By Chris Hummer
Practice was on the baseball field right next to Burger Stadium, but for players participating in the Under-19 National Trials, the work was about as far away from baseball as it gets.
There was a lot to digest, and the coaches had high expectations. But, for the most part, players excelled at picking up the systems.
“We got a lot thrown at us today,” said Jimmy Struble, a wide receiver from Round Rock, Texas. “But they’re confident we can do it, so I’m confident, too.”
On offense, the players had to quickly pick up on the intricacies of the option, which is very intensive on the quarterback. The QB must read what the defense is doing and make the right decision for his offense.
The coaches were pleased with the performances from the quarterbacks.
“I’m really impressed by the way that they handled it, and they don’t all come from that background,” said Terry Shea, a former NFL quarterbacks coach. “They did very well with the mechanics of it. They haven’t seen any live bullets yet, but I thought they sure handled it mechanically very well and understood the concepts.”
It wasn’t just the quarterbacks that got the mental workout at practice; running backs have a lot of responsibilities with the option, too. But it was the receivers who got to improve on an underutilized portion of their game – blocking.
“The stock blocking was good, especially for the screens that we were running,” said Charles Clarke, a wide receiver from Pleasant Grove, Texas. “We’re always the last blockers on that play, and if we do it right it’ll get us 10 to 15 yards.”
The defense had a busy day as well. They worked on making quick decisions and anticipating the offense’s plan with the spread.
When playing against a quick strike offense like they were preparing for, a combination of athleticism and mental fortitude is key.
“It shows the guys who can play and space with good pad level, proper technique and alignment,” said Everett Hibbard, a coach from Cincinnati, Ohio. “Shows the guys who are not just athletic, but can also execute detail-oriented schemes.”
GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE USA football prides itself on teaching the game from the ground up, and their camps are no different.
They’re structured to teach the details of the game and place a high priority on knowledge and the interworkings of football.
Parents have noticed and been pleased with how much their kids have learned this week.
“This is the most organized camp we’ve been to,” said Steven Hudson, father of quarterback Deion Hudson from South Orange, N.J. “Even for the kids that don’t make the team, they will get something out of it. The details are game-specific training, and it’s just a great camp.”
STAYING SAFE IN THE HEAT It hit 100 degrees in Austin again Saturday. Despite the rising temperatures, there have been no injuries, thus far, at the Under-19 trials.
This is because of the diligence of the staffers at the camp. They stress hydration and keep contact to a minimum, while still teaching skills that transfer directly to the field.
“The practices are very structured, and they do a good job of limiting unnecessary contact,” said trainer Joe Gutzwiller of Indianapolis. “It’s a lot of instruction, teaching and a lot of fundamental skill involvement. It’s not just a lot of ‘Let’s go out there and hit.’ It’s a lot more focused than that.”
LEARNING ACCOUNTABILITY Football is not an individual sport. In order for a team to succeed, all 11 players on the gridiron need to work in unison, a message the players really took away from their practice on Saturday.
“It takes teamwork to form a great team,” said Raymond Rodriguez, a running back from Taylor, Texas. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Hispanic, it all comes down to teamwork.”
HUNGER GAMES After practice, the players were treated to a barbecue dinner before they headed over to Burger Stadium to watch the finals of the IFAF Under-19 World Championship.
The athletes thought the food was great. Only problem was, some were still hungry.
“The barbecue is really good, but I’ve got to say I want some seconds,” Clarke said with a grin.