RED SPRINGS — The Red Devils finished strong last season. Head football coach Ron Cook expects to build on that in 2015.
Entering his second year with Red Springs, Cook says he “absolutely” expects the Red Devils to contend for the Three Rivers Conference title in 2015.
“Last year was as learning experience,” he says. But the team is seeing “results from the ground up as far as players and staff.”
Not everything is complete, as far as Cook is concerned, with some specific areas for continued work. But he knows them and they know him.
“We know who goes where,” Cooks says.
He doesn’t expect the team to finish below the top three in the conference, he says.
Part of his winning strategy is scoring points, which the Red Devils expect to do early and often. During one mid-August scrimmage, seven different Red Springs players scored.
Cook is extremely confident in the skill positions but says everything comes down to his highly experienced offensive line.
“If they can do the job up front, there’s no telling how many points we can score,” he says.
Cook says he has “two very good quarterbacks” in senior Cody Freeman and junior Toddrick Lockhart.
Their ground game expects to dominate as a true “power-run team,” Cook explains.
They also can and will throw the ball at times. On third down and long yardage situations, passing will be necessary. But the coach expects most of their receiving yardage to come out of pass-action and run-action plays.
Increased strength and speed will give Red Springs players an edge, the coach thinks.
“We’re a lot bigger and stronger,” he says. “It’s a testament to what they’ve done in the weight room.”
But offensive feats are only one facet of the game.
“We’re going to see plenty of teams that can score,” Cook says, but prevailing will be “the team that makes the stops.”
The Red Devils are running a new 4-3 defense that the coach implemented earlier this year. He’s continued to make adjustments, including after observing his team in action during this month’s scrimmages.
He’s pleased with their physicality, speed and aggressiveness.
“A 11 guys … get to the ball,” he says.
At the same time, he recognizes some issues. The defensive line continue to make mental mistakes. However, Cook says some of this can be fixed right away with coaching adjustments.
Even so, they’ll have a young defense up front, with three juniors and a sophomore starting. They’re still “getting the fundamentals down,” the coach says.
The linebacker squad, which includes two juniors and a sophomore is also young. But Cook believes they’re pretty good.
On special teams, Cooks takes his philosophy from Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer for whom he played.
“I got to see firsthand how they work,” Cook says.
He treats special teams as the one-third of the game it is.
“It’s not just something you do at the end of practice,” he says.
At Virginia Tech, special teams workouts are the one time Beamer actually goes down to the field and works directly with the team. Cook says he takes the same approach.
“I doubt there are any other (high school) coaches who have been practicing special teams since May,” he says. That’s at least 20 minutes a day focusing on special teams.
“We’re aggressive on special teams,” he says. “We’re going to look around and if you haven’t made adjustments” expect the Red Devils to go for onside kicks and fourth-down conversions.
“You have to take time out to prepare for us,” he says.
Reach Sports Editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or email him at [email protected]