Prep Football: Cards usher in new era
George Rogers Clark football coach Steven Collins chats with seniors Robert Cornelius, right, and Aaron Redmon (62) during the team¿s picture day earlier this month at Cardinal Stadium. Collins and the Cardinals open the season Friday night at Corbin. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (Sun photo by Bill Thiry / August 16, 2012)
“I’ve been looking forward to this since I was offered this job and took it,” said Collins, hired to succeed longtime coach Paul Columbia last winter. “We’ve put in a lot of time in the weight room, a lot of time in the classroom and a lot of time on the field. We’re excited as a team, as a staff and looking forward to it.”
The Collins era starts Friday night at Corbin, the first of two road games to open the season. Clark defeated the Redhounds 39-29 last year at Cardinal Stadium, one of only three wins Clark mustered last year.
During the past six months, Collins and his staff have been tweaking the offensive and defensive schemes in preparation for the upcoming season. Collins said his players have responded to the change in personnel positively and have caught on to his style.
“Tempo is the big thing, learning to know when to get in and out of the huddle,” he said. “As far as scheme, they understand the terminology and they understand what we’re trying to do. We’ve put into a lot of things. From the offensive line back, we feel comfortable with where we’re at right now and we’ll just get better each week.”
Collins said the Cards will be “more of a running team,” and will rely on the ground attack more than an aerial show.
“We’re going to run the triple option and we’re probably going to put it on the ground more, control the clock and try to run the football,” he said. “In passing, we want to pass when we want too, not necessarily when we need to. We’ll do some things on first- and second-down to dictate some play action, short passes, screens and things of that nature. We’re not just going to drop back with five steps and Peyton Manning it all over the place. That’s not our style.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Bledsoe joined the staff following spring workouts and has been playing catch up with the team’s offensive system. Collins described Bledsoe’s scheme as attack-oriented that’s geared toward stopping the opponent with “a lot more stunting” and “take away what the opponent likes to do.” He added that the defensive alignment is a 3-5 stack attack, known as a “gap control” scheme.
“His terminology is a little different and his philosophy is a little different than what we’ve done in the past,” Collins said. “We’re kind of teaching as we go. We’ve kept things basic, but we’ll expand it this week. His scheme is easy to understand. We’re going to put our kids in the best position possible and we’ll attack (the opponents’) weaknesses. Each week will be a little different and how we’ll try to approach things from a defensive standpoint. We’ll use what our kids’ abilities are to make it easier for them. We’ll try to use our speed and our quickness, penetrate and be aggressive, which is what we’ll do.”
The Clark coach added that the offense is ahead of the defense at this point, simply because of preparation time and spring practice.
“It’s a little bit ahead, but they (the defense) will catch up quick because of the kids we have on defense,” he said.
As for his team’s offensive unit, Collins said his squad has gotten in “80 percent” of its playbook going into the season opener.
“We’ll still add some more as we go into the season,” Collins said. “The kids understand what we have right now, and it’s a matter of going out and executing.”
Going into his first game as coach of the Card, Collins knows what to expect from the Redhounds and sees similarities between the two squads.
“Just from looking at them on film, they’re going to run right at you,” he said. “The like to run between the tackles and get outside. On defense, they’re a lot like us, they want to attack and be aggressive. They have a lot of tradition and take a lot of pride in what they do in their program. It’s going to be good to go down there and get into that atmosphere.¿We were down there two years ago and came up on the short end. They came up here last year and we were able to return the favor. Hopefully we can go down there this year and do the same thing — keep the streak going in our favor. But, we’ve got to be ready. They do a lot of things that mirror what we do, they like running the football and like to stop the run. It will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes.”