The intensity and enthusiasm were contagious at Bulldog Field Tuesday, Aug. 2, the second day of fall training camp for the Burnet Bulldogs.
The players and coaches accomplished plenty, which compelled head coach Bryan Wood to call an end to the session 15 minutes earlier than was originally planned, a reward to the players for their commitment to getting a lot of work done with the attitude, attention to detail and commitment Wood wanted to see.
The Bulldogs had 64 players in grades 10-12 participate with another 45 freshmen who followed them.
“Our effort has been really good,” Wood said. “We’re so much further ahead this year. Last year, I felt I was coaching technique and effort. This year effort has been good. They’re flying around; we’re a year better.”
Because of the talent in the skill positions, led by senior quarterback Tanner O’Hair, the Bulldogs believe they have plenty of firepower to keep defenses guessing on what they’ll do with the football. And so much of the offense’s success will come down to the offensive linemen.
“We have to get the ball spread out,” Wood said. “We need to have five or six guys touch the ball to be effective. But none of that matters if those kids upfront don’t take over the line. We’re bringing in some sophomores in the mix, who’ll find out what Friday night football is all about.”
Wood, who is entering his second season as the head coach, said he feels good about the starters and most of the reserves. Depth, however, is an issue because the varsity and junior varsity are projected to each have 32 players. The good news about having 45 freshmen is that 35 of them were regular attendees of the voluntary summer strength-and-conditioning program, though most are expected to stay on the ninth-grade squad.
The solution to the depth issue is to have some athletes start on both sides of the ball and be meticulous when other players who are regular starters on one unit are inserted to play on the other. An example is having an offensive lineman enter the contest as a defensive lineman on a key third down when the Bulldogs need a stop.
“The outside linebackers and defensive backs are strengths defensively,” Wood said. “Upfront, we’re replacing all three of our defensive linemen.”
Wood pointed out coaching every part of the sport leads to success on the scoreboard. It’s not enough to have a great game plan and get the matchups they want. Wood noted the coaching staff helps their athletes develop mentally so when they step on the field, in the weight room and back in the locker room, they do so with the demeanor that oozes confidence because of the work that’s put in when fans aren’t watching. The Bulldogs are embracing all parts of the preparation, and that is leading to strong bonds that will be important under the Friday night lights during the next few weeks, Wood added.
“Football is hard,” he said. “There’s only one way to do it right, and that’s to work hard and build the mentality in the offseason. Then you transfer the mentality from the offseason to how you play. There’s a love for each other, a camerderie for each other. In that locker room, they’re all cutting up and getting along. We have built the relationships. We’ve come a long way.”
Wood is putting in the work to get to know the families of his players, too. In addition to the home visits he and offensive coordinator and line coach Tyler McIntosh conducted the last three months, Wood is hosting the first Moms Night Out, an event for the mothers of the Burnet players. Each mother will meet her son’s position coach and participate in some of the drills that are specific to that spot.
The coach has two reasons for the event, which is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, at Bulldog Field, 1400 Bulldog Stadium Drive in Burnet. Mothers simply need to show up to participate.
“I want the moms to meet their sons’ coaches, so they know who’s going to be with their kid the most. I want them to develop a relationship,” Wood said. “And I want my moms to bond.”
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