Even though the Hoover High football team cut its spring practices short by a week, the two and a half weeks the Tornadoes did spend going through their paces sans helmets and pads on the practice field were still a considerable step up from last offseason.
Hired late last May, second-year Hoover Coach Andrew Policky didn't even get his staff assembled until the summer, much less stage a spring session last season. Now the Tornadoes are looking to get an early start on turning the corner from last year's 0-10 campaign.
"It's made a huge difference because now we're getting to learn the plays five months before the season even starts and last year we had maybe two months to learn the plays," senior-to-be outside linebacker Zach Hanson said. "We're learning the scheme of things months before the season even starts and it helps a lot for the younger kids."
One of the first orders of business is identifying replacements for key offensive skill position starters that aren't returning, such as All-Pacific League tailback Luke Tabayoyong and quarterback Alex Rangel.
"Those two guys are going to be tough to replace," said Policky, who decided to end spring workouts on Thursday to give his players time to concentrate on finals. "But we have a few backs coming back that we like a lot."
Senior-to-be Brendon Kerr, who was slated to share snaps with Rangel last year before injuring his hand, is the leading candidate for the quarterback position, while Policky is favoring a running-back-by-committee approach in the backfield.
Seniors-to-be Ryan Blanks and Justin Nam are the primary ball-carrying options at this point. Three of the Tornadoes' starting offensive linemen, seniors-to-be Gio Martinez, Juan Lomeli and Jeffrey Truong are back as top receivers and seniors-to-be Donovan Malone and Rafael Martinez.
Policky said his team finally began to look comfortable with a traditional Wing-T set late last season and he intends to set the framework from the start this year.
"I feel as though we have a better understanding of what we're doing now. We have a better understanding of how the offense works and the direction the coaches want to take us," Kerr said. "It's just really nice to have a structure now and a format we can start practicing and start picking up the pace.
"It's nice because compared to last year that the younger guys coming up, who haven't played, actually understand what they're doing and why they're doing it."
On defense, Policky said he's encouraged by the athletic ability he's seen in early workouts and thinks the linebackers, led by senior-to-be Patrick Kesacheckian, and the secondary, led by Martinez, is showing aptitude for improvement.
"The defense is a lot more athletic because last year it was mostly juniors playing on our defense and now we're seniors, so we've learned a lot from last season," Hanson said.
The Tornadoes will be back on the field June 18 when the summer session begins.
"We just need to perfect our plays and perfect everything that we do as individuals and as a team," Hanson said. "Just perfect the offense, the defense and make sure we have everything down because last year it was a problem where people wouldn't know certain things to do on the offense and the defense."