Advice to the rising Freshmen…

Austin Gough, what a freshman!

High school football workouts are about to begin across the Commonwealth. For you rising freshmen, this will be the first time the varsity coaching staff will get a look at some of you, though I am willing to wager they know who you are. For some of you, the varsity head coach is salivating at the prospect of your arrival and has immediate plans for your plugging into the line-up, straight away. Others of you will be largely junior varsity first-teamers but spectators (with really good seats) on Friday nights. Others of you will be toiling away on the freshman roster, hoping to catch a snap or two of JV ball, and crossing your fingers about whether you made the Friday night home dress roster. You see, this summer will go a long way toward determining which of the above three you will be. KPGFootball, which covers high school and middle school football to both unfathomable and unprecedented depths, would like to give you a little advice. So here you are…

Attack the weight room…

Freshmen, who start high school varsity from the first snap, recognize that, while they have gone their whole football careers up till their initial season not having to really do anything, largely because of good genes and being an early developer, those days are gone…gone forever. First of all, be honest with yourself. All you have had to do since Junior Pro was just show-up. You have been bigger, you have been stronger, you have basically just been pushing around smaller kids without anything required of you offseason other than playing video games, little-league baseball, and visiting the local swimming pool. Those days are gone. Players who come in ready to succeed on the varsity level recognize they aren’t big enough, fast enough, or even strong and explosive enough to compete with whom may line up across from them. That is the bad news, the good news is they have until August for that to change; and it can. Every day you can get in a weight room and increase your strength, explosion, and power is another day closer to not getting embarrassed in practice and earning the staff’s trust that you can be relied on for snaps on Friday nights.

J. Thompson

If you are a lineman (offense or defense), you need to get to a bench press of 250 pounds and a squat of 405 pounds as a minimum before you’re strong, explosive, and powerful enough to contribute. It is different for different position groups. WRs, DBs and QBs, work on your back squat (315), your power-clean (205), and your bench press (205). For the WRs and DBs, the bench will assist your either fighting or applying press coverage. For QBs, you need as much strength, power, and explosiveness as you can develop for confidence and for the shots you have to take to play the position. LBs and RBs, you need to be bench pressing 225 pounds or more, Squatting 350 pounds or more, and power cleaning 215 pounds or more to contribute where you hope to be deployed. These numbers are minimum standards, not where you want to be when you are seniors.

Look at the pictures of the 3 players we are displaying to the left of the above paragraphs. Remember, all 3 of them were freshmen last year. All 3 of them were varsity, day one, starters. They got there because they came into Fall camp, of their freshmen seasons, looking like they belonged. They played, not because the schools where they all played didn’t have any choices, but because they won their positions through their hard work and training. They all attacked the weight room and, because they did, the coaches heading up the programs had no choice but to play them; even where it violated their decided preferences.

Don’t take no for an answer…

Photo: Austin American-Statesman

Most of the coaches for whom many of you will suit up this Fall will guarantee you that their program doesn’t play freshmen and will, furthermore, guarantee you, that you are no different. If you go and sit down with the varsity head coach and inquire as to where you fit into the varsity game plan, you will be told that you don’t and that you will be lucky to see the field on the JV squad. First of all, having to play freshmen is seen as a sign of a week program, so what do you expect from the guy heading up the program? Secondly, remember this, whether you play is never the coach’s decision…it is always yours. Work hard, whip every body they align in front of you, and make yourself indispensable and you will be in the line-up. These coaches are in this to win this! They aren’t babysitters. If you want to play, then make yourself a player without whom they just can’t succeed and you will play…whether the coach likes you, likes your parents, or, frankly, doesn’t. There isn’t a freshman in the history of football who wasn’t assured by someone in the program they were entering that they had a zero percent chance of seeing the field. Don’t let the naysayers tell you when you play, you tell them. Better yet, show them.

Hustle…

One thing I have noticed about young players who get immediately plugged into varsity lineups is that they hustle. They are the first ones on the field ready to go, they are the first ones in warm-ups, they are the first ones to the agilities and position drills, they are the first ones to team portions of practice, they are the first ones to the water and the first ones to return. Nothing makes a coach want to play someone more than his being a hustler. It ranks right up there with being respectful to the coaching staff.

Be respectful to the coaching staff, don’t make excuses…

When you’re in practice address the coaches as Coach or SirYou won’t believe how far that will take you. Another thing too, there are going to be assignments you will blow and reps in practice, this summer, in which you will be both abused and embarrassed. Don’t make excuses. It’s not the running back’s fault, it’s not the lineman’s fault, it’s not the center’s fault. When getting your butt chewed out, all that Coach wants to hear from you is Sorry Coach, my fault, won’t happen again. I don’t care whose fault it really is, if a Coach is chewing you out the thing which will impress him least is your effort to deflect the criticism to some other player while trying to appear personally blameless. Don’t be that guy.

Good luck to all the Class of 2022 guys about to begin the journey. If you will follow this pathway, it leads to Friday Night Lights. You will never play under those lights until you do everything listed herein. As to when you will decide to do the above, some of you will start tomorrow, and others of you will learn slowly and, therefore, won’t see the field for a while. At KPGFootball, we hope you are one of the former and not the latter.

This is Fletcher Long reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron reminding all of you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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