on August 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Lions’ practice cranks up to full force

Daniel High School opened football practice last Friday, like most teams in the state. But for all intents and purposes, those first three days were more like workouts, football practice truly started Tuesday – the first day teams are allowed to gear up in full pads.

“The guys that have been doing the talking had to back it up today,” said Daniel head coach Randy Robinson. “So we went one-on-one in the Oklahoma drill, which was a lot of fun.”

Fun, apparently, is a relative term – but in football, a warped sense of fun is something of a requirement.

“It’s like I told them in the huddle, ‘We found out who wants to hit people, and who wants to make Daniel football great – and who’s backing off,’” Robinson said. “So I challenged the guys that were backing off that they better get in there and start fighting for a position.”

But even though the real hitting didn’t start until Tuesday, that certainly doesn’t mean the previous practices weren’t productive.

“The first three is a lot of teaching stuff,” Robinson said. “We spent a lot of time trying to get a lot of offense in – so that when we started hitting, hopefully, we’re working a lot more on the physical things instead of the thinking things. So, for three days, we’ve been putting plays in, defensive scheme things we’re trying to accomplish – we’ve changed quite a few things.”

One of the most obvious tasks the Lions – like every other team – have in the preseason is replacing those key seniors from last year’s squad that were lost to graduation.

Most prominently, Daniel lost star defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, a Shrine Bowler and the Daily Journal/Messenger’s Golden Corner Player of the Year in 2006, now a freshman on the Clemson University football team.

Robinson said Jenkins wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be replaced by any one person, but rather a number of players – including the little brother of another former Lions’ Shrine Bowl lineman – would try to fill the considerable void.

“Well, we’ve got Duvall (Young)’s little brother Devon stepping in on the defensive line, and he’s working real hard – he had a good summer in camp at Chattanooga,” Robinson said. “Matt Cumbie had a good summer, and (so did) Michael Stone. We’re really not going to replace Jarvis – we don’t have anybody near that talent, but I think the guys we have will work hard.

“They had a great summer, and I think they want to prove something. They want to prove that can do a good job on the defensive line even though Jarvis is down there at Clemson.”

Jenkins was one of a handful of Lions’ seniors that made last season’s All-Golden Corner team, which obviously means they lost a number of key players to graduation. That list includes running backs Bryan Watson and Jess Wright, receiver Cameron Holder, linemen Steven Shriver and Jody Faithful, linebacker Jerome Williams and defensive back Nate Goodine.

On the bright side, quarterback Justin Walker returns for his junior season after tossing 17 TDs on his way to All-Golden Corner first team honors in 2006.

“What makes me happy about Justin is this summer,” Robinson said. “I mean, he goes to three camps plus he goes to team throwing camp with us. If I opened the weight room doors, he was there – the work commitment’s going to be what’s great about Justin. He’s worked hard this summer to be a good quarterback.”

The Lions will scrimmage at Palmetto on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a three-way scrimmage with the host Mustangs and Hillcrest. Daniel will participate in two jamborees, as well, going to the Easley jamboree on Aug. 9 and the Sirrine Stadium jamboree in Greenville on Aug. 11.

“The kids love the scrimmages, but to us, we just want to sharpen things up,” Robinson said. “Our focus is Greer, and August 24th is the focus of every kid that’s got a helmet on. We want to win that first game. Starting out 0-4 last year was embarrassing to the kids and embarrassing to our coaching staff – and we want to get off to a better start.”

After that 0-4 start last season, however, the Lions rallied to win four of their next six games and make the AAA playoffs, where they lost to Lugoff-Elgin in the first round.

This season, Daniel opens the season against two of the same teams that helped get last year off to such a disappointing start.

Robinson indicated his team and coaching staff has already started focusing on ways to prevent a similar fate this time around.

“Scheme-wise, we put some things in because Greer and Hanna were similar in some ways – and that’s our first two games,” he said. “So we’ve kind of incorporated some things into our drills in shorts to help us hopefully, particularly defensively, against those two teams.

“But the first week or two, everybody’s doing the fundamental things – we’re still working on the zone steps of the offensive line, and the defensive line’s still learning how to get their hands on people and get off blocks. We’ll focus on fundamentals the first two weeks, I mean, how well we look in the first couple scrimmages is not life or death to me – I just want to be sharp that third week.”