7-on-7 football is coming, and despite a lack of linemen or coaches, programs value the offseason workout.
For many high school teams across the state, preparation in the off-season can be extensive. Successful summers typically include weeks of skill developing camps, long hours in the weight room and dreaded two-a-days. The preparation doesn’t stop there, though, as many teams compete in 7-on-7 tournaments.
With the absence of linemen and the inability of coaches to participate, 7-on-7 is not much more than two-hand touch on a smaller scale field to many fans - after all, Texas football is all about hard-hitting defense, fast-paced running games and mouthy coaches that bring energy to the sidelines.
But for many coaches, 7-on-7 is more than a watered down version of real competition; the state tournament, held at Texas A&M, typically brings in around 130 teams ready to scout their primary competitors for the fall. And for several decorated coaches, their team’s involvement in 7-on-7 has its perks. Seth Stinton, head coach of the Melissa Cardinals, believes the game is great way to ease into a team atmosphere.
“It just gives them an opportunity to play together and get to know each other - for us it’s a pretty big deal,” Stinton said.
And for Melissa, their experience in the 7-on-7 state championship only prepared them for the 2A state title they would earn in December.
Many may argue that 7-on-7 is simply to showcase a quarterback’s play-calling skills, and that often times fundamentals fly out the door. Since the quarterback only has four seconds to throw the ball and there are no linemen to defend the backfield, mistakes are often picked up that weren’t as big of issues during regular season competition.
For Gatesville Hornets head coach Kyle Cooper, the fast paced routes and pressure on the thrower sometimes pose problems.
“Injury is my biggest concern but I also notice sometimes there’s bad habits formed like with a lack of ball security,” said Cooper. “Occasionally there’s a lack of detail to smaller things that we as coaches look at everyday in an office or draw up a thousand times on a board.”
Lack of attention to detail can only be expected with high school players, since 7-on-7 rules state that coaches cannot call plays and must sit in the end zone to simply observe the game.
Yes, listening and responding to a coaches advice is key in competition, but for Coach Cooper, staying out of the huddle brings much more to the table for his team.
“Coaches are important, but the opportunity to throw and catch with each other on a weekly basis is invaluable. They get a sense of camaraderie when coach isn’t looking over their shoulder. Natural leaders step up and we have a chance to form as a team,” said Cooper. “It doesn’t matter what we as coaches know, it’s entirely up to the team to bond and mesh.”
And for Hornets receiver Tyler Jaynes, changes in rules from 7-on-7 to fall’s eleven man don’t matter much.
“I think if you’re able to get a ball in your hands and have fun and run it going into the start of two-a-days, you’re already a step ahead of the competition in knowledge and skill.”
For a complete list of 7-on-7 State Qualifying Tournaments, click here.
Samantha Emerson is the special contributor to Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.