Arab head coach Lee Ozmint saw what he wanted to see at Thursday’s organized team activity (OTA) at Arab that included teams from Southside-Gadsden and Locust Fork (now coached by former Arab player Matt Plunkett).
The long session essentially ended summer workouts for Arab and the other teams. Arab’s players will have three days of unsupervised running this coming week before starting what is expected to be a grueling preseason practice starting Monday, Aug. 5.
While calling his players’ effort “great,” Ozmint was disappointed with their execution at an OTA at Russellville on Tuesday. Thursday he saw much improvement.
“The effort (Tuesday) was great,” he said. “That’s one of the things I really, really love about this team. They give great effort.
“But we made mistakes. We made stupid mistakes. But they were all at full speed.”
Thursday was a little different.
“The offense didn’t have a single offside penalty,” Ozmint continued. “Catches we dropped on Tuesday we made (Thursday).
“There were fewer mistakes (Thursday) by far.”
On defense, Ozmint’s assessment wasn’t as rosy.
“On the backside, our pursuit angles are bad,” he said. “And we’re not flying to the ball like we need to.
“Some guys took some plays off but not many. We’ve got to learn we have to have good effort on every play for us to be successful.”
Ozmint, though, is overall very optimistic, but also cautiously so. He can see – as can others around the program – that the team has made great strides since the spring.
“We’re not where we need to be,” Ozmint told his players after practice. “We’ve got to get better.”
Ozmint walks a fine line by encouraging the players for their improvement while also keeping them hungry to continue to get better. He sees an improvement arc but doesn’t want the players to concentrate on that.
He wants them to keep trying to improve every play, every practice.
His parting words to the players Thursday: “You’ve got 10 days to rest. We’re going to post your running (directions) and you’re going to run Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Don’t lose what we’ve gained.”
Ozmint also told the players, “The best thing I saw on the practice field today was Christian Eaton not responding when he got shoved.”
Ozmint said when Arab starts winning, other teams will try to rattle them by being overly aggressive. He wants them to start acting the part of a classy, unflappable, winning program now.
“You won’t have to do anything on the field to get noticed,” he said, meaning extracurricular activity. “People will notice you by the way you play.”
Later, Ozmint touched on some other positives.
“We’ve just got to keep taking care of our responsibilities and trust our brother to do his job,” Ozmint said. “We did a better job making adjustments (Thursday).
“But we’re not where we need to be. We’ve got to get better.”
Ozmint then added:
“All this improvement is for nothing if it doesn’t translate to fall camp and then the season. We play Boaz in the first game (Aug. 23 on the road). We have our work cut out for for us, They’re a very good football team.
“We really don’t know where we are. We know we’re ahead of where we were, but where is that? I guess that’ll be answered soon.”
• The Arab Booster Club provided Papa John’s pizzas to all three teams at the conclusion of Thursday’s practice, a total of 120 pizzas overall. That fed 240 players.
“When we handed them out, we told the players to pick a partner and split a pizza,” said Booster Club president Jamie Bradshaw.
• There was very little attrition of players from the end of spring practice to summer workouts.
The Knights had 87 players out in the spring and still have 78 on their roster.
That’s a relatively minor drop in high school football.