans to accomplish.

Qualifying for the playoffs, which requires placing at least third in district, is at the top of the list. The next priority is contending for a district championship, which Lampasas has not won since 1989.

“You have to have your eye on the prize right from the get-go, even though that won’t happen until November,” Randolph said of the start of the playoffs. “We’ve been talking about that for a long time.”

Now, the talking is done, and the on-the-field work begins.

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