JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Football coaches constantly stress the importance of execution. Practice fields, game days, team meetings, and press conferences serve as the noun's breeding ground.
Coaches also harp on the ability to adapt the game plan during contests. Maybe the opposition is showing a new formation, or the personnel has completely changed from the previous week. To overcome the unknown hinges on a team's ability to adapt to its circumstances.
This preseason, Jacksonville head coach Kerwin Bell is adapting his strategy in hopes of even better execution from his 2015 squad as the Dolphins prepare for the opening of training camp Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
"We've had a very productive summer. I really like our older group here. We've got a lot of returning veteran guys who have played a lot of snaps," said Bell. "This offseason I've changed a little bit of the way we've done things because of the veteran leadership and the number of reps that our guys have got. We've got guys here that have played at least a couple of years in our system. In spring practice and coming into the summer it was all about trying to keep these guys as healthy as possible."
Preseason All-Pioneer Football League picks in senior quarterback Kade Bell, senior offensive lineman Kevin Battle, senior defensive back Terrance Bryant and junior linebacker Grady Redding headline that veteran group.
"I've come to the conclusion that if a dog bites, he'll bite every time you get him out there so if he's going to be a physical football player and he's showed it to me for two years, then there's no reason to beat him over his head during training camp. Now we are going to get him in shape and all I'm looking for is that we are executing at a very high level," stated Bell confidently. "There's a set of 15 guys who need some experience and maybe battle for some jobs. Those are really the 15 who we wanted to look at this spring and we gave them a lot of reps. In the past, I always felt that your starters needed to get even more reps in the spring, but we backed away from that this year and really utilized trying to get the young guys caught up with the veterans."
It wasn't an easy choice for Bell to lessen the load on his starters in the spring and moving forward in the fall, but a veteran coaching staff has gone through this process before. Bell referenced a stretch that included Pioneer Football League titles in 2008 and 2010 made possible by a strong core of upperclassmen. The coaching staff is confident that the Dolphins will be ready to repeat their dominance on the field this fall.
"I've been a really big rep guy but my coaches have asked me to tone it down this year and I think we are going to go in that direction. Our first and second scrimmages have been in the 150-200 rep range, which is probably unusual for a lot of colleges but we're going to try to tone that down for our starters and get good, positive, high-energy reps and then get them off the field, then try to find those next wave of guys as we get going into the season."
That doesn't mean that preseason camp will be light on action, if anything it will be more intense with higher scrutiny on a set of position battles.
"You've got to do some full-padded, live situations to get that execution at a high level."
With the JU field house abuzz in preparation for players reporting tomorrow, there's no doubt fervor burns inside Bell to pick up where the Dolphins left off in 2014.
"Let's be amped. Let's bring the fuel to the fire. I want our guys to understand that we're all in for this season...Somebody asked me am I worried about my team, and I'm not worried at all because I've seen through last year when we went through some tough times all they did was rise up and play their best and I think we're going to do that this year."
Jacksonville University football opens its preseason training camp Thursday in preparation for the season opener at Delaware on Sept. 4. Season tickets for the five home games are available on www.judolphins.com/tickets/footballtickets.