Garden City, KS-Jeff Sims likes to know what he has right from the get go. But the answers he seeks doesn’t come from lineman drills or defensive concepts. Watching a quarterback and wide receiver hook up on a skinny post when there is no pass rush tells the veteran coach very little.
In more than 20 years of coaching, Sims has always utilized the first day of fall camp for conditioning. Because of NJCAA rules, organized team activities are forbidden during the summer. So from May through July, players are responsible for staying in shape and running drills.
“Student athletes are so different today,” Sims said following the first day of fall practice on Wednesday. “20 years ago, most guys were just ready to go. Now, the majority of these guys come in out of shape.”
Now what Sims is doing isn’t a new idea by any stretch. Coaches all over the conference and throughout the country run conditioning drills. The difference here is there were no helmets or footballs on the field on Wednesday.
“It’s really a safety concern,” Sims added. “You have to be able to get these guys to a place where they can compete.”
During conditioning drills last year, defensive back Warren Saba, who is now at East Carolina, looked like Michael Lewis, flying past the other 100 or so players with his neon green cleats. He was probably the only impressive standout on day one in 2017.
Fast forward to this year, and the guy flashing sideline-to-sideline speed may surprise some. But if you’ve caught a glimpse of Garden City High School the past few years, Demarcus Elliott sprinting by teammates is hardly a shock.
During the hatchet game last year vs. Dodge City, Elliott chased down quarterback Beau Foster, put his arms around the signal caller before reaching up to bat the pass in the air. After locating the football, Elliott reeled in the pick and surged down the left sideline. Cue the “in awe” emojis.
“Demarcus has worked really hard this summer,” Sims said. “He has something to prove.”
Elliott is fresh off a six-tackle performance in the Shrine Bowl on Saturday where he looked every bit the part of the 6A player of the year. And while it’s only day one, and while no one was in pads, the freshman definitely looked like he belonged.
“It shows that he’s been working,” Sims said. “It also shows how much work some of these other guys need to put it in. There are a lot of players that are just flat out of shape.”
Before Elliott showcased his nifty footwork, returning running backs Dedrick Mills and Charles West flashed the speed and potential that could give Garden City one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in the conference. Both players ran the 50-yard wind sprints with ease. Then, while still sucking air, the two blazed a 4.25 40-yard dash.
“Charles and Dedrick killed it today,” Sims said. “To be able to run a 40 time like that after running 36 50’s was impressive.”
Mills looks healthy after missing most of last season with a broken collarbone, an injury suffered on a 50-yard carry vs. Highland. The transfer from Georgia Tech was all business.
“I made a joke that if no one can pass conditioning, we will just run double reverses with Dedrick and Charles,” Sims said with a smile.
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