Albany at Independence FB Mike Janis Jae Jae Doherty

Albany coach Mike Janis talks to Jae Jae Doherty after Independence scored to cut the Hornets' lead to eight points late in Friday's game.

Mike Janis has had a complement of spring practices to work with as he begins his second season as Albany’s football coach, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

“The big goal for us this spring is really to find who we have – find out who we have on our team that can play and what talents we have on our team; how we can put those young men in the best position to be successful,” said Janis, who said there are roughly 60 players participating in spring drills after 48 players finished last season and the program lost 11 seniors. “It’s just a big opportunity for me to really set the standards of our expectations, so that when we go into the summer and then into the fall, all that groundwork’s already been laid."

Janis, who took over as Albany's coach early last summer, is revamping things scheme-wise on both sides of the ball.

“We’re changing everything, so this spring is pretty important for us, just to really get the kids to kind of get a grasp of what we’re trying to do – the change in terminology, the change in alignment, the change in overall philosophy,” Janis said. “It’s really an important couple weeks of practice for us.”

Offensively, Albany is scrapping the wing-T offense they’ve used over the past few seasons in favor of a spread offense. based out of the shotgun featuring three receivers, a tight end and a running back.

“It’s very different,” Janis said. “Albany’s been under center, I think for the last five years, so it’s a pretty significant change. (We’re) just trying to develop those skills, especially in the wide receiver position and in the run game, because it’s a completely different blocking scheme in this system than it was when we were under center in the wing. We really simplified it a lot, really focused on the basics right now and just getting them to understand that.”

Jae Jae Doherty, Reece Wolfe and Dae Dae Doherty are all getting snaps at quarterback, but running back isn’t settled as returnee Rhett Wolfe has been limited after having shoulder surgery and has been held out of contact this spring and won’t play in the Hornets’ home spring game against Brusly at 6 p.m. Friday.

“It’s going to give us a chance to really see who we have behind him that can contribute for us,” Janis said.

At wide receiver, Janis praised the efforts of slot receiver Michael McCahill as well as Avery Bergeron, Jacob Walter and Trey Yelverton this spring.

“We’ve got some guys that have really been working hard to find their way to the field,” he said.

Janis said the Hornets have embraced the offensive changes.

“We’re going up tempo,” Janis said. “We’re throwing the ball. We’re spreading the formations out, and stretching the defense, and they’re really excited about it – to get to play the style of football that they watch on Saturday and Sunday.”

On defense, the Hornets are switching to a 4-3 defense after playing in what Janis called a “3-3 hybrid” scheme last season.

“It’s something that our defensive coordinator Coach (David) Knight is very excited about,” Janis said. “It’s a defense that he’s studied and put a lot of effort into this offseason, and he’s been given the opportunity to really make this thing go, and he’s excited for that. The kids have responded really well to it.”

Janis said multiple players are getting reps along the defensive line, but in the new scheme the focus has turned to the team’s outside linebackers and safeties.

Rising sophomores Justin Coats and Austin Watts are playing at the outside linebacker spots, while rising senior Dae Dae Doherty will be back at strong safety.

“In that 2022 class, we’ve got a lot of those guys on the field right now, and they really are doing an excellent job,” Janis said. “I think that’s a really good group of young men.”

Janis said Doherty’s versatility should help the team in the new scheme.

“It’s a position he played last year, and I thought he did an excellent job at it, and it’s a role that he really was excited to take on,” Janis said. “It’s a guy in that position, we’re asking that player to come downhill and really contribute to stopping the run game as well as being versatile enough to cover people and drop back and do those things as a defensive back. At the free safety position, we’re really rotating some guys in there trying to find someone that really has a good understanding of the defense, and we’re giving several guys an opportunity to do that.”

The Hornets’ spring drills have included using some players strictly on one side of the ball after a number of players went both ways last season.

“This spring, we’re really trying to limit that (two-way players), so that we can get some of those guys who may have been backups some more quality reps and just really get a good luck at what kind of skill set they possess,” Janis said.

Janis said he’s also been pleased with leadership skills the Hornets’ rising seniors have shown this spring.

“We do permanent team captains, where we vote on those guys going into district, and they kind of take over as the leaders on the team,” Janis said. “We normally pick four. I don’t know if I can narrow that down to four. This senior class is really filled with some fantastic leaders. I’m just excited to see them get an opportunity to really exhibit that and show what they can do out there.”

Heading into the spring game, Janis is looking forward to seeing how his team responds to defending Brusly’s triple-option offense. Janis also has an eye on the future as the Hornets will also play Pine in their fall scrimmage and along with St. Michael the Archangel and DeQuincy during the regular season – all teams that run the triple option.

“When you play against a triple option (team), you’ve got to constantly harp ‘Trust.’ Trust each other. You have to do your job, and you have to trust that the other player’s going to do their job. If we can do that, we’ll be successful.

“The other thing I talked to our kids about playing against that (triple option) is the reigning state champion in 3A football is Eunice High School, and Eunice runs a triple option offense,” Janis said, while noting the Bobcats return their quarterback and fullback and several other starters. “If we’re going to compete for a state championship, it’s going to go through Eunice, and if you can’t stop a triple option offense, you don’t have a chance. It’s a good stage-setter for our expectations for next season.”

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