Rams spend spring honing new team look

COVINGTON - Spring is a time for new beginnings.

Nothing could be truer for Newton's football team as coach Nick Collins has to prepare 75 players on a new look for next season.

"Of those only about 25 to 30 are returning (players) that saw playing time last season," Collins said. "We have a lot of new kids; a lot of young kids so it was almost like starting over with all the new faces.

"We feel we have 25 to 30 of the best ones and that's the most important thing. You can only use 11 at a time, but being making sure you kept the best ones was the biggest concern."

Even though the number of players is down from last year when the Rams had 150 players trying out, Collins likes having fewer kids.

Collins said that having that many potential players on the football team was hard to manage logistically speaking.

"When you have a lot of guys that aren't sure they want to be football players, it's tough to manage. But we feel we have a manageable number now," Collins said.

Also changing the look of Newton's football team are at least six new assistant coaches, several of which were not present for the spring drills.

"It was pretty difficult because we didn't get all (coaches) here for spring training," Collins said. "When you start hiring guys from long distances away and from out of state, it's tough to get them here for spring ball. We were a little short-handed in that sense."

After learning last season that he cannot match up physically with a lot of teams in Region 2-AAAAA, Collins is going to employ a different look on offense.

For the most part, the days of having a running back lined up eight yards in the backfield are gone. The new look will bring the running backs closer to the line of scrimmage that way the linemen will have a shorter time to keep holes open, allowing the backs to hit the line quicker.

As a result, Collins spent most of the time this spring focusing on the ground game.

"We focused 99 percent of the time on the running game, so it was a little different then it was last year. The formations we used were different," he said. "We're trying to get away from matching up size-wise, because we don't have it, and going to a scheme that allows us the opportunities to block angles and things of that nature with smaller kids. Something that will make us a little more competitive."

Although Collins felt he had two good weeks of practice, he also realizes that the team is going to have to spend a lot of time in the weight room, building its strength and conditioning.

"You're still talking about a lot of young kids who still don't understand what it takes to practice at a higher level every day. They're going to be able to concentrate strictly on football for about five weeks," Collins said. "When we're going into spring football, projects are due, there's finals prep and then finals. There's a ton of stuff that are distracting the kids. Now they'll be able to come in during the summer for three hours a day for five weeks and the focus can be strictly on football for a short time.

"Conditioning is going to be a big thing. We've got to be able to have a lot of guys play both ways. Then really keep working on installing the things and (repeating) the things to improve our running game. We feel good about our passing game; we feel really, really confident."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.