The Gainesville Leopards have one more week to straighten out the miscues before they open the season against Vernon on Aug. 30.
The Leopards played their second scrimmage of the season Thursday, Aug. 22, against Bonham and head coach James Polk is not only putting his athletes through physical tests, but mental too.
Polk has been recently tested new starting quarterback Traylen Shinault and his knowledge of the playbook.
Polk drew a formation up on his white board and Shinault had to first describe where each player should be on offense, read the defense and describe the intended reads on the play.
For Polk and the Leopards, it’s imperative that players know the play in and out.
“Honestly, I think it’s gotten easier over time,” Polk said of play designs. “I was learning this 20 seasons ago fresh out of college, so everything was new. But over the years and developing your own way, I’ve simplified it. I feel like it’s easy to teach. And it’s easy for my kids to understand. They’ve been learning this concept for my fourth year now. They’re hearing it and they’re watching the other guys do it.”
In Shinault’s first scrimmage of the season against Pilot Point, Polk said he pressed a bit too much, but once he relaxed, he settled right into the game.
“We had snaps all over the place, so that didn’t make it easy for him,” Polk said. “He missed a few deep throws and it wasn’t because of his talent. He has a lot of talent and he throws a great deep ball, but it’s all about getting repetition in a game. He can make those throws against the JV, but actually seeing it against other varsity players that you don’t know, it’s a little tougher.”
Overall, the idea for the first part of the season is to hammer down the few concepts the Leopards have already installed.
“We maybe run this play 40 times a week and other teams might not want to do it the week they play you,” Polk said. “We feel we’re going to be better at running this and other teams won’t be better prepared for it because this is what we do. If it was some brand new play that we’ve never done before, then we would be on an even playing field. We should know our plays like the back of our hand.”
While there is much to be gained in the final scrimmage, Polk said he wants to keep his team even keel
“We can’t get too caught up in a scrimmage,” Polk said. “It’s not a game. It is an opportunity to see some things that you want to see no matter what the down and distance is and no matter what the score is. It’s about putting players in positions to make some plays and see if they can do it. If you put too much into it and then they beat you, what does that say about the rest of the teams? I think that can be counterproductive. We don’t overemphasize one team or the next.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip