The Springfield football team is taking care of a few basics during this year’s spring practices, and that’s not a bad thing.
“We’re trying to get new faces in positions and install some different things offensively with the kids and making sure that they’re understanding what we’re wanting them to do – just seeing a lot of new faces in different places and making sure that technique-wise we’re very sound,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Serpas said.
It may be more important this spring given that Serpas said the Bulldogs have 28 players participating in spring drills.
“It’s the lowest my numbers have been probably since I’ve been here for 15 years,” Serpas said. “You just make adjustments. I’ve got a good core of kids. The kids that I’ve got show up, they work hard. It’s just getting them ready to play both sides of the ball that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to focus on in the offseason with our conditioning program. It presents its own challenges, but it’s also an opportunity for some of these kids to step up and make bigger plays for the entire team.”
The lower numbers mean many players will be playing both ways for the Bulldogs, who host Kenner Discovery at 6 p.m. Wednesday to wrap up spring practice.
“We’re just trying to make sure every kid knows alignment, assignment and things like that, so we don’t get beat technique-wise – we have a kid in position to make plays, it’s just going to be up to them to actually make the play,” Serpas said.
The numbers may be low, but the Bulldogs bring back several experienced players, including running back Arshun Andrews, who took over as the team’s primary running back after John’L Fryson broke his leg last season.
“I’m expecting him to be able to kind of pick up where he left off, which he’s done a great job of this spring,” Serpas said. “We’re trying to establish the running game, and hopefully that will open up things in the passing game for us. If they’re going to give us opportunities to make plays, we just need to be able to make those plays.”
Serpas is hopeful the Bulldogs won’t have to rely on one player to carry the load in the running game with Nylan Pinestraw and Tylan Armstrong also returning.
“Nylan Pinestraw is a very athletic kid who can make plays once you put the ball in his hands,” Serpas said. “We’ve just got several kids who have the opportunity to make plays. We’re just trying to spread it out a little more.”
Junior Bryan Babb has been working at quarterback after starting the Bulldogs’ playoff game against Amite last season when senior Zac Wild was sidelined with a concussion.
“He’s doing a pretty good job of picking up the things we’re asking him to do and being able to make decisions on the fly,” Serpas said of Babb. “He’s been a little rusty, but that’s to be expected for a kid who hasn’t been asked to do that in the past. That’s what spring’s all for is to work out those kinks, and I think especially as the spring game goes on, I expect him to get better and better.
“We thought he did a good job under the circumstances (last season), and he’s worked really hard all offseason to prove to us that he’s capable of doing it,” Serpas continued. “We’re going to give him every opportunity this spring and this summer to show what he can do.”
Serpas said Isaiah Netter, who’s played basketball for the Bulldogs, is getting work at receiver this spring.
“We’re going to try to throw the ball around a little bit (Wednesday) and hopefully be able to make some plays and be a little exciting,” Serpas said. “Football’s been steadily evolving over the past few years doing RPO (run-pass option) stuff and things like that. “We’re experimenting with a little bit of that as well, and hopefully those are things that will make the game more exciting for our kids as well.”
That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs want to get away from the run game, especially with four-year starter Austyn Wallace, Jayden Conley, Ty Jackson, Hunter Hue and Loranger transfer Leo Moore on the offensive line.
“It’s going to be very similar to last year,” Serpas said of the offense. “We’re trying to be a big power team. Up front, I have a very good offensive line, and I expect those guys to be able to make some pretty big holes.”
The Bulldogs ended last season running a '50' defense, but Serpas is trying to get back to running a '40' front this spring, where he’ll have Hue and Jackson up front, along with Connelly, who played only on offense last season.
Serpas said the play of the team’s linebackers, manned by Caleb Armstrong, Andrews and Brandon Weathersby, has been a point of emphasis this spring.
“Last year, we really struggled with our linebacker position getting those guys to come downhill and fill holes,” Serpas said. “If our middle linebackers come in and make plays, I think we’ll be pretty good, but it’s just going to be something where those guys are going to have to be repped continuously.
“From what I’ve seen defensively throughout spring, there’s a lot of talent over there. It’s just getting them to realize their talent and play up to their potential.”
Serpas said Pinestraw and Bradlyn McKay have settled in at defensive back along with Tylan Armstrong, who is playing cornerback after not playing defense last season.
“He’s really kind of like a pinball out there,” Serpas said of McKay. “He’s super-fast and capable of making plays on the field offensively and defensively, so he’s going to be starting in the secondary as well.”
The Bulldogs will square off against Kenner Discovery, which is preparing for its first season of varsity football after playing a JV schedule last year. Serpas is expecting to see a spread offense and a 4-2-5 defensive scheme from the Swamp Owls.
“He’s (Kenner Discovery coach P.J. Sprunk) got pretty good numbers for a new school, and I’m sure he’s excited to put his product out on the field for the first time on a varsity level, just as we are ready to show what we’re capable of for the upcoming year,” Serpas said.
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