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With his Columbus East High School football players headed off the football field toward lunch, head coach Bob Gaddis stood at the goal line, watched them leave and nodded his head with a sense of pride.
“I think they bought into what we told them,” Gaddis said after his team’s first official practice of the season Monday morning.
Gaddis, who is beginning his 12th season at East, his 34th as a head coach and his 36th as a coach, obviously had a touch of baseball spring training enthusiasm affecting him. Yet, he insisted that this first practice felt just a bit different.
“I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time,” he said. “We have a young group that is very coachable.”
Gaddis said he stressed to his players that they needed to be in great physical condition at the start of this camp so the coaching staff could keep the emphasis on the playbook and technical instruction. He said his players listened.
“Everyone can have a positive role on a team,” he said. “That’s whether you are a starter or a backup. I like this time because you see who is going to help the team become a team. I like the feel of this team.”
Although a few players were throwing up following a demanding set of sprints at the end of practice, most of the Olympians looked no worse for wear.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” junior quarterback Alex Cowan said. “It seemed like we had a lot of energy.”
The practice did have a crisp feel as the players moved smoothly from drill to drill.
“Guys were just ready to practice,” senior linebacker C.J. Weber said. “We had a lot of intensity, and we were excited to get started. On a whole, I think we were in better shape this year. You could tell because of the higher intensity and the better effort.”
Gaddis’ assistants had a calm but firm demeanor in the opening drills. Assistant Michael McBride ran a group of players through passing drills. “Hey guys in the back of the line, the guys who got it wrong, pay attention!”
He then turned his attention to one of his receivers, trying to make a cut. “Don’t look like somebody electrocuted you,” he said.
Only a minute later, McBride was handing out a pat on the back. “You guys in the back of the line, you did much better.”
Gaddis was enjoying the process.
“It’s always nice to get back out here and get after it,” he said. “And we have a veteran staff.”
With that staff remaining in place and years of refining the system, the Olympians appear to have few surprises to deal with as they work toward their opening game on Aug. 18 against Bloomington North.
However, Gaddis did say that, through the first two days of practice, all his players have a position on both offense and defense. On Wednesday, the first day of contact, he assigns all the players one position as they go to a two-platoon system he has utilized for years.
With players maturing so quickly as teens, the coaches have to be open to possible position switches as their bodies develop and their coordination increases. Jared Whiteside, who was a starter in every game last season as an offensive guard, was running pass patterns on Monday even though he still wore No. 76. A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, it appears he is headed toward the tight end slot.
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