For Jerry Edwards, the start of spring football Tuesday was bigger than the start of Year 2 at the helm of the Harker Heights football program.
For Edwards — who arrived on the eve of the high school football season last fall — Tuesday marked the beginning of his first chance to truly start shaping the program to his liking.
“To get an offseason and to get a spring ball to really kind of put your stamp on the program and emphasize what we want to emphasize is going to pay big dividends,” Edwards said.
Edwards and the Knights will have to wait until the fall to see dividends paid on Friday nights, but for now, they are simply enjoying having an offseason together — something they didn’t have last year.
And Edwards and his staff haven’t wasted any time in that regard.
“It’s amazing, especially after the offseason he and his staff have put us through,” quarterback Troy Smith said. “I think it was the most vigorous offseason we’ve been through of my career at Heights.”
The Knights return 11 starters, eight on defense.
Edwards said, because of that, he’s expecting significant improvement on that side of the ball.
And while defense was a concern for the Knights last year, as they allowed 40-plus points in each of the final four games of the season, the team is hoping its biggest improvement next season is a mental one.
“Learning how to come out of the gate strong and to finish strong and to be mentally tough and to not let one bad thing in a game kind of get us down is important,” Edwards said. “To have that mental edge and that swagger about us when we take the field is important. We’re protecting that shield and that shield means a lot to us and we’re going to represent Harker Heights the best we can.”
Smith, a rising senior who has started under center for Heights since his sophomore year, said Edwards’ offseason weight program has already helped the Knights in that respect.
Under Edwards, Smith said, he and his teammates have been pushed in ways he hasn’t seen since joining the program.
“We’ve been doing a vigorous weight program this year more than other years — a whole bunch of sets of power cleans, heavy lifting on the floor and also on turf,” Smith said.
But for Edwards and his players, the stability heading into his second season as head coach is the biggest difference between last fall and now.
And with that stability comes a chance to slow down and ensure that the players are able to do what Edwards called the Knights’ No. 1 priority this spring, and that is to learn.
“It’s exciting to be able to go through the offseason and kind of implement what we really want to do,” Edwards said. “It is valuable to have the time and not be so pressed on time, to kind of slow it down. And it’s been a good time for the kids to get to know me, me to get to know them, what my expectations are, how we’re going to work and how we’re going to approach each day.”