In preparation for next week’s season and home opener against Leavenworth, coach Tony Crough and his staff have spent the past week making adjustments offensively with a new starting quarterback, a new starting running back and a new system for 2015.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Crough said Thursday. “Things have been a little bit shorter this week on time. We worked a couple of mornings this week on some conditioning. Our players are at a point now in camp where they know what to expect offensively and defensively and they’re really chomping at the bit to beat up on somebody other than themselves.”
With former starting running back Thomas Bobbitt switching over to a starting position in the defensive secondary, the Panthers will look to spread out their offensive attack with junior quarterback Jacob Murray at the helm.
Crough said Bobbitt has adjusted well to a starting defensive position but don’t count him out on the offense.
“Thomas is doing great for us at the safety position,” said Crough. “He’s done a tremendous job at flying to the ball and making plays and reading offenses. One of the good things is we’ll still have him running some of our offensive packages. He’s worked hard and looked good on both sides of the ball.”
Cal Marshall will join Murray in the back field and Crough continues to be impressed with his play at the varsity level.
“As I’ve said, we’re looking for Cal to step up and be a play maker for us this year,” said the coach. “He has the ability to run away with the ball once he breaks into an open field. He’s been good at learning the newer aspects of our offense. We expect him to pickup a lot of yardage and score a lot of touchdowns.”
“Like Cal we think Jacob will step into his new job and make big plays. He’s progressed faster than we thought he would at quarterback especially with our passing game. He’s throwing the ball better now than what we anticipated before camp started. Coach (Bryce) Wells has spent a lot of time with him working on his technique and he’s really started to exhibit those leadership qualities that we want in a quarterback,” he said.
Crough spotlighted the defense and how they have continued to improve since last weekend’s scrimmage.
“Things are looking good for us right now,” Crough said. “We’re bringing quite a few guys back so we have a well seasoned defense mainly because of the great turnout of returning seniors. That’s really the biggest difference when you look at our offense and defense. Our offense is a bunch of talented, up and coming players while we have a little more depth with the turnout of our veteran players defensively.”
Crough added that the difference between the two units has shown in practice.
“We’ve really struggled to move the ball against our defense and that’s where the experience really shows itself,” said Crough. “It’s really organized chaos with those guys just flying around and making plays. Our speed is really going to help us out in the secondary and our strength at the linebackers and defensive line will be a force for us up front.”
The Panthers have been the No. 1 rated defense in the Western Athletic Conference and have finished in the top 15 in the state for the past two seasons.
Great Bend will hold their final scrimmage of the preseason Friday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“This will be a chance for a lot of the community to come out and see us for the first time,” said Crough. “It will really boil down to a dress rehearsal before Leavenworth. It will really be an opportunity for some of the younger players to put their best foot forward before the season begins. We really want to concentrate on giving those younger guys some quality reps while limiting action for our top players before our season opener next week.”
Fans are asked to bring a shower towel to tonight’s scrimmage for player use after games and practices.