Pigskin Preview: The Earle Bulldogs
After a spring filled with weight lifting and conditioning, the Earle Bulldogs are back on the gridiron and are impressing head coach Albert Coleman
Football season never really ends in the south and there’s no exception for the Earle Bulldogs who, after a long spring filled with lifting weights, have officially resumed football actives this week, playing seven-on-seven games and traveling to team camps, most recently in Osceola.
With the guys strapping on pads for the first time this offseason, Bulldogs head coach Albert Coleman says a couple of the biggest things that these offseason team camps for the Bulldogs are finding out what areas need improvement and building confidence in each other on the field.
“A lot of times it shows your weaknesses and you have to develop and make your weakness a strength,” Coleman said. “Today (the camp in Osceola) gave us a lot of reps running our offense and our system and actually building a lot of confidence from those results that they saw.”
Those results saw the Bulldogs win all three of their seven-on-seven contest in Osceola, defeating Blytheville and Osceola, respectively, 21-7 and walking away with a 63-7 victory over East Poinsett County.
Offensively for the Bulldogs, four-star quarterback Gerry Bohannon continued to develop his passing game. The Earle star has always possessed a strong arm, but the Division-1 football prospect still has work to do, according to Coleman.
Bohannon, who recently returned from Nike’s Elite 11 quarterback competition in Los Angeles, California, has been focusing more on reading defenses and releasing the ball quicker since his return from the sunshine state.
And on the end of Bohannon’s passes is a group of big receivers, with three of the Bulldogs top four receivers standing over six feet tall. Leeandre Millow (6-3, 175), Alex Coleman (6-1, 165) and Ojoshua Bunton (6-0, 170) make up the trio of skyscrapers that Bohannon will guide his passes to this season.
“We’re going to have a nice group of long and athletic receivers,” Coleman said. “They all have great hands.”
Those receivers could be benefiting from the college exposure brought to Earle by Bohannon as early as this season. Coleman says that he took tips from many SEC coaches that came to see the Bulldogs signal caller, including allowing his pass catchers to have more freedom when running routes.
Coleman says that instead of running a precise fivestep slant into a linebacker, his receivers will have the freedom to take an extra step or two in order to sneak behind that linebacker and therefore find more open ground.
“What we’ve learned from talking to these coaches is that the kid has to be able to run more to space,” Coleman said. “What our receivers are doing now is, they may take five steps and get behind the linebacker. They may take three steps and get in front of the linebacker. But, they’re not running directly to the linebacker. And, with Gerry’s accuracy and the strength of his arm, even if he sees them late, they’re open.”
Coming out of the backfield for the Bulldogs offense, two young men have began to separate themselves, according to Coleman. The Earle head
Photo by Collins Peeples
coach hopes that running backs Anthony White and Jacquez Grey will make a dynamic thunder-and-lighting combination this season.
“We’ve had two (running backs) that have risen above the rest right now,” Coleman said. “Anthony White is 5-8, 195 pounds.
He’s got a 330-pound bench press and he squats 515 pounds. He’s going to be more of an inside runner. And, we also have Jacquez Grey. He’s emerged as a natural cutback runner and lane runner. He can get to the whole and he finds a natural cut back. He does that better than any running back we have.”
Only allowing three touchdowns in three sevenon- seven games this past Thursday, Coleman says he was pleasantly surprised with his defense, especially his defensive line including; Jaylon Coopwood, Steve Smith, Kilton Hampton and Ahmad Gray. “I really didn’t expect what I got out of those guys,” Coleman said.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for us.
Defensively, they all held their own.”
Another reason the Bulldogs defense was so effective may have been the new scheme which Coleman has implemented this season. Coleman says he’s not happy with how much his defense sat back in their base defense last season. The Bulldogs coach says he plans on blitzing more frequently this year.
“We’re trying to be more aggressive this year,” Coleman said. “Last year and in the past, what we’ve done is sit back and play a base defense. We played some man but we wouldn’t blitz. We didn’t send many blitzes. So, we’re working on some blitz packages and the blitz games and getting our lineman and our linebackers to understand how to blitz better, how to time it.”
Coleman believes if his team can stay healthy that the Bulldogs could snag their fourth straight conference championship this season and make a deeper run in the Arkansas 2A Football State Playoffs than last year’s quarterfinal exit. However, if injuries do occur, that could cause a real problem for a 2A school that lacks depth in certain areas.
“I really do believe that they only thing that can stand in our way is us,” Coleman said. “This is the smartest group of kids I’ve coached… I honestly think the only thing that could get in their way and stop them from winning a championship is themselves and injuries. We don’t have a whole lot of depth at some positions.
We’re not deep in the line.
We have four deep receivers but for the most part we lack depth. But, that could be our only problem. If we mess around and have the wrong injury, it could cost us.”
Earle begins working towards that potential championship this September when the Bulldogs kick their season off at home against Central High School in Earle on September 1st at 7:00 p.m.
By Collins Peeples