By TONY IERDAM
From the day after the Mineral Wells Rams’ last football game in November, the Rams have been working hard in off-season drills and in “spring football practice” the past semester in preparation for the 2013 grid season.
Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said off-season football practice is broken down into four phases, with each early phase bringing it to the fourth and final stage which the Rams are presently undertaking.
Class 3A and lower classifications do not enjoy the luxury of actual “spring football practice” like Classes 4A and 5A, and instead must do weight lifting, conditioning and “football drills” during the in-school athletic period.
The Rams are now working in football drills, including seven-on-seven work, to not only prepare for next season but also to get ready for the seven-on-seven season that runs into June.
Ram Stadium will host some of the seven-on-seven dates, but those dates have yet to be announced.
Phase One was weight lifting, phase two had the team lifting three days a week with a running program one day a week. Phase three was cross-fit work, and in all the phases the Rams work on seven-on-seven drills.
The final stage is group and team work on the football field.
“Early on we hit the weights very, very hard,” Lawrence said. “We have our four big lifts, and we have a special section where we worked on individual football work.
“We have put in seven-on-seven work all off season, and we have been pleased with purr cross-fit work where we combine weight lifting and conditioning.
“We are trying to break them down to get tougher mentally as well as getting some specific muscle group work. Cross fit is kind of like an obstacle course with weight lifting in it.
“It is real good fitness work, but it also combines mental toughness.”
Steering the Rams’ ship on offense is quarterback Caleb Acosta, who will be a junior next year and in his second season as MWHS signal caller.
Acosta has looked like a veteran during seven-on-seven drills, checking off audibles and looking away from intended receivers, a skill he lacked last year as a rookie QB on the varsity level.
“Caleb’s progression will be vital to our success,” Lawrence said. “We had a lot of injuries at wide receiver (in the 2012 season) and those guys who stepped in and got playing time have benefitted in the spring.
“The receivers will be very important to us. We lost Gilbert Castorena to graduation, so Josh Hardy and Kolby Parks have worked in at running back. But both of those guys will also play defense next year.”
Lawrence added that seven-on-seven work has been split between the offense and defense.
“The rest of the time we have been in the weight room,” he said. “We have also dedicated one day a week to our special teams (kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal, extra point).
“We are going to have to play better in all phases of our special teams this next year in order to win some games, so we have paid extra attention to that area.
“Our kids are bigger and stronger, but we are going to have to make up for the fact that we have lost a lot of big linemen that we have had the last few years.
“We are still going to be big, we just aren’t going to be as tall. Our strength training is very important now and we need to keep the same work ethic – weight work and conditioning – in the summer.”
Lawrence said one of the aspects of his team that he likes best this spring is its overall attitude.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of effort, and we have to have that” he said. “Caleb is throwing the ball well and the receivers are working hard.
“Again, we lost a lot of offensive and defensive linemen, and the guys we have in those spots are going to have to grow. But each and every one of them has improved this spring.”
Lawrence said he and his staff want to have a decent idea of where everyone is on the depth chart when they conclude spring drills in late May.
“We need to have a good idea of where everyone is at so we can start planning where our position competitions will be in August,” he said. “Another goal of spring is to get out without any injuries so we can hit the ground running in August.”