Week two of spring practice shows improvement

By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer

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The Darlington Falcons finished up its second week of spring practice this past week and ‘so far so good’ seems to be the message coming from the Falcons camp.

During the first week of spring practice, all the players, returning and new, were just trying to learn and grasp all of the new concepts that relate to new head football coach John Jones’s systems.
In week two Jones wanted the team show that it was retaining the information. What he has seen so far indicates that the team is quickly picking up what the coaches want out of each and every player as week two has wrapped up.

With the graduation of quarterback Shakeem Thomas, the Falcons are now in the process of looking for someone who can take the snaps this  season.  Photo by Drake Horton.

With the graduation of quarterback Shakeem Thomas, the Falcons are now in the process of looking for someone who can take the snaps this season.
Photo by Drake Horton.

“I think one of our biggest things is they are starting to understand what we are looking for schematically on offense and defense and starting to get a little bit of a grasp of the three areas, special teams included,” Jones said on the progress of the team. “That is all we are looking for in the spring. We leave here knowing the system.”

What’s helping this quick transition from former head coach Will Lampkin’s system to Jones’s system is the fact that player participation and eagerness to learn has been exceptional for the for the Falcons over these first two weeks of spring practice.

“One thing we are proud of is we got these guys and they’re showing up every day and doing what they are supposed to do and they are buying in to what we are trying to teach them and there are so many different lessons that come out of football, not just the game itself, but some life lesson stuff,” Jones said, expressing is happiness with how the players are showing up for practice every day. “Hopefully we will continue to build that.”

A key number to show that students are interested in playing and eager to make serious contributions to the team is 75. That is how many the Falcons had come out to each practice this past week and while that number might be down from the 98 in week one, losing just 23 players is well below the norm when it relates to spring practice.

“We are not complaining about the numbers right now,” Jones said on the number of players participating in spring practice. “None of this includes our middle school guys who will be ninth graders next year. So we’re happy with our numbers right now.”

But the numbers alone is not the only reason for the smooth transition. Instead of going in head first and demanding too much too quickly, Jones has taken a slower approach.
During this past week and the opening week the Falcons did not practice in pads, instead they just used helmets, allowing all of the players to focus on fundamentals and the schematics of both the offense and defense before allowing the physical part of the game to take place. Darlington does go to full pads this week.

“We will be in full pads,” Jones said. “We just waited a couple extra days because we wanted to teach and make sure that everything was smooth with our system. All three of our phases of our game they understand what we have to do, now we can come out here and concentrate on just doing what we are supposed to do and playing fast.”

When asked if any player had really started to stand out during each practice Jones did not label one particular player by name, but instead said that each group has its fair share of players who look and act ready to be leaders on the team.

“We have four or five guys in each group, you know, doing things to stand out,” Jones said, discussing the leadership on his team. “No one person has pushed himself further than anybody else. I think we’re really pleased as a coaching staff in the fact all these guys are out here busting their butt and working super hard and all of our coaches are doing a great job.”

And while everything appears to be good on the home front, especially in the fact that the players are quickly learning the system, Jones still says that all three phases; offense, defense and special teams, still have work to do.

“All three of them we need a lot of work on,” Jones said on which group needs more work. “I think right now we might be a little ahead defensively than we are offensively, but we are starting to catch on offensively. We had a great week and they are starting to make strides, but as far as everything we are doing right now, we still need a lot of work.”

With week two now in the books and the team currently working on week three of spring practice the Falcons are looking to take all that was learned in the first two weeks and apply in the third week as the team adds pads to the element of practice.

Author: Duane Childers

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