making up ground
SCHS junior Wyatt Kropp breaks loose for a 55 yard touchdown run during a scrimmage last Saturday morning.
By Rod Haxton, editor
Defense not up to SC standard in first scrimmage
When one looks at the cornerstone of success in the rich history of Scott Community High School football, one word comes to mind . . . defense.
Or you can make it two words . . . hard-nosed defense.
That defense wasn’t evident on the field last Saturday morning when the Beavers held their first scrimmage in front of local fans. Head coach Glenn O’Neil doesn’t expect that to be the case again during Friday’s final scrimmage before the home opener on Sept. 5.
Disappointed? Perhaps a little.
Surprised? Not at all.
“The scrimmage showed that we were pretty much where we expected to be,” O’Neil notes. “One of our goals this week is to have the defense catch up to the offense. Our defense should make a giant jump. They’re going to get more time in practice and a chance to be more physical.”
That process will be aided by practice time in full pads. The Beavers had only two practices in pads prior to last Saturday and that opportunity was limited because of weather. The coaching staff was cautious with their workout last Thursday because of high humidity and had to cut their practice short on Friday evening because of a storm.
With a full week in pads and some game film to view, O’Neil began addressing some glaring concerns with the defense that were evident on Saturday morning.
“What we didn’t see from our defensive front four was an ability to fight pressure and get across the head of the offensive man in front of them. Our defensive tackles were running around blocks instead of fighting pressure and scraping down the line of scrimmage. That created some holes for the offense,” O’Neil says.
“Our linebackers were peeking into the backfield reading backs instead of reading the linemen which put them a half step slow. Then the secondary didn’t tackle very well. You put all those together and you can see why the offense had so much success.”
Another problem which the Beavers will have to battle all season is a lack of depth.
“It’s very apparent that we aren’t very deep across the (defensive) line,” says the head coach. “And our linebackers could certainly stand to shore up their technique.”
More contact during practices will help, but there’s also a limit to what can be done in order to avoid injuries.
“We can’t go live all the time because we can’t afford injuries, but we can go full speed without cutting people. They have to get used to someone coming at their legs when they’re inside the clipping zone. They have to use technique to ward off the blocker,” emphasizes O’Neil.
He also wants his defense to be more physical coming off the edge and attacking the lead blocker.
“As a coaching staff, we expect these boys to already be caught up. Until they find the willpower to get these things done they’re going to be a half a step behind,” O’Neil says.
In fact, the offense pretty much had its way throughout the 1-1/2 hour scrimmage.
The No. 1 offense opened up with a 27 yard touchdown run by senior tailback Marshall Hutchins, TD runs of 55 and 22 yards by junior Wyatt Kropp, a 51 yard scoring run by junior fullback Cooper Griffith and a pair of touchdown passes covering 21 and 27 yards from Trey O’Neil to wideout Brett Meyer.
Since the Beavers have the luxury of putting some players on only offense or defense, most of the time that the No. 1 defense was on the field they were seeing about six players who are also expected to be on the No. 1 defense.
“We had three different series where it was half starters on offense and half starters on defense. The offense scored on all three possessions, which is not a good thing for the defense,” said O’Neil.
Could that be an indication that the offense is just that good?
“I don’t know. Maybe the defense is just that bad,” counters O’Neil. “That’s a question that probably won’t be answered on either side of the ball until we see some outside competition.”
As good as the running game appeared at times, O’Neil says it’s difficult to determine how good that phase of the game is “when the defense isn’t doing what it should.”
The Offensive Line
While the defense captured a lot of the attention, this was also an opportunity for coaches to evaluate the reconfigured offensive line.
“Give the offense credit. The line did some nice things in terms of blocking, though the technique still needs some work,” O’Neil says. “Once we’re in full pads two or three times a week we’ll see the blocking technique improve.”
The offensive line knows it will be under the microscope, not just now but throughout the season.
“We’re making improvements,” says senior left tackle Lane Hayes (5-10, 225). “We’re learning our assignments and we’re starting to move as a unit together. But we’re still overthinking things.”
He says that putting on pads and having full-contact drills has helped.
“It makes a difference when you can block at full speed. I think we’re starting to hit our angles better,” he says.
Learning his way as the new offensive center is senior Hunter Braun (5-10, 170).
“There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with getting the ball snapped right and knowing who to block on different plays. I’m getting used to it,” says Braun.
“We’re working hard to get everyone working together and eliminating our mistakes so that the (offensive) line doesn’t get so much attention. The more we play the more comfortable we’ll get with knowing what we should do.”
The Beavers have the ability to be a very effective passing team and O’Neil won’t be reluctant to throw the ball more this season. But having graduated the three top receivers from a year ago, this will also be a work in progress.
Senior Brett Meyer was on the receiving end of two touchdown passes on Saturday after having just one catch his entire junior season.
“We still have a lot of work to do on timing,” says Coach O’Neil.
He noted that it’s common for a rookie quarterback to hold onto the ball and not make a throw until a receiver has already created separation rather than releasing the ball as the receiver is coming out of his break. At the same time, when a quarterback is uncertain about what a receiver will do, he won’t release a pass as quickly as it should be.
“What we’re seeing right now is that our receivers aren’t running their routes as precisely as we want,” O’Neil says.
“Consequently, Trey doesn’t know if they’re going to break it at step No. 4 or step No. 6, so the continuity between him and his receivers isn’t very good. It’s average. They’re getting a little separation, but the timing has to pick up by half a count, for sure.”
Conditioning a Factor
With the prospect of so many players who will have to be on each side of the ball, conditioning and special teams are equally important.
In a typical game, there are about 100 plays from scrimmage. The Beavers ran 80 on Saturday morning without any special teams work.
“The conditioning has to pick up,” says O’Neil.
That could be especially critical in the opener which will have a 6:00 p.m. kickoff - an hour earlier than normal.
“Sometimes I’m sure the boys think we’re punishing them and that’s not the case at all. We’re trying to get them ready to play hard for 70 snaps on a varsity night.
There are things we’ll be doing to help get boys off the field for a quick water break. We want to be able to get Cooper (Griffith) and Sloan (Baker) out of the game for an offensive series. But for that to happen, a younger tight end, for example, has to know what the plays are.”
Special teams are also an opportunity to give varsity players a short break.
“These boys may not be our starters, but they have to be guys who can hustle down the field and make a tackle, or hustle 35 or 40 yards and make a block on kickoff and punt teams,” says O’Neil. “And they can’t give up a big play.”
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