After missing the playoffs last season despite a 7-3 record, South Forsyth’s football team entered spring practice in search of answers.
Who got better during the winter months? Who from the JV squad would show they’re ready to jump to the varsity ranks? How can areas of weakness be addressed?
Two weeks later, the War Eagles believe they know a lot more about their team. And for head coach Jeff Arnette, that knowledge is invaluable moving forward.
"I feel like practice went really well," he said. "We learned a lot about ourselves. We saw a lot from our starters, and you’re always interested to see how the young guys do. Overall, it was very productive for us.
"There were a lot of positives, and they have us excited."
The biggest concern with spring practice lies in the players’ health. While roughly four months remain before the regular season begins, injuries at this time could have major ramifications in the fall—and South was lucky to emerge without significant ailments.
"We got out of here very healthy," Arnette said, adding that there were some pulled muscles and a few broken hand bones, but nothing severe. "That’s the first and foremost thing: you want to make sure you come out without losing anybody."
Arnette, as well as most coaches out there, doesn’t need spring practice to identify who his star players are going to be. That said, these two weeks gave him the opportunity see who could fill in supporting roles next season.
"You’re always looking for depth in the spring," Arnette said. "We got a pretty good idea on our starters and how they’ll perform, but we’re always interested in seeing how the young guys look and see who steps up.
"I felt like we did well in that area and gained some depth during spring practice."
Per new Georgia High School Association rules, football teams now have the option of conducting spring practice and receiving one scrimmage, or foregoing spring and having two scrimmages before the regular season schedule commences.
For Arnette, the decision was easy.
Essentially, a scrimmage gives coaches roughly two hours’ worth of time to evaluate his team, while spring practice gives them two full weeks.
"I don’t know what the right or wrong answers are here," said Arnette. "This is the new deal, and I think everyone is trying to feel out what is best for their program. For us, we felt it was best to work during the spring, try to get some questions answered before we went into fall camp."
A successful spring gives the War Eagles a leg up heading into training camp, as a lot of the early preparations have already been completed. With the knowledge gained from these two weeks, Arnette and his staff can tailor their camp regimen to better fit the personnel in tow.
Had they opted for an extra scrimmage, a substantial amount of time would have been spent during training camp learning what they already figured out in May. Should the War Eagles get off to a fast start in 2014, spring practice could be one of the biggest factors in that success.
Furthermore, these last few weeks have given South a chance to put last year in the rearview mirror. Now, the players are focusing on what lies ahead, rather than what already happened.
"We didn’t go into spring trying to talk about (last season)," Arnette said. "We just tried to find out what we have going into next year. We’re looking forward, we’re not looking back."