BRUIN GRIDDERS TAKE 1ST STRIDES TOWARD NEW ERA
When he took charge in 1967 of an underachieving Minnesota Vikings team, the first thing Bud Grant did was tell the players he wanted them to stay off a specific patch of grass located just outside the training center. He recounted later his education in human behavior — some of the players perfectly obeyed his order; others hesitated, looked around to see if anyone was watching, and sheepishly walked across the grass; and others walked defiantly across the prohibited area. He wanted to do know whom he could count on to do the right thing during the firestorm of exhaustion and pressure. Grant didn’t waiver. From employing a U.S. Marine drill sergeant to coming in and coaching the players on how to stand for the National Anthem, to other seemingly unrelated edicts, Grant influenced his players to pay strict attention to details. In his second year as coach, the Vikings earned their first-ever playoff appearance; the next season, they stormed into the Super Bowl. New Bartlesville High School head coach Lee Blankenship and his staff is employing the same tactics as Grant — detail, detail, detail. “The kids are so enthusiastic,” Blankenship said in summarizing the first two days of outdoor workouts at spring practice. “But, fundamentally, we have a ton or work to do. We need to get better at fine mechanics and fundamentals across the board.” To stress the point of discipline to exactness, “we’ve told the boys which direction we want their face mask to point,” Blankenship explained. “We’ve told them how their cleats should be facing in the locker room. ... We’re super-detailed oriented.” Other than that task, Blankenship is thrilled with what his Bruins — which have averaged in the mid-80's numbers-wise — have shown so far to him and his staff. “I’m most pleased with the effort of the kids,” Blankenship said. “There’s a ton of buy-in right now. ... The practices have been upbeat and they’ve been fast.” And, how. During Friday’s session — with the thermometer panting at about 90 degrees, and the heat another 10 degrees higher on the artificial turf — the coaches lit a fire under the athletes to hustle every moment on the field, and to run to their next station or in bringing back an errant pass during a passing drill. The pace was blistering — but the boys responded with energy. “The boys have been playing with a lot of enthusiasm,” said Blankenship, who inherits a Bruin program that recorded a 1-8 record last season and endured a rugged coaching controversy. Blankenship said he enjoys some wildcards that other coaches in the state don’t yet know about — including a couple of potential high-impact players that didn’t suit up last season in football, or at least with the varsity. One of them is Jaylin Oliver, Bartlesville’s smooth-moving starting guard from the basketball team. “He has come out and really shown his athletic ability,” Blankenship said. Blankenship also mentioned a few other high-potential players, although he emphasized there’s many more he could talk about. He mentioned offensive lineman Cody Keesling, “who has really impressed his line coach, Coach McDaniel. He is a special talent.” Elijah Williams also has impressed the coaches. “We feel like he has unbelievable potential if we can get him in the right technique and making right decisions,” the coach said. Senior tailback DeAndre Young, “is an Alpha,” Blankenship said. “He’s really going to be a beast this year. We’re going to feed it to him.” Junior tailback Laken Clowdus, who split time last season with Young, might be a two-way contributor. “Laken Clowdus is a stud,” Blankenship said. “He really impressed Coach (Jason) Sport (on Friday). ... Fans might expect to see him on both sides of the ball.” At the tail end of Friday’s practice, the coaches ran what they call is a “Spotlight,” where an offensive player and defensive player go against each other head-to-head. Gerald Gray — another newcomer that could be an ‘X’ factor — and veteran Tom Beard were the first to jump out to volunteer. Gray lined up at receiver and Beard played cover back. “Tom had perfect coverage, but Gerald went over the top and made a great catch in the end zone,” Blankenship said. “That’s something that really stuck out, just the way those two are competing. Gerald Gray has just been phenomenal. Tom Beard has been really good on both sides of the ball. ... He is way better than a year ago. He’s really in a good place now athletically and fundamentally.” During the second hour of the practice, Blankenship had the boys form a wide circle around the Bruin logo at midfield and delivered an inspirational message. While a soft breeze blew he spoke about the fearless courage, aggressiveness and persistence of the Dog Soldiers bands of 1800's military fame and encouraged each player to find the dog in himself. Bruin spring practice will continue throughout this week, with a team meeting possible on Wednesday.
Examiner Enterprise | 5/20/2018
Examiner Enterprise | 5/20/2018