By TONY EIERDAM
After a spring semester of workouts and a summer of camps, conditioning and seven-on-seven work, the Mineral Wells Rams will convene at Ram Stadium on Monday to begin August practices in preparation for the 2013 season.
There is good news at Camp Rams as junior quarterback Caleb Acosta will get all the first-team snaps this August.
Last year, Acosta became the starting quarterback just days before the season opener when Dan Reay Turk went down with an injury.
Acosta started every game at QB in 2012, and his year of experience gives his teammates, coaches and fans optimism that he will elevate to the next level and lead the Rams to a successful season.
But Acosta cannot do it alone, and the Rams are hoping that returning offensive linemen Preston Hoskins, Jacob Pilkington and Enrique Gamboa and two new starters – whoever they will turn out to be – will continue the recent success of the MWHS offensive lines.
The Rams’ offense got an added boost when Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence, now in his fifth year as head coach, announced that junior Josh Hardee would be the team’s primary running back. As a sophomore inside linebacker last year Hardee led the Rams in tackles with 93 tackles, including 67 unassisted stops.
This is the time of the year where all high school grid teams have sights set on improvement from the year before. The Rams finished 5-5 last season, including a 2-3 mark in district play.
It is also the one time of the year when everyone is healthy.
“We are healthy and we need to stay that way,” Lawrence said. “We are all excited, and now that we have coaching school behind us it is time to get back to work to prepare for the season.”
University Interscholastic League rules mandate that high school football teams must practice for four days without full gear before putting on the armor on the fifth day of workouts.
“In the first four days when we are in shorts we will condition, run through our plays and acclimatize ourselves to the hot weather,” Lawrence said. “We will be in shorts, T-shirts and helmets the first four days, putting in our base offense and defense.
“We will actually line up and run some plays (during the first four days of practice) and things of that nature, but it will include a lot of individual work and just getting the players minds back into football.
“On Friday, we will start hitting, and on Saturday morning we will hold an intrasquad scrimmage. Then the following week we will start getting ready for Decatur, which is our first scrimmage (on Friday, Aug. 16).”
Despite not having full contact in the first four days, Lawrence said the Rams will still pretty much stick to their regular practice routine, which includes specific focus on special teams.
“We will have our normal practice routine, which will include 20 minutes of special teams work a day,” Lawrence explained. “Even though we will be in shorts the first four days, we will have to put the fundamentals in there like coverage lanes, snaps, blocking assignments and the like.
“We need to work with the deep snappers and the kickers as much as possible in that first week.
“I was very pleased with our special teams work during the spring.
“I really feel good about where we are there. Hopefully, the extra work will help to bring even more improvement.”
The Rams will use four quarterbacks during August workouts as the staff likes to run a quick-paced practice to get in work on several plays with different individuals.
The fast pace also helps to get the players in shape.
“We run a maximum number of plays every day, and we use a fast-paced practice as part of our conditioning,” Lawrence said. “We feel good about Caleb, and we feel good about our other quarterbacks (Chris) Rapp, McCain (Mason) and Colby (Kissinger).
“And of course, Rapp, McCain and Kissinger play other positions, but we are happy with our depth at quarterback.
“We feel real good about that situation.”
The Rams will work out each day this week beginning at 6 a.m. and conclude with a Saturday morning intrasquad scrimmage.
UIL rules state that there cannot be any more “two-a-day” practices, but teams can do “walk through” practices after a two-hour break.
Lawrence said practices will last until “about 8:30 (a.m.)” and he will have the players in team meetings, film sessions and weight work every morning.