The way Albany football coach Mike Janis sees it, if the formula works for a popular restaurant that serves chicken fingers, it can work for the Hornets’ football program, too.
Like all football programs across the state, spring football was wiped out when schools were shut down statewide amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. But that didn’t prevent Janis and his coaching staff with coming up with some points of emphasis for the team.
“What we’ve talked about already is approaching it from a mindset that I want to become an expert at doing a thing,” Janis, who will be entering his third season as the Hornets’ head coach, said. “We’re going to keep it really simple and we’re going to work on a concept, and rather than building a big playbook offensively and defensively, I told the coaches that I want to be the Raising Cain’s of high school football. Those guys became a tremendous success making chicken fingers and that’s it. They’ve got things and items that complement those chicken fingers, and they do those really well. That’s what we want to do. We want to find something that we can do extremely well, if not better than everybody else, and we want to build on that, and what we add to it is going to complement that. I think that’s something we were going to be doing anyway, but the circumstances now lead to that really being a necessity.”
Albany was slated to begin spring drills April 28 and play Brusly in its spring game May 14.
“It’s frustrating to not be around the kids and not being able to help them get to where they want to be,” Janis said. “It’s a new year, and spring presents new opportunities, so guys are working hard trying to earn a spot. Some guys are working hard to go into the summer, which for a lot of our kids was going to be a really important summer in getting out in the recruiting game and going to camps and getting noticed.”
“We were seeing a ton of progress in the weight room leading into this spring, and then when it all got shut down, a lot of these kids don’t have access to weights, workout facilities or exercise equipment, so I know it’s been difficult for those guys, and it’s been difficult not to see them not to be there to be able to help them,” Janis continued.
Instead, Janis said he’s been keeping in touch with his team via the Remind app and Zoom meetings, but he said those meetings have their limitations.
“I’ve talked to college coaches who are doing it too, and a lot of people say they’re going to do it and they want to continue to do it because it’s better than doing nothing, but it’s still very difficult to try to teach a concept or a scheme over a Zoom meeting,” Janis said. “We do it in the install period in the meeting room, and then we go outside and we walk through it. Then we run through it in practice, and then we go through it again in full team drills, so we have several different opportunities to break this down and really teach it to the kids on the field after we teach it to them in the classroom, and this is only one aspect of teaching that, so I don’t expect all of our kids to really comprehend what we’re trying to teach them or to be able to step on the field day one and be able to go out there and do what we’re trying to tell them to do over a Zoom meeting, but it’s introducing them to schemes and introducing them to concepts, and I think the biggest tool right now is just finding a lot of clips and a lot of teachable resources that are out there like on YouTube, where they can go and they can watch a lot of this stuff and kind of get some additional information that reinforces what we’re teaching.”
On offense, the Hornets return a number of players, including quarterback J.J. Doherty, who passed for 1,820 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 1,277 yards and 16 TDs last season and receiver/running back Rhett Wolfe.
“We were looking to keep it simple and we’re going to build on some of the things that we were doing last year,” Janis said, noting Hornets were looking at new using some new terminology and possibly moving some players to new positions on offense during the spring.
“All of that, when you get an opportunity to teach that in the spring, that’s really important and then to build on it with our 7-on-7 leagues,” Janis said. “So with that up in the air, it’s something that we needed to go ahead and try to start teaching now, even if it has to be over a Zoom call.”
Albany is also looking to keep things simple on defense after losing a pair of three-year starters in David Perez and Ronnie Turbeville up front.
“We were really looking forward to getting in the trenches,” Janis said. “We got a new sled, and really get out there and let our guys get better at tackling and build up a defensive line, which is going be something that we focus on going forward …”
With athletes set to return to campus Monday and limited to conditioning, Janis figures it will be a process to get his team back up to speed.
“We’re going to have to find ways to get back in the weight room and build that strength training without putting our guys under a lot of stress, which could cause injury,” Janis said. “That’s something else that’s going to be worrisome upon return is you’ve got guys that went from lifting to not lifting and come back. They’re going to have the mindset that they can lift what they did before or they can run what they did before. If they’ve taken this time completely off, that’s not going to be the case. Building that ability back up in a smart and safe environment is going to be a focus for us.”