|READY TO STEP UP?
Is the question youngsters like Isaiah Winston must answer once the pads go on.
JULY 24, 2009 - COVINGTON
When you drive around the country roads you notice local farmers slowing down traffic as they marvel at their thriving crops that were planted in the spring. Their pride is understandable considering the work they put in during the spring and summer planting, fertilizing and grooming. Plus, mother nature has blessed the farmers with timely rains, which hopefully leads to a successful harvest.
Covington football coach Dave Miller isn't a farmer, but can relate to the optimism the farmers feel for a productive fall.
That's because Miller and his football team have planted the seed for a successful season and that seed has been watered with steady rains of hard work and preparation for the upcoming season. With the volunteer off-season program behind them, the kids are stronger, faster and more prepared than they were a year ago midway through the farming season.
"This summer has been very productive," said Miller after his team completed the voluntary season in a camp day with Stebbins. "These kids worked hard in the weight room and conditioning. We didn't have very many misses (missed days) out of the kids."
The hard work in the weight room and the effort in the ten camps has paid off as the approximately forty kids on the roster have steadily improved, making for a promising start to mandatory sessions when the kids return on August 2nd to be padded and August 3rd for two-a-days.
"I really think this is a special group of kids," Miller said. "I love our attitudes right now and I'm very proud of how hard these kids worked this summer. We lost some kids we'd love to have back, but the kids we have just keep getting better and better."
That can be attributed to the leadership on the team.
"Our seniors have really picked it up," he continued. "Ben Christian, Jordy Meyer, Garrett Clark, Teddy Hale, Taylor Reames and Adam Craft have led by example and have become more vocal. They have shown the younger kids how we do things."
And the younger kids have learned the lessons well.
"I'm pleased with how well the freshman have picked it up," said Miller. "They came in here and worked their butts off from day one. They listen to the coaches and the upperclassman and do things the right way."
The Buccs concluded the off-season program in style with the way they performed in the final camp with Stebbins, where the two squads went through drills together before squaring off in seven-on-seven sessions. The tempo the Buccaneers went about their business stood out most as kids were flying around the field from start to finish.
And that impressed Miller considering what he put his boys through a day earlier.
"We ran forty four-forties yesterday and the kids took to it like it was nothing," he explained. "We had kids smiling at the end - like they wanted more. That's the first time we've had that since I've been here.
"Then they came out here today (at camp) and played their butts off. I know they were sore, but they either didn't care (about the pain) or maybe just decided they wasn't going to let it slow them down. I'm so proud of these kids. They overcame some adversity on their part and that's a perfect way to go into our break."
Much like the crops, the Buccs have had a great start to the upcoming season. Also like the crops, a productive August is a must if they want to have a plentiful harvest in the fall.
"I'm excited about getting back here the first week of August and getting back to work," said Miller. "We have to come into two-a-days in the right frame of mind that we are not going to waste all the work we put in at this point. Last year we had some things that happened that we didn't recover from until later in the year. We can't have that. These kids have worked way too hard."
Once two-a-days begin, the players will be tested against each other to earn positions. Coach Miller likes to use a lot of players, so there are plenty of spots up for grabs.
"We'd like to use a lot of guys so we can spell kids here and there - primarily on the lines," Miller explained. "We've had a number of younger guys we feel we can plug into the rotation, but they have to show it when the pads go on. We'll also be looking at the skill positions. I like our depth if these kids continue to do what they are doing when the pads go on."
The Buccs will also be tested in scrimmages against Milton, Eaton and Versailles.
"We like our scrimmages," said Miller. "All three of those programs will come after you, but in different ways - which is good because it gives the kids a chance to see different looks. The scrimmages will get us prepared for New Bremen (in week one)."
And week one is the beginning of the harvest for the Buccs. What transpires in August may dictate how plentiful that harvest is.