Despite being back on the football field for only a few hours of summer workouts, Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith was already feeling the heat. With the idea of a 7-on-7 tournament in just two days bearing down on him, the second-year Wildcat coach was hoping everything would start running smoothly.

Although BRHS is back under the direction of Smith, who took over the program after the departure of longtime coach Danny Horn, there will be quite a few changes to the coaching staff. Former offensive coordinator Jeremy Phillips accepted a job as Horseshoe Bend’s head coach and former defensive coordinator Steve Burkhalter rejoined Horn’s staff at Clay Central.

With a pair of new coordinators on the horizon, Smith is expecting some changes and the first day of summer workouts Tuesday was just about getting used to those differences.

“Today is a little bit slower and this more about teaching,” Smith said.

After the offense on the hill worked in the morning and the defense worked in the weight room, the two switched and the defense took to the hill to go over walk-throughs and scheming. The linemen were using overturned trash cans as stand-ins as they got used to their blocking schemes and coverages.

“Today there is a lot of learning schemes right now,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to get reacclimated to a routine and getting kids back and getting them here in the morning and working.

“Throughout the summer, we’ll go offense and defense. The offense starts up on the hill and we do position-specific agilities and things like that. Then we’ll do some individual offensive group work. Then we’ll switch and the defense will come up here. Normally, we’ll all together at the end and it’ll look more like an OTA where we go one-on-ones then progress to 7-on-7 and we’ll end on an 11-on-11.”

The very end of every workout three days a week — the Wildcats will start with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday workouts through the summer months —  will end with running. Although the obvious focus of summer practice is get teams ready to be able to play football, a big part of that is to get them conditioned enough to play football.

That’s why Smith feels it’s important to make sure players are getting in the weight room every day and he’s ending every practice with sprints.

While most of the spring is dedicated to figuring out who is coming back and who’s going to play what position, there are still a few kinks to work out especially under new coaching schemes. But for the most part, the starters have been selected and now it’s just a matter of filling in gaps here and there.

“There’s a couple guys we gotta figure out: Are we capable of playing a guy on both sides of the ball?” Smith said. “Take somebody like a Joe Young. We won’t have anybody that plays both ways so to speak, but do we want to be able to spot play Joe or anybody else on both sides of the ball? Or are we good enough to just coach them on side of the ball? Those are some of the questions we’ll answer.” 

Benjamin Russell will get its first competitive action Thursday when it heads to Auburn University for a 7-on-7 tournament. Pool play begins about 9:30 a.m. then teams will be seeded and face off in bracket-style play after lunch.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.