By T. Scott Boatright
The start of fall football camps for high school is about to begin, even in the blazing temperatures that Lincoln Parish has been sizzling in recently.
Ruston High School’s football team has been hard at it with strength and conditioning workouts and 7-on-7 sessions, and RHS head coach Jerrod Baugh said his Bearcats have handled the high temperatures so far.
“It’s been hot, but the players have handled it really well,” Baugh said. “And I like for that to happen. I like for them to get ready for it in the summer so they’ll be used to it by the start of the season and it hopefully won’t affect them as much.
“It’ll still be hot when the season starts, so it’s better to experience now. You’ll still have players cramp up sometimes once the season begins, but hopefully with them being more used to it, hopefully not as much.”
Baugh said he felt the 7-on-7 workouts were good for the Bearcats.
“We did that every Tuesday in June,” Baugh said of 7-on-7 competition. “I thought it went well. We had some good competition. We had Ouachita, Northwood, Southwood and Oak Grove come one time.
“I thought it was very productive. Of course it’s always good for the kids to be able to do something against another school.”
Baugh said senior Jaden Osborne and sophomore Joshua Brantley handled quarterbacking duties for the Bearcats during those competitions.
“They both got reps at quarterback for us,” Baugh said. “It was just a good opportunity for everybody to get some reps against some good competition.”
Baugh had hoped to potentially use the 6-4, 210-pound Brantley some at wide receiver because of his athletic ability and the offensive potential having him and Osborne on the field at the same time.
“That originally had been the plan but we hadn’t had that opportunity to make that happen yet,” Baugh said. “I’m hoping that as we move into fall camp we have the opportunity to play him some at receiver or if not, some other position, possibly.
“It’s just that a back-up quarterback is so valuable. We were able to do that last year with Dawson, so I’m hoping at some point to be able to do something with Josh. He’s very athletic and a smart kid who can pick up on whatever we’re trying to do, so I’m hoping that the situation allows itself for that to be able to happen.”
One thing that has helped Ruston’s signal callers has been the unexpected return of last year’s quarterbacks coach Steven Ensminger, who’s back with the Bearcats after a brief stint across time.
“We hated to lose him when he left and we’re more than happy to have him back,” Baugh said of Ensminger. “It helps with continuity and carryover from last year, including the structure of the way practice was.”
“After he left I had taken over the quarterbacks, so that took me away from some other things that I normally had been able to do and help with in practice. So having Steven back gives us somebody the kids are already used to and the quarterbacks are familiar with his individual position drills. They didn’t miss a beat when he came back in.”
Longtime NFL offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, who played at LSU with Bearcats defensive coordinator Kyle Williams and earned a Super Bowl ring in February as a starter for the Los Angeles Rams before deciding to retire, attended an RHS workout and talked to the team earlier this month.
“Of course he and Kyle are really good friends, so he was in town and came and talked to the kids,” Baugh said of Whitworth. “Anytime you have a player with that kind of experience, from winning three state championships to the Super Bowl in February, it’s good for those kids to hear and think about what he talks about. That’s something we try to do anytime the opportunity comes up.”
But now Baugh and the Bearcats have turned their attention toward the start of preseason workouts.
“It’s just about time,” Baugh said of the start of preseason practice. “And I’m ready. All the coaches are ready. The players are ready. It’s close enough now so that we’re ready for the wait to be over.”