Strong summer has Bulldogs with high hopes

Published 12:05 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

Andalusia’s season kicks off on Aug. 20 against Brooks in the Champions Challenge in Montgomery.

Andalusia’s season kicks off on Aug. 20 against Brooks in the Champions Challenge in Montgomery.

The Andalusia Bulldogs will enter the 2016 AHSAA football season with high expectations after a solid summer of workouts and drills.

“It has been a really good summer,” Taylor said. “I know that the kids are excited about Monday and getting this thing started.”

Monday will be the first day that the AHSAA allows its member schools to practice in full pads.

“The participation this summer has been outstanding,” Taylor said. “It has just been amazing the way that they have turned out. With the exception of a few church camps or things like that, we have had nearly 100 percent participation.”

Taylor said that during the month of June the Bulldogs spent most of the time lifting weights.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of football in June,” Taylor said. “We wanted to spend that last month getting stronger in the weight room, and we also did some agility drills.”

The Bulldogs maxed out in the weight room a few weeks back, and Taylor said he was very impressed with what he saw.

“When we maxed out a few weeks ago, most of our kids made pretty impressive improvements. The guys who are benching 300 pounds and squatting 500, now obviously they aren’t going to be making any huge jumps, but they all showed improvement.”

In July, Taylor said things shifted to more football focus.

“When we got to July we started concentrating more on the things that we will be doing on the field,” Taylor said. “It has been sort of weird July, though. The fourth was on a Monday and then we had dead week, so there wasn’t as much time as there normally is. Practice can always start on the first Monday in Aug., and this year with the first Monday will be August 1. It usually winds up being a week later, and that would have given us an extra week.”

One thing that Taylor said really has impressed him have been the level of commitment by the players.

“Most impressive thing has been our number have held true,” Taylor said. “When we left school in May we had around 95 players and we have 93 now. It’s been impressive to me how they have hung in there and continued to work like they have.”

On Monday, the Bulldogs went up to Troy and competed in an 11-on-11 camp against Spanish Fort, Theodore and Eufaula.

“It went really well,” Taylor said of the camp. “It was a good opportunity for us to see how we match up with against bigger competition, and I thought we held our own.”

Even though it’s hard to gauge how effective the running game can be in two-hand touch, but Taylor said he still liked what he saw.

“It’s not easy to really gauge how effective the offensive line was in those types of games, but what we are looking for is are we getting to the right spots, are our hats in the right place and looking at the footwork,” Taylor said. “With that said, I felt like the offensive line executed the run game well.”

That’s an important step for the Bulldogs who must replace three key offensive lineman off last year’s team.

“The offensive line is still the area that needs the most work,” Taylor said. “That’s what happens though when you graduate three lineman who had started the last three years. Not only were they good, but they had experience. We knew coming in that this would be an area we had to work hard on. In the spring, we didn’t make the strides there that we wanted, but they kept after over the summer. It’s the area that needs the most work, but it’s also the area that has made the most strides over the summer. They still have a little ways to go.”

Outside of the offensive line, Taylor said the Bulldogs return experienced players to every position.

“Besides the offensive line, we have experienced guys returning to every position,” Taylor said. “Still there are plenty of things to improve on, but we are getting there.”

Taylor said that during the 11-on-11 camp, the Bulldogs defensive secondary looked strong.

“There was a lot of passing in the camp, and I thought our secondary did an outstanding job defending the deep ball,” Taylor said. “I can only think of a few times that we got beat deep against those three teams and the quarterbacks were throwing 300 or 400 balls during that time. They got us on some underneath stuff, but it’s hard to stop those types of passes when you don’t have a pass rush.”

Taylor said they knew going in that their defense was undersized, especially going up against much larger schools.

“We know that our defense is going to be undersized,” Taylor. “Playing against bigger teams and that’s easy to see, but I thought our guys did an outstanding job.”

Andalusia will open up the season on August 20 when they travel to Montgomery to take on Brooks in the Champions Challenge.