GLENDALE — In the step-by-step approach that Coach Alan Eberhart is taking in his hopes to rebuild and revitalize the Glendale High football program, one of many changes and improvements from last season to this spring is simply the steps it takes for the coach to get to his Nitros.
"It's much easier, I've felt very at ease. It's nice, my room's right there," said Eberhart, pointing to his classroom right next to Moyse Field. "I just walk right on to the field. It's been a nice transition."
A year ago at this time, Eberhart was still teaching at Crescenta Valley High and scrambling across town to Glendale for spring practices with a cast of players unfamiliar to him, his coaching style and his coaching schemes.
Eberhart admits last season, in every which way, was a more difficult endeavor than he anticipated. But things are vastly improved from then and now.
"We're a lot farther ahead this year," said Eberhart, whose team limped to a 1-9 record and an 0-7 showing in the Pacific League in his first year with the Nitros. "I really didn't know what I was getting into.
"I didn't understand how much pride needed to be instilled in the program."
Having just wrapped up a second week of spring ball, Eberhart believes his team has started to buy into him and his coaching staff, not to mention has become more disciplined. But he still cautions that improving won't come quickly.
"The problems were deep here. No. 1, you've gotta show up every day," said Eberhart who added that he routinely suspended players last year for missing practices. "We had to fix that."
In addition, he said many of the seniors on last year's squad didn't buy into his system.
That appears to have changed a bit thus far.
"We're starting to understand what Coach Eberhart wants now," said Alex Yoon, who will go into his junior year as the team's starting quarterback. "Now we're starting to develop and understand and we trust what he's doing."
In addition to the many pitfalls accompanying the rebuilding process, Eberhart and his staff are dealing with a bit of an injury bug. Evan Norton, who got some starting experience as quarterback in his sophomore year, will likely miss the entire summer after injuring his arm on just his third pass attempt during Glendale's first-ever Spring Passing Classic passing league on May 21. Norton's injury opened the door for Yoon. Dillon Fuller, a returning starter at defensive back and receiver, also has a nagging shoulder injury that could require surgery.
And while learning Eberhart's spread-passing offense that he had employed for years at Crescenta Valley was an arduous task for the team last season, a new offense will come into play. The Nitros will now run the wing-T, a run-heavy approach that is a polar opposite to the spread. It was a move made to make things simpler and to better suit the team's personnel.
"I actually think it's more suited to me," Yoon said. "I think I'm more of a running quarterback.
"I'm very slowly improving on my passing."
Nevertheless, according to Eberhart, it just worked out that way as the Nitros had elected to change the offense before Norton's injury.
"It's gone for this year at least," said Eberhart of the spread. "I think [the wing-T] gives us a chance."
Another change to a previous change is that the Nitros will take part in just three passing tournaments this offseason, with the aforementioned Spring Classic having been the first. Last summer, Eberhart's approach was to put his squad in as many seven-on-seven games as possible. But with a run-heavy offense and a lack of success learning on the fly in last year's passing leagues, Eberhart believes less is more this time around.
"You can't rebuild a culture of winning when you're getting beat all over the field and demoralized," he said.
A huge step in the right direction is simply the fact that the Nitros have far more experienced players returning than the three with starting experience last season. One was Fuller, who's back this season, as well. Also returning are receiver/defensive back Linden Anderson, running back Anthony Platero and offensive tackle Mark Attarian. In addition, Eberhart likes the potential of receiver Alex Maravilla and is impressed with the outlook for another receiver, Michael Davis.
One of Eberhart and his staff's biggest goals has been changing the way all the players conduct themselves on and off the field.
"In the offseason, we've done a lot about the grades, the discipline ... what it's like to act like a football player," he said.
And it seems as though it's another step in the right direction.
"We're better cause this group, we've been with them," Eberhart said. "They're gonna listen to what we want them to do."
More than anything, Eberhart and his staff want the Nitros to improve.
"I'd say this year's gonna be a lot better than last year," Yoon said.