By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
FLORENCE – The Florence Buffaloes are about to step out of their underwear.
Not literally, of course.
But, head football coach Paul Smith likens putting on the pads after four days of non-contact workouts to dressing properly for a job.
"When we get out of our underwear and get the pads on, we will find out what is real and what's not," said Smith, who was the varsity assistant at Round Rock High before taking the helm at Florence a month ago.
Like most 1A-3A schools, the Buffaloes began two-a-days Monday and start wearing pads Friday. At that time, they will also shift from morning to evening practices.
"These first four days, we have had too much going on in the afternoon to be able to practice in the evening," Smith said. "It just worked out better; plus, it gave the kids a chance to ease into it and get acclimated to the heat. By the time we finish that second practice, it is getting warm."
One of the biggest challenges the Buffaloes face this upcoming season is learning Smith's spread offense. Under Monte Pierce last year, Florence also ran a spread offense.
Smith's version, though, is nothing like it. The first-year coach runs a similar, if not identical, offense as Round Rock Westwood, where he coached two years ago.
"Westwood leads their district in offense every year with kids that are good, but are not as fast or athletic as the kids they are playing against," Smith said.
Michael and Emilio Ramirez, who will hold down the safety positions this season and will also factor heavily into the offense for the Buffaloes, admitted there is a lot for the team to learn in a short time.
"It is a lot to learn," Michael said. "But, once we get it down I think it will be a pretty easy offense to learn. We used numbers last year, and now we are using more words."
Emilio added, "He told us he does not plan to have more than one back in the backfield and he wants to get everything way outside."
Both players said they believed the new offense would be a better fit for the team, noting the Buffaloes did not have the size to line up in the Power-I, like they switched to in mid-season in 2008.
Smith agreed with the junior safeties.
"On the outside it might look the same, but on the inside it is as different as night and day," he said. "What they are finding out is the detail to the spread."
Through the first few days of practice, Smith said he thought the kids were picking up of the new offense and defense – they are switching to a 4-2-5 – "really well."
Of course, Smith said he was well aware it could take awhile for a system to sink in with a team.
"We are barely scratching the surface and the quarterbacks heads are already spinning," Smith said. "I am getting to the point where I have to slow it down and let them catch back up."
One of the battles worth watching during Florence's two-a-day sessions is for the job of starting quarterback.
Currently, senior Brian Ross and junior Doak Hensley are option 1 and 1A at the position.
It just has not been determined who is which option, yet.
"I am going to give both of them a fair shot," Smith said. "One of them is going to be (the quarterback) and one is going to end up playing receiver.
"I am going to take as long as I need, but I will be as quick as I want to be (at choosing)."
Without the pads off, Smith was impressed with his offense and defensive lines, especially with defensive end Travis Applequist and center Garrett Daniels.
That could all change, though. And in a matter of only one day.
"Right now, I don't make any judgements," Smith said. "You can look great right now, but when you put pads on you can look like a Jane.
"Contact is the name of the game."
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569.
3A-1A Football Calendar
First day contact activities permitted
Saturday, Aug. 15
First day for interschool scrimmages
Thursday, Aug. 27
Regular season begins