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Big Eight football notebook

With two-a-days hitting their stride I’m trying to find mine. Recently I had the chance to sit down with the guys calling the shots for Reading and Jonesville, to learn a little bit about what to expect when Aug. 28 rolls around. For more answers to your burning questions check out the county football preview in a few weeks, but here’s two scoops of anything but plain vanilla for now.

In Jonesville change is the name of the game, and understandably so with Brian Stroble out and Joshua Lindeman in as head coach.

What’s interesting is the changes aren’t limited to schemes and philosophy. A lot of the same guys will be making the plays, but in new positions where Lindeman sees more potential for them.

If you think last year’s starting quarterback John Sigler is still starting, you’re right — but if you said at QB, you’re wrong.

Instead he’ll be taking handoffs from a new signal caller, as the Comets starting halfback.

“He’s just too explosive of an athlete to play quarterback in my opinion. He is not a quarterback by nature, he’s a running back by nature,” Lindeman said. “He told me he always wanted to play running back but they played him at quarterback. He’s just a natural running back.”

I think the gist of this change is he’s a natural playmaker more than anything and in Lindeman’s offense that means you’ll be trying to pick up yards five to eight at a time.

Sigler did a decent job of managing the game at QB last season, but it may have been all Stroble felt comfortable with at arguably the most important position.

He threw the ball less than six times a game and some stats just don’t lie.

Lindeman said he thinks junior Spencer Nielsen could easily air the ball out more often than Sigler did last season and it’s hard to argue, as Hawley has all but locked up the starting QB spot.

He doesn’t have much experience to discern his real potential , but Lindeman said he is exactly the kind of athlete who trains like he wants to be the guy leading the team.

“He works hard, he’s always one of the first guys on all runs, sprints, and that is a quality most good quarterbacks have,” he said. “Because if they work hard, people are going to follow, so in the third and fourth quarter when we need a drive to win the game, I think kids are going to follow him.”

Though those two names are the two that stand out the most when looking at the depth chart, other puzzle pieces are also in the process of being reconstructed.

Logan Jenkins, one of the lankiest, fleet footed all-around athletes in Big Eight is going from strictly a tight end to a tight end / wide receiver combo who will be kind of a slot guy, and he will also move over to the defensive side of the ball where Lindeman will throw him different places.

Likewise, Kory Kidder, who transferred in from Litchfield last year, is going from being a backup running back and linebacker to starting fullback and defensive lineman.

“He has actually come a long way and he’s going to be a slash kid — he will probably be the kid who can play all seven positions up front (on defense) and play them well,” Lindeman said.

The Rubik’s Cube is still being constructed by the rookie head coach and the first-ever Orange and Black Game, an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, will shed some light on what other changes might take place.

It’s hard not to think that 2009 won’t quite live up to 2008 if you’re a Reading Ranger football fan, but don’t tell Rick Bailey that.

Fresh off a 12-1 season that ended in a state semifinals loss, the beloved head coach said the graduation of almost all of his big names and game-changing stars only means something to people like me, and possibly other coaches.

Mainstays like Trent Morris, Steven Smith, Ryan Dillon, JV Shinners, Trevor Ryan and Sam Creel, just to name a few, are now alumni, and all they can do is cheer their predecessors on from the stands when they come home.

You’re better off trying to convince Obama he is wrong about healthcare than getting Bailey to admit his 2009 squad could be vulnerable for a letdown though.

“I wouldn’t sell our team short, we expect to win. We might run into a team that is better than us, that might happen, but we can’t control that part of it, we control what we can,” he said. “I would never try and limit us and say ‘Yeah, we’re going to go 5-4 or 6-3’ or something like that.”

Bailey is the kind of guy I’ve come to expect nothing but a positive vibe from in terms of how he talks up his athletes, but he has facts to add ammo to his emotional attachment.

“Our seniors have lost three games in their entire football career and our juniors have lost just one game in their career. If we stub our toe we pick ourselves up and try to get better,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the Big Eight title, because if you win the Big Eight title you’re going to get in the playoffs and when you get in the playoffs your goal is to keep winning, so that’s what you’re after.”

The fact he has 32 kids on his roster and said 45-55 players were coming to open-lift sessions all summer tells me he’s not the only one who won’t rest on his laurels just because the Rangers had a historic season last year.

One of this team’s vocal leaders, James Piner, a lineman and linebacker who is as boisterous with his hits as he is his raw emotions, has already told Bailey he doesn’t understand why people doubt them.

“James Piner said ‘People keep come asking me how we’re going do, I tell them, I’m on the team, how do you think we’re going to do? We’re going to win.’ It’s not because of who James thinks he is, it’s because he’s a part of the team that says we expect to win,” Bailey said.

We’ll see if talk is cheap in a few short weeks, but believing you will win is half the battle — or at least I’d tell my players that if I was a coach.


About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.


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