STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
BURNET — With 90 student-athletes hitting Bulldog Field on Aug. 6, the first day of fall practices for the Burnet High School football team, there wasn’t much open space. And that’s a good thing as the Bulldogs gear up for the 2018 season.
On the first day, players in T-shirts, shorts, cleats, and helmets were divided up for position drills.
A lot of this first-day coaching focused on basics as coaches told players how they should attack each drill: the correct foot to stop and plant, the correct arm or hand to use to swat away an opponent.
Then, they played “good on good,” which pitted the best offensive players against the top defensive players, before returning to position drills, then weights and meetings.
More than 90 players in grades 9-12 participated in workouts. About 30 of those were freshmen.
Head coach Kurt Jones said it’s hard to judge players on the first day of practice, but he saw plenty that was encouraging.
Sophomore Jaxon Denton, who started as a safety last season, took the majority of first-team snaps at quarterback, following a pattern set during the spring and summer as well as 7-on-7 play.
Jones noted Denton was a quarterback in the seventh and eighth grades.
“He’s a good, all-around athlete,” the coach said. “He’s able to make plays with his legs and throws well. Everybody seeing him on an athletic field knows the kind of athlete he is. We’ve watched him develop and get better each day. He’s still awfully young. He’s doing great things, and we expect great things.”
The Bulldogs are looking at a handful running backs, including freshman Devontae Miller.
“We’re giving him the opportunity to show us what he can do,” Jones said. “He did a great job at the middle school level. He’s a year or so ahead of what you’d call a freshman.”
Offensive line coach Eddy Parker is entering year two at the position. The players and coach are in step on what needs to happen on the field: The run blocking looked good and the pass protection was solid.
“They did a good job overall for the first day out,” Jones said.
One change Jones made during the spring was he and his coaches spent more time on the field teaching the players technique, footwork, and other valuable keys to the sport and scheme. The players retained much of that knowledge the past several months, the coach noted.
As a result, the offense had a crisp look: Players were familiar with their duties and where they needed to be on each play.
“We were able to run through things and talk about things that we wouldn’t go to until day five or six (of camp),” Jones said.
Defensive coordinator Casey Carr is also back for his second year, and coaches are looking for improved results on that side of the ball.
“We didn’t play as good of defense as we expect to around here,” Jones said about last season. “That was our feeling, coach Carr’s attitude, and mine, especially during district play. We feel we have a group of kids who bring speed to the table and tenacity.”
Jones, who was an assistant defensive coach then defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach, fielded defensive units with an edge, a toughness, and a desire to set the tone early and often during a contest. The key to playing great defense, Jones said, is having athletes who have that mentality and physicality.
“We feel like we have kids chomping at the bit,” he said. “We have to be a lot more physical. It’s one of the main things we want to be known for. We have a great tradition around here and want to carry on that tradition.”
Because of the few seniors who came out, coaches are giving underclassmen every opportunity to earn a varsity roster, and they’re making the most of their chances, the coach said.
“The seniors we do have are great,” he said. “Kids are working hard and making big plays for us.”
The Bulldogs finished the 2017 season at 4-6 overall and 0-5 in District 13-4A Division I. They host Austin Crockett in a scrimmage starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at Bulldog Field, 1000 The Green Mile.