By S. Thomas Coleman The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/26/08
Though football practice won't officially begin until Aug. 1, area teams have been hard at work preparing for the 2008 season. We checked in with four of the top teams to see how they're preparing for the opening game, now just over 60 days away.
> First game: vs. Mays, Aug. 29, 8:15 p.m., Lakewood Stadium
The transformation of the Carver program —- from futility to state-title aspirations —- is evident even in the Panthers' offseason workout regimen.
That's because prior to the arrival of coach Darren Myles and his staff four years ago, there was no offseason workout program.
"[Carver] would even set up their schedule to start two weeks later than everyone else, because players didn't show up until school started," Myles said.
One of the first things Myles and his staff did when he was hired in May 2005 was implement a voluntary summer workout program, like most other schools have.
Of the current 65 players —- freshmen through seniors —- 90 percent of them participate in the workouts, which began June 2 and are held Monday through Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m.
The Panthers even have 15 freshmen who are regular participants.
"We do it in the evening because some of our players work during the day," Myles said. "And some of them are enrolled in our early college program at school. They are taking classes on college campuses this summer."
The program consists of stretching, lifting and agility drills. Linemen and skill-position players work in separate groups, said Myles, who has been pleased by the effort of the players.
The workouts also serve as a way for players to impress coaches. Myles said rising junior running back/linebacker Brendan Johnson has done just that after spending most of last season on special teams.
"He's really going to be bucking for some carries this season," Myles said. "He worked really hard in the weight room and pound-for-pound is one of the strongest kids we have. He's also one of our fastest kids. His understanding of the game has improved, too, and he is evolving into a really good player."
> First game: vs. Marist, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.
St. Pius players have a love-hate relationship with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Massey.
"They hate him because he really pushes them," said offensive line coach Chad Garrison. "But they love him because they know how good his workouts will make them in the long run."
Just about all of the 98 players on the Golden Lions' roster are participating in this summer's voluntary program, which began the first week of June. Workouts consist of lifting, core training, speed work and conditioning.
Players have three different time blocks from which to choose: 7-9 a.m., 8-10 a.m. or 9-11 a.m. Many players chose the earliest session, Garrison said.
"About 45 to 50 kids come in at 7, including a lot of our seniors," Garrison said. "They're really pushing each other, showing a lot of leadership, and it's rubbing off on the younger players."
Garrison said the players have always participated in the program in strong numbers. But he admits there's a little extra motivation, with longtime rival Marist looming in Week 1.
"We don't even have to say the name around here. All we have to do is put a big 'M' up on the board, and our players are motivated," Garrison said. "They do a great job over there, and it's a great rivalry between our schools. Our kids are always motivated [in the summer], but we don't have to do a whole lot of motivating when you open up with Marist."
> First game: at Brunswick, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Ordinarily, Tucker coach Franklin Stephens would use his offseason voluntary workout program to get his players bigger, stronger and faster. While that's still the main goal, this summer is also a major evaluation period for younger players looking for playing time this fall.
The Tigers, who went 13-0 before falling to eventual state AAAA champion Northside-Warner Robins in the semifinals, must replace nine defensive starters, including the entire secondary.
"Our expectations are the same because they will never change —- competing for a state championship," Stephens said. "We're never going to sell ourselves short."
The workouts are held four to five days a week, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Players lift weights and do core strengthening before heading outside for conditioning drills.
The Tigers also participate in seven-on-seven passing scrimmages against other area schools one to two days a week.
While standout players such as seniors Drayton Calhoun, Jonathan Davis, Tevin Holliman and Deion Roberson have already distinguished themselves, this summer is key for players like senior Chris Beck, last year's backup quarterback, and junior running back/defensive back Devin Scott, both of whom are trying to become starters.
"Chris is a good athlete, and he did some good things last year," Stephens said. "We'll see if he can step up this season. Devin doesn't look as strong as he really is. He's definitely going to help us somewhere, on offense or on defense.
"We're going to take everything into consideration when we're evaluating players," Stephens said. "In the summer, you want to make sure you don't lose anything. You always want to make gains in strength and speed. And the seven-on-seven will give us an idea of who can play.
"But you really won't know until the heat gets turned up and the real bullets start flying," he said.
> First game: vs. Carrollton, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Some programs try to avoid the heat when conducting their voluntary offseason workouts. Not Westminster.
"We like to get them out there running during the heat of the day," said Eric Lougas, the Wildcats' director of strength and conditioning. "We adjust things based on the elements. We see how it pays off, especially at the beginning of the season, when it's still pretty hot. Our players are already used to performing in those elements."
Lougas said the players drink water frequently and are monitored during the workouts, which are held from 1 to 3 p.m. or from 3 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
The Wildcats participate in a seven-on-seven passing league on Tuesdays.
"We work the total body every day, but we use a variety of techniques and lifts," Lougas said. "That helps to keep the players on their toes and makes it fun for them."
The 60-plus players participating in the workout sessions are divided into teams that compete against one another. Just before the start of fall practice Aug. 4, the winning team members will get an award.
"It helps them hold each other accountable for getting their work in, and they really do," Lougas said. "They really get after it and get after each other."