New Arab varsity boys coach Brandon Crews formally opened preseason practice on Monday with about half of the high school program’s 30 players involved.
The rest are still playing football and that bothers Crews not at all. Besides, he’s good friends with Arab offensive coordinator Chad Hudson and loves football, having missed just one road game this season.
“At Oneonta the last four seasons, three of the four times our football team made the playoffs and one year we went to the semifinals,” Crews said. “So, football, the playoffs – it’s nothing new to me.
“We have a plan and I know what it’ll be like when they come out. I’m not losing any sleep about it, I can tell you that.”
Crews is also without – for the most part – his junior varsity coach, Jonathan Embry, who’s still coaching football. Dylan Pope, the ninth grade coach, is around to assist.
Unlike last year, when most fall and winter sports teams had limited practice time because of the pandemic, Crews has been able to spend a good amount of time with his new players since he was hired on April 22.
“We had two hours a week with them this spring, then five evaluations (tryouts), then all of June and July,” he said. “We’ve installed our base offense and base defense already.
“In fact, one of the things I’ve told the guys, even though (Monday) is the first day of practice, we’re doing basically the same thing that we did in May and June. So in some ways, it’s just another day.”
Crews said he couldn’t help but notice who the team leaders are starting off. Will Cavender, James Ed and John Wesson Johnson and James Reynoso are significant returnees.
“After that, who knows?” he said.
The rest of the varsity players are Spencer Strickland, Ethan Thomas, Case Couch, Owen Thomas, Caleb Perkins, Dakota NeSmith, Clayton Miller and Jonathon England.
Crews said that while he understands the football players will have to “knock the rust off” when they hit the court for the first time, he’s a little more concerned with all the players adapting to a new style of play.
“It’s going to take us a little while,” he said. “It’s quite a bit different from what they’ve done in the past.”
Crews’ teams typically don’t run plays, they run a concept-based offense. In other words, when the ball is passed inside, or to the top of the key or to the wing, players move accordingly depending on where they are on the court.
“We’re teaching them how to play, rather than running a bunch of plays,” Crews said. “It’s a spacing offense.”
The primary attack on defense is half-court man-to-man.
“We’ll be emphasizing ball pressure, packing the gaps and trying to take away the easy stuff,” Crews said.
The new coach knows making the transition in styles won’t come easily, but he’s not worried.
“Everybody remembers the area tournaments. They don’t remember the Thanksgiving tournaments,” Crews said. “All they care about is how your playing at the end of the year.
“I mean, you want to win Thanksgiving tournaments, but at the end of the day you want to be getting better every day.”
The JV roster includes Jack Bishop, Ryan King, Dylan Benefield, Austin Dyson, Dylan Morrow, Cameron Croes and David Crabtree.
The ninth grade team will include Landon Strickland, Kolby Hardin, Drew Puccio, Carson Jennings, Wyatt Lamar, Evan Brazelton, Landon Mitchell, Noah Mann, Lawson King, Logan Alldredge and Jackson East.