Players vie for Team USA spot at Trials

By Chris Hummer

The U.S. Under-19 National Team Trials kicked off Wednesday, and hundreds of athletes from across the country ran through drills, all vying for a coveted spot on Team USA.

The practice was informative yet intense as offensive and defensive players worked through individual position drills.

Running backs worked on the option read. Linebackers learned about correct footwork and body position. And defensive backs were instructed in reads and coverage skills.

“In just a short amount of time, it’s doing a lot,” said John Unger, a senior running back from Santa Teresa, N.M. “They’re critiquing everything, from our foot work to making fast reads. They’re just making everything better, and it’s helping make us a team.”

The coaching staff is doing everything possible to ensure that these players leave with the skills needed to make them better ballplayers.

However, and perhaps more importantly, they will be leaving with the tools to be better teammates.

This idea was especially significant to the camp’s offensive coordinator Jimmy Farrell, a high school coach from Chicago.

“I don’t like when kids say ‘My bad’ when they make a mistake, because football is the ultimate team game,” he said. “So instead, when someone makes a mistake it should be ‘We bad.’  That’s something I outlaw on the field, I don’t allow a kid to say ‘My bad.’”

The rule is a bit of a jest, but it has its purpose.

Every player attending the camp is talented, so oftentimes when coaches select the team it comes down to the individual who best fits in with the unit.

“It’s always the right kind of player, not the best player,” Farrell said. “The ultimate team guys are going to be the kids with the best chance to be selected for the team.”

 

KICKING FOR THE FENCES   While the kickers were working on technique from the 50-yard line, a few balls managed to fly over the fence behind the goalposts, thanks to a strong tailwind.

Shortly after, putting the ball over the fence became a bit of a friendly competition between the five special teamers.

“Yeah, we had a little competition to see who could kick it the farthest,” said Matt McCrane, a senior from Brownwood, Texas. “It was a lot of fun the because the ball was really flying, but I think it ended in a tie.”

 

A LONG DRIVE   Unger, the senior from Santa Teresa, N.M, had to leave home at 4 a.m. to make it to the camp on time because of the nine-hour drive.

Thanks to the long day of travel, he missed the original equipment designation and had to wear a borrowed black helmet for the first-half of practice, which really stood out from the other players’ blue USA helmets.

He got a little good-natured ribbing about it from the other players, but for him the whole day was worth it.

“It was a very long day, but just knowing that I was going to get to come here made it all worthwhile,” he said. “Now that I’m here it’s just amazing.

 

THE SPREAD IS KING   During the offensive practice, a large portion of the time was spent working on the intricacies of the zone read.

The read is an essential part of the spread offense, a system many college and high school teams are moving toward to stay a step ahead of the defense.

“Defenses are getting more athletic and the only way you’re getting a man up on them is by running the spread,” Farrell said. “We have some really athletic quarterbacks here that can take advantage of the system, and it gives us the opportunity to make the big play.”