With roughly three months separating today and the start of the 2014 high school football season, there remains a big window for local coaches to improve their teams before opening kickoff.
Fall practices will be crucial, of course, as will scrimmages, but those events are few and far between compared to the downtime that surrounds them. For some, how that downtime is spent can determine next season’s fate.
Last season, Forsyth Central was behind the curve in this regard. New head coach Shane Williamson had little film at his disposal, and that lack of information may have slowed down the developmental process.
That’s changed. The Bulldogs now have cameras rolling constantly, and have even purchased iPads to bring that footage to the bench. For the players—especially those who are visual learners—this newfound luxury could have a major impact down the road.
"When I came in we didn’t have the technology, but we have all that now," said Williamson. "It is very useful for us, and throughout the summer we’ll be able to show film to the kids and work with them that way.
"You can talk to [the players] all day long, but any time you’re able to bring them in, sit them down and let them watch themselves, it’s huge."
The Bulldogs collected eight days’ worth of video this month during spring practice, which Williamson opted for in lieu of a second scrimmage in the fall, as per new Georgia High School Association rules. And though taking the field in May strips the Bulldogs of an added exhibition contest, they were able to make up for that loss with scrimmages of their own.
In fact, Central’s No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense squared off against each other every day of these practices, giving them ample experience working through game situations.
Additionally, the informal nature of these sessions allowed the Bulldogs to go about their business in a relatively low-stress environment. Rarely pressed for time, coaches were able to stop action when teaching moments presented themselves.
"I thought we got a lot accomplished," said Williamson. "I felt like we were able to build a lot of team unity and put guys in certain positions. We’ve definitely grown a lot."
More than anything else, Williamson wanted to see improvements in tackling, which was a noticeable weakness in 2013. Since the players were allowed to participate in full pads throughout spring practice, Central was able to go full-contact—giving kids plenty of opportunities to work on coming off a block to make a fundamentally sound play.
By the end of the two weeks, Williamson noticed a visible improvement in this department.
"Our tackling has gotten a lot better," he said. "That’s something we needed to do, and we had the chance to work on that area a lot."
Whether or not these progressions translate to the regular season remains to be seen, but it’s a start. With a strong spring under their belt and a lot of tape to review in the coming months, the Bulldogs feel they’re in a good position moving forward coming off their third straight 2-8 season.
"I told my coaching staff that this is one of the best springs I’ve ever been a part of because of the commitment level," Williamson said. "We have a great group of young men. I thought they did a great job showing some leadership value and coming in every day ready to come to work. It was a great start to the 2014 season."