The Valdosta Daily Times
Rance Gillespie is pleased with his team’s progression so far this summer.
The Valdosta Wildcats were busy with summer workouts in June, trying to prepare for the 2012 football season. They have been working out four mornings each week.
“Our numbers have been good. Our participation has been good. Our kids have been working hard,” said Gillespie, Valdosta’s head coach. “Everything’s going really good. Hopefully it will all come together, and the kids will continue to get better each and every day.”
The Wildcats have taken this week off for Independence Day. But next week, they will be back at work.
Teams are not allowed to put on pads and have full contact drills yet, but the Wildcats are doing as much as they can in shorts and shirts.
“We’re getting better and better and better each day,” Gillespie said. “Defensively, we’re learning how to fit our coverages up. Offensively, we’re polishing up our passing game. We’ve got a bunch of kids back on that side of the ball, but the reps never hurt. In the weight room, our kids are working hard, and I feel like we’re going to be in good shape and ready for the season.”
The offensive coaching staff has been having the players run the Wildcats’ West Coast offense in shorts and shirts, trying to familiarize them with the offense so that they will be ready to run it once the pads do come on Aug. 1. Valdosta should be returning its quarterback (Shelby Wilkes), two of its top three tailbacks (Nelson Herring and Malcolm Joseph) and four starting offensive linemen (Dyshon Sims, Jamel Hunter, Anthony Evans and Ronnie Stoney) from last year, but will have a bunch of new faces catching passes. The new receivers are being able to get some repetitions with the first-team offense, and familiarize themselves with Wilkes.
Valdosta will have a lot of new starters on defense this season, and the summer workouts are enabling them to continue to familiarize themselves with the team’s defensive schemes.
One of the biggest things that summer workouts enable a team to do is improve conditioning.
“We can get better with all of our agilities. We can do all of our weight room stuff. We can be in the best shape we can possibly be in to face a long season,” Gillespie said. “I think your offseason programs are going to become more and more important in this region, because you’ve got to withstand the grind this region’s fixing to present to teams.”
The workouts are voluntary, but the players seem to understand how important they are. The team has around 100 players on its roster, and there have been more than 90 players at nearly every workout.
In June, Valdosta competed in two passing league tournaments, one at Valdosta State and one at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C. The Byrnes tournament featured several perennially tough programs.
“That was a great experience for our kids,” Gillespie said. “All it did was spring us forward. ... The whole point is that we come away from passing league better and closer to being ready to play Sept. 1. Did we accomplish that? I don’t think there’s any question we accomplished that. We got a ton of reps in that two-day period.”
Valdosta went 8-3 last year and won the Region 1-AAAAA championship.
The Wildcats’ 2012 season begins on Sept. 1, when they face North Augusta (S.C.) at North Gwinnett High School in metro Atlanta.