MOORE — Coach Jeff Brickman is looking for a change. Since Southmoore first arrived on the scene, the football team has had a reputation of being skillful, but never physical.
In his second year as the head coach for the SaberCats, Brickman wants to alter that perception.
“I would say we are more physical this year than we’ve ever been before,” Brickman said. “We’ve always been known as a finesse type team with athletes. I really feel like this year there is a different physicality to us.”
After losing in the playoffs in the past to more physically imposing teams such as Jenks and Tulsa Union, Brickman wants his squad to impose their will upon each team they play. He has seen his players adopt that attitude during training.
“There have been some pretty violent practices as far as collisions,” Brickman said. “It is football. It’s a gladiator sport. Maybe this year we are a little bit different in those regards.”
Like any team that is physically imposing, it all starts with the front lines. For the SaberCats, that means the likes of Houston Tyler, Dakota Hynes and Tyler Davis, who are the returning starters on the offensive line.
“We are a very physical team,” Tyler said. “Everybody is firing off the ball. Especially on both lines. I think it’s just the guys that we have. We have a lot of people with a lot of fire. Everybody plays hard. It’s a more physical approach on both sides of the ball. Great competition in practice.”
But Brickman said the transformation began in the offseason.
“I think it comes from our senior leaders who are lineman-type guys,” Brickman said. “Houston Tyler, Tyler Davis. We have a little bit more girth than we’ve had in the past. Also, coach (Spencer) Braggs has done a great job. Last year he took over our weight room. We had a bunch of all-time records go down after this summer. I think that has translated to being more physical on the field.”
The SaberCats will be employing the H-back this year. But instead of being just a pass-catching tight end, they have decided to make the position even more versatile.
“In the past it was a receiver,” Brickman said. “Now that position could be tight end or running back. It could be a receiver or another quarterback. That H position is interchangeable with different personnel.”
With that, Brickman wants the ability to run in different quarterbacks for specific formations and sets. So the SaberCats had two types of quarterback position battles during the offseason and preseason practice.
“Dunya Rice, he will be playing our athlete-quarterback type,” Brickman said. “It’s not really a wild cat. It’s our normal offense, he’s just at quarterback. It’s not like a special little thing where you can only do a couple of things.”
The three players who’ve been competing for the traditional quarterback are sophomore Reid Thompson, senior Jace Williams and freshman Conner Uselton.
Even with Jalen Adams at receiver, it may take a while for Southmoore’s passing game to come around. That makes senior tailback Jaelon Walker critical for the Cats’ success.
At 5-10 and 180 pounds, Walker is quick and able to dart around defenders in open space. But Brickman needs other elements of Walker’s game to come to the forefront.
“Just to be a little more tough in between the tackles,” Brickman said. “You don’t want to get in the situation as a playcaller where you have to look to see what running back you have in the game. You look out there and maybe somebody is not as physical between the tackles, that limits the type of plays you can call. You want to just call plays and whatever back is in there can do them all. We just need to get him to be more tough in between the tackles.”
Even though he didn’t do much of it last year, Walker says he is ready to be the all-around back Southmoore needs.
“I really do have to step up and take whatever role he gives me as far as running the ball and getting as many yards as I can,” Walker said. “I do see myself becoming that type of player. I don’t really have a choice, actually. I will be running in the holes with the big dudes now. I don’t really have a choice but to be an inside runner. Already had that mindset of when you step on the field it’s all business.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org