Cathedral coaches excited about maturity of players
NATCHEZ — The first day of full pads for the Cathedral Green Wave saw head coach Ron Rushing jogging from station to station with restless ardor.
“Did you see that?” Rushing shouted at his assistant coaches during a water break. “That boy was hitting. He can play!”
Because of tennis and baseball obligations, Cathedral had its first spring practice in full pads Thursday without two quarterbacks, two returning linemen and a flock of wide receivers. That didn’t stop Rushing from coaching with enthusiasm, though.
With three sections for Cathedral players to battle one-on-one, Oklahoma dive-style, returning starting running back Christian Jenkins squatted down in a three-point stance and fired off the ball.
“That a way to come off the ball,” offensive line coach Kurt Russ said. “That boy’s going to truck people this year.”
At the sound of Rushing’s whistle, players dispersed for a water break.
“I usually don’t get this excited, but those kids have grown up,” said Rushing, who liked the maturation created by kids working hard in the weight room.
It isn’t easy for Rushing to get a read on a football team that’s missing numerous starters, but he’s taking the opportunity to install some offensive wrinkles that will require one of his quarterbacks to do some reading of his own.
With playoffs occupying Andrew Beesley and Alex Weadock’s time, Connor Mire is taking an early lead in what’s going to be an intense quarterback position battle this fall.
And though Rushing said Mire is currently the leading starting quarterback this spring, Rushing is giving dual threat quarterback Jardarius “JD” Anderson the keys to Rushing’s new offensive set.
“Remember, this is a north and south play,” Rushing instructed. “Don’t shuffle to deep, JD”
Anderson received the snap in a shotgun set, placed the ball in Jenkins stomach and focused his eyes on Rushing. Depending on where Rushing pushed the dummy, Anderson either kept the ball or handed off to Jenkins. The Green Wave were learning how to perform the zone read, which has been performed by various teams at the college and pro football level, including the Texas A&M Aggies, the Ole Miss Rebels, the Auburn Tigers, the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks.
The idea is to integrate all of the talents of a dual threat quarterback, giving him the option to read the defense and either take off on a designed run or hand it off to his running back with one defender focused on the quarterback, taking one defender away from the play.
“This will be the first time I fully run the zone option read,” Rushing said. “I’ve ran the midline (a variation of the veer option) before, but I’ve never ran the zone option read because I haven’t had the mobile quarterback for it yet.”
With hand gestures, Russ informed his offensive line how to block at the line of scrimmage, while Rushing focused on his quarterback’s decision making.
“This is a new package now,” Rushing said to his team. “This is the spring, so we’re going a little slower. If anybody has any questions, speak up.”
Once the first day of full pads concluded and a new offensive system simmered in the brains of the players that were able to attend, Rushing could barely contain his excitement.
“I’m pumped,” Rushing said. “Nothing better than seeing young men develop.”