With most of their spring workouts completed, the defending state-champion Aledo Bearcats will complete spring football with the Orange/Black Spring Game on Tuesday morning.
“Kickoff” will be at 7:30 a.m. at Bearcat Stadium.
Bearcats fourth-year head coach Steve Wood said this spring game will not be much different than the spring games he has held in the past. The game will not feature much kicking, and on punts and field goal attempts play will not be “live.” Other than that, Wood said the contest will feature “game-type” situations.
“We will basically go first-team offense against first-team defense and seconds against seconds and so on,” Wood said. “The players will be divided into teams somewhat, but there will be kids who may have to play a little on both teams because we have some kids who play multiple positions.
“They may be a first-team defensive back, second-team running back, yada,yada,yada … we will have to move some kids around to make it all work out. We have three teams’ worth of kids out there, but we won’t have our freshmen with us during that period (freshman spring game is at 3 p.m. Tuesday) so some kids will have to do double duty.
“We also may not just start every offensive possession on the 20 or 30 – we may put it in different spots to work on situations. We want to try and make it competitive, and we want to keep everybody healthy, which is the No. 1 goal.”
Bearcat Nation will get its first glimpse of the spring football “quarterback challenge.” Entering spring football four candidates – Jake Bishop, transfer Jake Norwood, Hunter Rosson and Tre Owens – were named as the competitors to replace two-year starter Dillon Davis, who has graduated.
However, the competition quickly came down to just two players. Rosson, a three-year starting shortstop, missed most of spring ball playing baseball as the Bearcats went three rounds deep into the playoffs, so he never really got a chance to compete at QB. Rosson, the lone returning starter at receiver is a few catches shy of setting a school record in receptions, and he is close to the yardage record as well.
Owens has proved to be the Bearcats’ most versatile player this spring. The coaches have looked at him at safety on defense and running back and receiver on offense, severely limiting his repetitions at quarterback.
That leaves Bishop, who will be a sophomore, and Norwood, who will be a senior.
“We have had 15 practices to evaluate substantially every day, and Jake Bishop has taken the reps with the No. 1 offense and Jake Norwood has taken the reps with the No. 2 offense,” Wood said. “That’s kind of the way it is going. So, (fans and media) can read into that anything they want to.
“In my mind, up until you kick off on that first Friday night, every position is available. Somebody is better than somebody else, but you don’t set (the starting lineup) for the year. You have to have depth, and we want the kids to want to start. But you also want the kids to know that their role is to be ready to go at any time you get a chance. If you get a chance it is your job to be prepared and ready to go make things happen.”
Wood, the longtime defensive coordinator at Aledo before taking over as head coach in 2014, is excited about his defense, a defense that has six returning starters.
“I feel we have been playing physical defensively all spring,” Wood said. “The defense has been aggressive. (Defensive end) Colt Ellison has had a really good spring – he has been hard to block – and we have had a couple of linebackers, Aaron Hale and McCain Smith, who have been physical and playing the way you want your linebackers to play.
“We have a transfer that we are working at defensive end, Jacoby Roberts, and we have to make sure he is eligible and ready to go. He is very athletic. I feel our cornerbacks have done a good job this spring, and we do have experience in the secondary.
“(Starting safety) Wyatt Harris has been in non-contact status this spring, but we know Wyatt can play. Three guys are competing for the other safety spot and I am excited about that. Tre Owens is working at safety along with running back, receiver and quarterback, and he has been a playmaker all spring and I am excited about him.
“Tre will play somewhere. He is versatile, very athletic and very coachable. He is able to comprehend different positions, and not everybody has that ability. He never seems to get tired, and when he gets the ball in his hands he makes something happen.”
A concern heading into the spring was the fact Aledo has to replace four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year. Only guard Truett Knox, who will be a senior, returns. But Knox also plays baseball and was limited in contact during spring drills due to the long playoff run.
Wood, however, feels he has found the pieces to put together another strong offensive line.
“Our offensive line has improved from the start of spring ball,” Wood said. “We have four-to-five new bodies rolling in there. (Returning starting guard) Truett Knox is back now that baseball is finished, and we feel like right now we have at least seven kids we can throw in there and feel comfortable with.
“And don’t get me wrong, we have a long way to go, but they have improved leaps and bounds from the beginning of spring. It takes a while for an offensive line to form cohesiveness – and it is so technical as far as footwork and leverage and communication is key – but we feel the O-line could become a big strength in time.
“It is a process, and it just doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t create experience, and there is only one way to get experience and that is to practice.”
Wood said he has seen some “playmakers” at receiver. With Rosson not seeing much football action due to the deep playoff run in baseball, several potential varsity receivers have stepped up and taken advantage of more repetitions.
“Jake Ford has made some plays this spring at wide receiver,” Wood said. “We have been without (recovering from surgery) Jeff Carter and Hunter Rosson. Carter is close and he has participated some, but (in the fall) we need to get the ball in his hands. He is an explosive kid who will play both cornerback and wide receiver for us this fall.”
Wood has been pleased with the attitude and effort his players have shown during spring practices.
“I think we have had spirited practices,” Wood said. “The kids have been enthusiastic and have given us great effort. That’s really what we ask out of them. They have to know they will make mistakes, and we know they will make mistakes. But we can’t coach effort – that is their job to bring effort and their ‘A’ game every day.
“I have said this before, but the players’ daily goal has to be to attack each day one day at a time and be better when they leave the field with the realization that that is the only thing they can control right now. We tell them to bring their absolute best effort and we will coach them. The kids have done a great job at that.”
Wood said on the whole, despite players still rehabbing and unable to participate, that it has been a productive spring.
“It has been a fun spring,” he said. “The attitude has been good, the kids are having fun and we have had great weather. We have a lot of kids who won’t go (in the spring game), but we haven’t had those deal-breaker kind of injuries.
“But it has also given other kids opportunities to get in there and get reps and get coached. We have ended up creating some depth, which is vital. You are only one twisted ankle away from someone else getting a chance to play. You always need that depth.”
Bearcats key dates
June 12-Aug. 3 – Performance Course
Aug. 14 – First day of “two-a-day” practices
Aug. 25 – Scrimmage at Byron Nelson
Sept. 1 – Season opener at home against Colleyville Heritage