It must have felt like it had been an eternity when football teams from around the county and state were allowed to get back on the field for official practice.
The first week was just an acclimation week, with teams not even wearing helmets all the days, but still after almost a year away, with no spring practice, it was surely a welcomed feeling to get back in some capacity.
Teams from all sports, not just football, have been working out since the beginning of June. But nothing quite beats the feeling of practicing as a team and getting ready for a season that is just around the corner.
The players and coaches aren’t taking it for granted either.
“I’m just thankful we’re able to be out here,” said Lawrence County head coach Rich Dutton. “Honestly, that’s all I can say is I’m thankful. There are some that aren’t getting this opportunity so we’re making sure we don’t take it for granted.”
Practice was always supposed to start on July 27, but leading up to it many feared it would get pushed back. But Dutton and his coaches maintained their plan so they wouldn’t be caught off guard if it did go on as scheduled.
“We knew that starting July 27 would be the replacement for not having spring,” Dutton said. “So that’s what we’ve been gearing towards and been doing the best we can to prepare for this week.”
The first week back was just an acclimation week. There were no pads involved, only helmets as teams began the process of working as a team for the first time in months.
But that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be new ways to train for the season.
Lawrence County’s running backs in particular found themselves facing a new challenge.
Seniors Gage Dutton and Allen Johnson took the field wearing helmets with masks blocking the corners of the helmets.
It was a tip picked up from defending National Champions LSU.
“Watching LSU and studying a little bit it was something we noticed they did at practice,” said Dutton. “It’s kind of like wearing ankle weights, you take them off and you feel better. That’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the masks.”
The idea is that by limiting the peripheral vision, it will help the running backs use their necks more and help them open up their vision.
“In theory by limiting the peripheral vision it will get their neck more involved in the run and get them to move their neck left, right and sideways,” Dutton said. “So when you take the tape off it’ll hopefully open up their vision and allow the game open up for them.”
It’s no shock that coaches are copying tips from LSU, who not only won the national title, but had arguably the greatest offensive season of any team in history.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the LSU running back, had a particularly game changing season as he went from a little known name to a first round draft pick.
This tip is just another in a long line of new styles Dutton has tried to help improve his team.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve never been afraid to try something new,” he said. “If there’s something out there that can help us gain an edge, then I’m all for trying it.”