Blue Devils prepare to hit field

Published 12:55 pm Monday, August 1, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
With a difficult off-season behind them, the Escambia County High School Blue Devils are ready to take the field for fall practice.
New head coach Kyle Davis and the Blue Devil football team will take the field Monday morning in preparation for their season opener August 26 at T.R. Miller.
"We're going to run two-a-days from 7-10 (a.m.) and 3-7 (p.m.)," Davis said. "We'll be in helmets and shorts for three days (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). We'll try to do our special teams during that time and get everything installed and go over them."
Davis has big plans for ECHS this season, and three goals to achieve prior to the start of the season.
"I've got about three (goals)," Davis said. "My first goal is to get the motivation in the kids. We've had a good attitude all summer about working out. We're going to have some positive practices and some positive reinforcement. The second thing is to get the rest of our offense installed. We got about 75 percent of it done during the Spring. We knew what to run, but we didn't quite execute like I wanted to. The third thing is to teach the fundamentals. We'll go through technique – blocking, tackling, catching, throwing, running. We want to make sure our kids have a good base of skills to work on."
Davis said his players had done nothing to show they weren't prepared to take on the challenge of becoming a winning football program again.
"We probably had about 90 percent regular participation (in summer workouts)," he said. "We saw a total of about 65 kids during the summer, but there were consistently 47, 48, kids. We look to have anywhere from 47-52 kids on the squad come fall. I believe we had somewhere around 35 last year, so we're looking at 15-20 more. One thing I feel like we are gaining is the kids' trust. I've got myself and two other new coaches, and we've got three or four holdovers from the previous staff and the kids can see that we're here. They're starting to trust us. We're getting some structure back in the program. We took the kids to the Mississippi State Football Camp last week. We took 36 kids, and we had one of the best-behaved groups there. The kids represented this community well. We've gotten some structure back and some discipline. Having 90 percent show up is a testament to that."
Davis did say there was one nagging problem that still needed to be worked out.
"One of the things to get rid of is the laziness," he said. "These kids have been able to use excuses in the past. We're still working on getting rid of that. We have a good group of young players, and some seniors that will be good leaders. I feel like we're going to get to where we need to be. We're starting to get a good work ethic. It's not going to be overnight but we'll get there."
Davis also expects big things from his seniors, as well as a few underclassmen.
"Senior-wise, we've got Darrell Stephens, probably our biggest leader," Davis said. "He plays the way he talks. Calvin Hartley's going to be another key. He's the quarterback. He's going to have to step up and be that offensive general. We also have some young kids, Brandon McKenzie and David Quarker. They're going to help lead their age group. Our biggest area where we're going to need work is our offensive line. But we've got two seniors on that line that can help. Michael McAnally and Wade Blackwell – those two guys have been starting since they were 10th graders. The offensive line needs the most work, and where you need the most work is where you need the most leadership. Defensively, we're pretty young. Jarod Jefferson, he's a 10th grader, if he comes on and matures a bit he can have an outstanding season. LaVelt Hale, he's a transfer from Tuskegee that came in over the Christmas Holidays. He's going to help us be successful. I can say something good about a lot of my kids, though."

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