The GW Graham Grizzlies hit the field last week for their first days of practice as they prepare for exhibition action starting Sept. 8.
Head coach Laurie Smith and his staff ran the varsity and junior varsity players through combine testing on day two of training camp.
Players ran the 40 yard dash and matched themselves against the vertical leap, broad jump, bench press and three-cone agility drill.
Smith says the testing establishes a baseline to track a player’s progress.
“If someone can do 12 reps of 135 pounds on the bench press in the spring and they come out to fall camp and do 10 reps, that’s trouble right?” Smith said. “But if they come out and do 15 then it’s like, ‘OK, this guy’s been doing something over the summer.’”
The 40 yard dash is the ‘glamour’ event, just as it is at the National Football League’s annual combine in Indianapolis.
Players take pride in a good time and despair when the stopwatch doesn’t read what they want, but Smith said the 40 isn’t making or breaking any roster spots.
“It’s not like we’re going to say that if Bob runs a 4.7 and Joe runs a 4.8 then Bob’s the starter,” Smith explained. “The bench is more important for us and the agility drill is beneficial to see who can move in an enclosed space.
“The vertical and broad jump are good too, but a lot of this is the kids wanting to compare themselves to NFL players.”
Grizzly camp got off to a non-physical start, with B.C. High School Football making official what teams can and can’t do.
With player safety the focus, BCHSF has mandated that the first two practices be non-padded (helmets only).
If teams have two-a-day practices, only one of them can be full contact and players must have a minimum of eight practices under their belt before appearing in a game.
“It’s not like any of this is terribly new, but now they (BCHSF) are asking everyone to adhere to the same standard, which is good,” Smith noted.
The only position groups that get green lighted for full contact at GWG’s practices are the linemen, to simulate game conditions.
Other groups work at ‘thud level’ most of the time, meaning ball carriers aren’t taken to the ground, tacklers will tag them or run past, etc.
“You want to simulate game speed and contact as much as possible, but you have to be careful because they’ve only got one brain,” Smith said. “I’d rather be cautious in that regard than better prepared to play a game, though in my experience it’s never made a difference.
“We’ve played against coaches who are smash-mouth all week long and our guys don’t have as much contact during the week, but they hit just as hard on Friday night.
“Frankly I think by the time they get to the game they really want to hit somebody and that’s to our benefit.”