FOOTBALL, IN THE South borders on religion. We’ll get a taste of that the next few weeks with spring football practice.
It is fitting that the week that South Carolina high schools begin their spring practice drills is the hottest week we’ve had. As most practices start this week, my plan is to bring you practice reports from around the Midlands area, and some from around the state, as I make my rounds to schools.
Why is it important to have spring football practice? It gives coaches an opportunity to get an early jump on summer and fall preparation for the season. Coaches can begin implementing new offensive and defensive systems and acclimating the younger players, who might have gotten limited time the previous year, to the schemes and terminology.
It also allows for the coaches to get at an idea of what kind of depth they might have in the fall.
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“I think being able to identify newcomers, or kids that didn’t play for one reason or another, that may be able to help you,” Airport athletics director and football coach Kirk Burnett said. “Sometimes, you can get a kid who transfers in that looks great in shorts but now, being able to wear pads in spring, we can see who can play and, maybe, the kids who didn’t do a lot last year but have matured and become better players.”
Brookland-Cayce athletics director and coach Rusty Charpia echoes those sentiments but adds safety as a big reason.
“I think it’s important because of safety,” Charpia said. “It enables us to teach proper blocking and tackling technique in a practice setting long before they have to do it in a game situation. If we weren’t allowed contact in the spring, it would be tough to get it done in the few weeks before the season started, especially with the younger players, and could become a safety issue.”
About 20 states allow spring football practice.
It offers a huge advantage in recruiting. College coaches get a chance during spring practice to assess recruits, even freshmen, in a game-like environment. It is not unusual for coaches to line the sidelines at schools with one or two major prospects. Players who might not be heralded also can be seen by college coaches, and “sleeper” prospects are born.
“It is huge for us,” said Justin Stepp, wide receivers coach for Appalachian State. Stepp, a former Pelion player, recruits this area for the Mountaineers. “It enables us to eyeball kids who may have been on the bubble in terms of whether or not we were going to offer them. Some of them have matured, put on weight, gotten faster, and we get to see them in game-like setting.”