OVAC coaches up to challenge
BETHANY — As it pertains to game preparations, football coaches are regimented to maximizing every second of the seven-day work week.
The challenge that Ohio’s Andrew Connor and West Virginia’s Mike Eddy face in the days leading up to Saturday’s 74th-annual OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game runs deeper than just the number of days.
The camp opened Sunday evening. Each team is down two players and making sure the preparation gets in while not overdoing it so the players are fresh for the weekend are things that both staffs are dealing with.
“We wanted to start off strong and obviously ease off, but a lot of all-star games are won and lost on physicality,” Connor said. “Some kids show up (just to be there) and some show up to win a football game. I told our kids in the first meeting we want West Virginia to wake up on Sunday morning and say, ‘man, I don’t want to see those (Ohio) guys again for 10 years at the reunion.”
Ohio hit the practice field Sunday afternoon despite a heat index approaching triple digits and went right to work.
“We have to be conditioned and we can’t waste one minute of preparation,” Connor said. “You can’t be walking around, taking 15-minute water breaks or anything. Time is important. Conditioning is important and physicality.”
West Virginia’s opening-night workout was cut short because of lightning and storms in the area. So, the Mountaineers made up for that difference with a longer session on Monday morning.
“It’s all about understanding what the purpose (of camp) is because we’re not going to come in here in the next five days and transform a skillset,” Eddy said. “We have to utilize the skillsets we have and make sure we have them in the right positions, so they’re in the best position to be successful come Saturday.”
Both coaches put their teams through their first full day of camp Monday, which was sandwiched around media day inside the Nutting Gymnasium on the Bethany College campus. It was moved inside due to heavy rains.
Ohio and West Virginia returned to the practice field in the evening for a longer work session. It’s actually the last time the teams will be able to practice deep into the day because the activities that surround the game begin this evening with the annual George Strager Evening with the Stars Banquet at the White Palace at Wheeling Park.
Even when they’re not on the practice field, Connor has had his players in position meetings with study packets available.
“The kids have done pretty well picking up things, but we’ve had some team meetings scheduled in (to the day) because any time we have down time, we want to use it,” Connor said. “In and out of the dorms, the kids are going over their handouts. Part of it is how serious are you while you’re here and to this point, these kids have proven they’re pretty serious about it.”
West Virginia also is spending additional time in position meetings and working more on simplifying the schemes and playbooks to make sure all of the players are on the same page.
“I was running our scout team (Monday) and those guys are even asking some tremendous questions,” Eddy said. “Five reps later, I’ve got guys changing coverages and making signals to one another. This is an all-star game with great players and athletes, who’ve been well coached.”
Connor has been impressed in the short time he’s had his Ohio guys together with their chemistry, attitudes and abilities.
“You either start off well or you don’t, and I think we had a great start (Sunday evening),” Connor explained. “Our kids have been great. They’ve been on time for everything, asked a lot of questions and really seem happy to be here, which is part of the battle.”
The Ohio squad was originally down one player when Wellsville’s Derrick Suggs didn’t report to camp. The Buckeye roster shrunk Monday morning when St. Clairsville’s Justin Heatherington left the squad.
“A lot of kids are going to have to play on both sides of the ball,” Connor said. “You go into it thinking everyone playing on one side, but that doesn’t look it’s going to be the case.”
West Virginia’s roster was short two after check-in day. John Marshall’s Chas McCool didn’t report, opting to remain with his American Legion baseball team, while Hundred’s Andrew Zedell didn’t play because of a work commitment.
“We put our depth chart together,” Eddy said.
“We feel like we have two or three guys at every position, so we’re cross training guys at positions to have some depth.
Platooning will be difficult and our depth is questionable to begin with. We only have six (offensive) linemen here with us. That’s where you have to be creative as a coach and might have to ask a kid to do something he’s not been used to doing.”