Spring football practice was a lot smoother the second time around, Pecos Eagles' head coach Mike Belew said Thursday, and he's hoping that shows up three months from now, when preseason workouts for the 1997 season begin.
Belew arrived in Pecos in mid-April 1996 after taking over as the Eagles' head coach, and didn't have his entire staff in place until after the end of the school year. Pecos ended up with a 4-6 mark, a two-game improvement over 1994 and 1995, though the Eagles' District 4-4A record was 1-4 for the fourth year in a row.
"We came in with such a short period to adjust, and before you knew it we were into the season. Now the coaches have had a chance to evaluate the players and get a better feel for what they can do," Belew said.
Having gone through a full season under the system, the Eagles' coach said spring workouts "Looked real good. From this time last year to this year, it's like a night and day difference.
"We've been here a year and had a chance to get the program installed. The kids are a lot more advanced, and the coaching staff is a lot more advanced.
"Offensively and defensively, the kids are so much more familiar with the system, the terms and the execution of their assignments. ... The players and all the coaches have been together a year now, and I feel like it's better all the way around."
Belew said that because the players are more familiar with the system, the Eagles should be able to do more within it this fall.
"We can start adding things to the offense. Last year we were worried about adding to it, because the execution level might not have been there," he said, adding he and the other coaches also have a better idea about their starters for the 1997 season.
As of now, the Eagles are projected to have between 40 and 50 players on all three high school teams, and Belew was hoping to have between 40 and 45 out when preseason practice begins on Aug. 6, a month before the regular season opener at home versus Lamesa.
That may also mean fewer two-way players for Pecos Ï a long-standing problem which has hurt the Eagles in the past. "I think there's a possibility, but we still want to put the best players on the field all the time. Last year, we ran a little thin because of injuries. Hopefully, we won't, but I know it (playing two-ways) can be done.
"If we have enough depth and enough quality players, we won't have to," he added.
The spring workouts ended last week, but the weight room will open for the summer on June 9, and Belew hopes the players take advantage of it.
"I'll be there from 8 to 5, and at least one coach will be here to keep it open from 6 to 8 (p.m.). hopefully that will fit everybody's individual schedule," Belew said. "If they have a job where they can't workout in the mornings they can come at night, and if they work at night they can come during the day.
"A big part of determining success is how much you work out during the offseason. Most of the kids have been working real hard, and I hope they continue during the summer."
Pecos Eagles' senior Bryan Brownlee will be following in the family footsteps in remaining in West Texas to attend college, though he and his family are still waiting to see if he'll be getting a track scholarship as well.
Brownlee won nine gold medals in the discus and shot put this season, before finishing second and fourth in those events on May 9 at the Class 4A state track and field finals in Austin. On Thursday, his father James said Bryan would be going to Texas Tech University in Lubbock this fall.
"He hasn't gotten a scholarship to Tech yet, but he wanted to go there anyway," his father said. "They (Tech) talked to him Sunday night and said they'd like to show him around.
"He's going to go down there on the 22nd of June, but I don't know if they're going to offer him anything," he added.
Along with his state berth in track, Brownlee also advanced to the UIL regional academic competition in San Angelo in late April. He was the second family member to advance to the state track finals, after his grandfather, H.P. Bryan, did that in the shot put in the 1920s.
Eagles' track coach Mike Ferrell said last week Brownlee had a scholarship offer from Tech's Big 12 rival, A&M, along with Angelo State University.