By JASON GORDON
A season ago as Hays began summer workouts, enthusiasm was high but oftentimes Rebel players were out of position, a step slow once the ball was snapped, or just plain slow in general.
Blake Feldt had just been hired a few months before and without the benefit of a full coaching staff or spring practice, summer 2011 was almost like a training camp installing his offensive and defensive philosophies heading into last fall’s season.
It was a completely different atmosphere as summer workouts officially began on Monday. Hays’ varsity football team looked sharp and ready to play their season-opening ballgame this coming Friday night if they Rebels had to do just that.
In reality, Hays will have three weeks of preseason practice leading up to its September 1 opener against Burbank at the San Antonio ISD Sports Complex.
“It was like spring training was yesterday,” Feldt said. “The guys retained so much information and we didn’t miss a beat. There were only a few things we had to correct, but from the opening whistle we were going full speed ahead. That’s something we weren’t able to do last year.”
Hays returns 10 starters from its team that captured a tie of the district title and made the area finals in 2011. The Rebels won their first playoff game since 2006 against San Antonio Brennan before bowing out against regional power Cedar Park.
That Rebel team used mostly four wide receiver sets, but this team is likely to use more three wide receiver formations, with either two running backs, two tight ends or any number of possibilities Feldt’s multiple offense can show the opposition.
“That’s the beauty of our offense, during our 18 spring practices this year we realized that we weren’t going to be able to use four wide receivers because we don’t really have that kind of personnel,” Feldt said. “That’s the beauty of our offense though – we adapt to our personnel and really don’t have to change our game plan much at all.”
One thing that will be changing for Hays this year is Rebels playing both offense and defense.
“We didn’t do that at all last year,” Feldt said. “We just don’t have the depth not to play guys on both sides of the ball. I think it will really help our team in the long run because this gives us much-needed depth.”
Starting cornerbacks Christian and Jared Rodriguez will both play some on offense at wide receiver, linebackers Holt Dickerson and Emory Cuzzee will fill in at running back, linebacker Devin Jennings and defensive end Kyle Cox will play tight end on offense, and safety Jared Self will play slot receiver.
“I think it’s exciting to have guys come over on offense who are normally on the defensive side of the ball,” said Hays quarterback Caleb Kimbro. “I know everyone on this team is willing to play wherever it takes to help us win.”
And even though it was only the first day of summer workouts, winning was definitely on the mind of Hays’ players.
“This is a day and a season a lot of us have been waiting for since elementary school when I met a lot of these guys,” Christian Rodriguez said. “We expect to win and we know we’re going to win this year.”
Hays guard William Trevillion agrees with his teammate.
“Last year we didn’t know what we were capable of,” Trevillion said. “This year we feel like we can accomplish great things. We know we’re good and can accomplish anything we set our minds to.”
After going in shorts and helmets through Thursday, Hays will begin full-pad practices Friday.
The Rebels will hold their only scrimmage of the practice season against former district foe Canyon on Friday, August 24 at Shelton Stadium, beginning at 10 a.m.