It is about that time of year again.
While many teenagers are enjoying their newfound freedom that comes along with summer break, Claremore football has been hard at work on the hot turf at Lantow Field in preparation for the upcoming season.
The Zebras hosted a team camp on May 23 and 24, featuring the likes of Coweta, Tahlequah and Wagoner.
The teams spent three hours each day rotating through offensive and defensive sessions with specific rules.
In the first hour, offenses were allowed to run only rushing plays, play-action passes, bootlegs and RPOs (run-pass options). The playbook then switched to only passes, draws and screens for the second hour.
Blitzing was strictly prohibited during both sessions.
The third hour, however, was anything and everything goes.
The best part, according to Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt, was getting every player some on-field experience.
“We do that both days, and we get every kid in,” Hurt said. “Varsity goes through a rotation of it, then JV goes through a rotation of it. We feel like it gives us great reps and gets our kids great experience against other teams.
“We’re trying to get a lot of reps and get better.”
EXPERIMENTING WITH EXPERIENCE
The Zebras return only nine starters from last year’s squad, but many of them are skill players.
Hurt’s squad use that wisdom to its advantage, connecting on several deep balls from quarterback Charlie Murdock, and running back Jace Hightower had an impressive showing as well.
“We feel like our skill kids right now are exceptional,” Hurt said. “Dylan Kedzior, Quentin Skinner, Jace Hightower, Charlie Murdock, Mason Hayes and Thomas Mason all had a good camp. Those are some kids who stood out to us. All play skill positions for us, and we just feel like that’s going to be the strength of our team.”
Claremore also experimented with the playbook to get those players some unique looks.
Hurt and the coaching staff tweak and install different plays and formations every spring, and team camp provides the perfect opportunity to see those changes live against other teams long before the Friday night lights are turned on.
“We felt good about those additions and tweaks to our offense, and likewise on defense,” Hurt said. “Our team camp gives us an opportunity to experiment a little bit with some of our new ideas and see if we want to put it in during the fall.”
Another area the Zebras are looking to improve is the line.
Claremore will be a bit inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines this season, so to ensure the protection of Murdock and Hightower in the backfield, development is required.
“One of our biggest focuses coming into spring, the summer and then into fall is our guys in the trenches on both sides,” Hurt said. “We have to put an emphasis on that so we can find out who those players are going to be and then develop them so we can get the most out of them.”
If the Zebras’ returning talent doesn’t impress you, perhaps the interest they’ve garnered from college coaches will.
Coaches from Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh State (Kan.) already came to take a peek at several Claremore players during spring practices, and that list grew during team camp.
North Texas, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO) and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) all sent staffers to scout Kedzior, Skinner, Hightower, Mason, Hayes and Murdock, and Hurt is liking those players’ chances of landing offers from said schools as the year progresses.
All six players are entering their senior seasons.
“I think all three of those schools were very impressed with our players,” Hurt said.
Whenever full contact is introduced in a preseason setting, injury concerns are always there.
Luckily for Claremore, damage was at a minimum for this occasion.
“We got out of it pretty clean, actually,” Hurt said. “We had one kid with a twisted ankle (Mason), and another kid with a deep thigh bruise. We felt pretty good about our health coming out of spring ball and out of camp.”
Junior high and high school players will have a chance to build their strength later this month.
Starting on June 17, seventh through 12 graders will participate in the Zebras Summer Pride. It’s a five-week program consisting of 20 workout days.
All high schoolers will meet in the weight room for strength and agility training at 7 a.m., and seventh and eighth graders begin at 9 a.m.
Don’t expect any personal bests to be set, though.
“We probably won’t max this summer because we just got done maxing coming out of our winter program right before spring ball,” Hurt said. “We’ll probably take advantage of the time to workout instead of wasting a week on maxing. We work on strength, conditioning and agility.”
Claremore is also hosting a 7-on-7 league every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. during the month of June.