Blackman football coach Philip Shadowens and his staff spent the offseason dissecting video, trying to figure out what went wrong last season.
Sure, an 8-4 season was nothing to be upset about. But the Blaze weren’t where the staff wanted to be.
What they found was the Blaze had taken a step back in what had put the program on the map. They weren’t as physical of a football team.
“The thing that stood out when we were looking at video was that we were not as physical of a football team, which you have to be to be hugely successful,” Shadowens said. “We had a good year, but we wanted to progress and the thing that stood out when we were breaking down film was a lack of physicality.
“That became our focus after Christmas. We put them through physical and tough drills (in the spring). They all bought into it and I think they understand why we did it.”
It appeared to work out in the Blaze’s 20-7 Week 0 win over Independence. Blackman (1-0) held the Eagles to 122 yards of total offense after giving up 255 yards the year prior.
“We worked out a lot in the summer on getting more physical,” Blackman senior K.J. Wilkerson said. “It’s paid off during the summer. We had to be strong and not give up. Coach always tells us to be more physical and tough.
“I think everyone came out and worked out harder than last year.”
During the offseason, the Blaze theme was to “Be Tough.” However, that’s been changed to “Be Physical” since the season began.
“Be Physical, that’s basically what we try to do when we come out in practice or in games,” Blackman junior Antonio Allen said. “We try to execute and live by being physical on the field.”
That new found physicality is on both sides of the ball. But it’s especially noticeable on defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Williams. Blackman gave up 333.4 yards a game on defense last season, including 186.7 on the ground. Opponents scored 24.2 points a game in 2011.
“I think coach (Steve) Williams helped out with some new schemes,” Allen said. “But it’s basically our new motto, that’s helped out.”
Blackman players went through various offseason drills meant to make them not only stronger, but give them an edge in physicality.
It involved flipping tires, tug of war with tires. Penalties were given to the teams that loss and rewards to the winners. No player was left behind.
“We wanted our team to become more competitive,” Shadowens said. “We knew we were going to have more kids playing that hadn’t played in the past. You had to be tough to get through what we put them through.
“Players were either in or out. There was no in between.”
Shadowens split the roster into four teams. The plan was to raise the competition level and make teammates rely on each other.
“We wanted them to go out and compete,” Shadowens said. “We want them to be physical. That’s our thing.”
Shadowens and other members of the coaching staff have seen that the offseason has paid off it. Will it equate to a better season and perhaps a deeper postseason run? Who knows.
But this team is increasingly different.
It’s a team on defense that’s not afraid to hit an opponent.
“We’ve been working on this since January,” Blackman defensive lineman J.J. Lord said. “We wanted to get stronger, get better and of course get more physical as a team.
“We’re a whole lot more physical on defense this year. We’re kind of clicking as a team. We’re more determined. We bring a lot more pain this year than last year.”