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Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The team begins to take shape
by Mark Quarderer
I'll never forget my first day of football practice. I'd hung out with the coaches at the school I taught, and when an opening for a coach for the freshman team opened up I applied for it and was accepted. The Head Coach/AD was a big power I guy so I read up everything I could on the subject and asked lots of questions of other assistants. I really thought I was ready.
After three days of summer conditioning....cone drills, tires, cages, etc......it was time to divide the athletes into groups. All the freshmen went down to one end of the field, and the HC and I went down with them. There were about 40-45 kids there and the HC looked at me and said "Here's your team. First scrimmage is next Thursday". And the bastard walked away.
I didn't have a freakin' clue but I faked it. We ran some sprints so I could get an idea of who had some speed. I took the backs and receivers to one side and got them involved in some passing and catching drills. I took the linemen over to the sled and started working with that.
Eventually, I found out who my quarterback was, and who my running backs were, and who my best linemen were. It took 3 days but finally I got a team lined up and we started practicing plays. We still hadn't gone over punts, kicks, or coverage but at least we could line up and run a play. I felt like Vince Frickin' Lombardi.
As the years went by I got a little more organized at building a team and the truth is......it's the part of coaching I miss the most. You start with a blank slate and build a team from scratch. The first time they run a 26 Trap for good yards you say to yourself..."I taught them that".
The Packers aren't quite in the same boat. When they started camp, they already had a QB, and a punter, and they knew who their linemen and receivers were. The guys already knew most of the playbook.
But that isn't to say they didn't have some question marks because they did, but now, on the eve of our first real exhibition game of the season, the team is beginning to take shape.
There weren't a lot of questions on offense, other than who'd be holding out. With Bubba still not in camp and David Martin missing quite a bit of practice time, it looks like we'll be lining up Ben Steele at the TE. Clifton and Tauscher will be the tackles, Flanagan at center. Driver and Walker are our WRs, backed up very capably by Fergie, Chatman, and Murphy.
The offensive backfield is set, with the only real battle being between Craig Nall and Aaron Rodgers for the #2 QB spot.
Only at guard are we still trying to figure out what we have. We've got a lot of guys, but nobody who has stood out. Reugamer knows the offense and is a tough guy. Klemm's the best athlete....if he can stay healthy. O'Dwyer is the most experienced and Whitticker is probably the biggest. Atlas Herrion has run some with the first team as well. The ultimate starters probably won't be figured out until after the San Diego game, but it won't be a lot longer than that because Beightol will want to get his unit some time together before the season starts.
Defensively there were more question marks. Kampman and KGB will start at DE. With Grady still on PUP it's looking more and more like a DT rotation featuring Corey Williams, Cletidus Hunt, and Colin Cole backed up by the Generals, Washington and Lee.
At linebacker, Barnett is in the middle. Diggs is out for two weeks but will be our starting SSLB...he'll be replaced by Lenon against San Diego but I don't believe Lenon will stick with the team this year. At the weakside, it looks like Ray Thompson. Roy Manning has opened a lot of eyes in training camp and looks like a keeper.
The secondary features a lot of new faces. Joey Thomas started training camp ahead of Ahmad Carroll, then promptly missed a bunch of practice with a leg injury. Nick Collins continues to impress and will be one of our starting safeties. The other starting safety is looking at this point to be the much-maligned Mark Roman. Al Harris rounds off the starting secondary.
The extra DB packages will see Michael Hawkins on the field.....he's certainly been well regarded by the guys who cover the Packers for a living.
All in all, the profile of the team is this: Offensively, if the guard situation is resolved this is a team that should be able to move the ball and score with the best teams in the league. Talented and deep at all the skill positions, there simply is no excuse for this team to not put points on the board.
Defensively, this team shouldn't be haunted by the 77 long plays of last year.....that number will be dramatically lower. Collins will provide some speed and tackling at safety and Hawkins should make our dime unit a little better than last year. Stopping the run is going to be a big issue for this team, especially when Grady Jackson isn't in the lineup.
So the team is coming together and shortly we're going to know what we have, warts and all. In this era of free agency and salary caps, every team is going to have some weaknesses and quite a few teams aren't going to be good on both sides of the ball, but you cobble together the best team you can and try to win games by taking advantage of your strengths and compensating for your weaknesses. Our strengths are going to be our ability to move the ball and score points. Our weaknesses will most likely be taking care of the ball and stopping the run.
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