Despite some adverse weather conditions on Friday, the Black Hills State University football team is plowing straight ahead with its annual Green and White Spring Game today at Lyle Hare Stadium.
The recent spring snowstorm may have closed the Interstate from Rapid City to Sioux Falls on Friday and left many at home playing hooky from work or school, but Spearfish fared a little better than anticipated, and it is game on beginning at 11 a.m.
"You never know in the Black Hills of South Dakota what kind of weather you are going to get, but we are excited to get this game in," BHSU coach John Reiners said. "Barring anything really happening, we should get the field cleared. We've had to kind of bob-and-weave through the weather, but for the most part, we've had some very, very good days to practice and really got a lot accomplished."
The spring game is the completion of the NCAA mandatory 15-practice spring schedule, and despite the weather, Reiners said it has been a good spring.
He said that when you look at the three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — what their coaches are looking for is the basic evaluation of the players. He said some of the players who were role players last year that might be a starter this year, they need to get them some confidence and get them going in their new role.
"Obviously nothing is ever set, but you start to get a better idea of who is ready and who is stepping up, those kind of things," he said. "I just know that talking to Coach (Anthony) Kerr, Coach (Evan) Eastburn, Coach (Jay) Smith and Coach (Randy) Doran, they like what they are seeing."
Offensively, the Jackets focused on their run game, which is no longer led by all-time leading rusher Phydell Paris. Reiners said they worked on their base runs.
"We practiced them more than in the past springs," he said. "We ran some of our other run-game concepts, but really, we focused mainly on our zone game, and some other simple concepts that we want to be really good at."
Another focus offensively has been on their competition percentage from their passing game, led by senior quarterback Ryan Hommel, who will be a four-year starter this fall.
"The things that come into play there is, No. 1, Ryan makes the right reads. No. 2, we catch the ball, and No. 3, we have great protection," Reiners said. "We set some goals to where we wanted to be, and I fell like we reached those this spring."
While Reiners said they still want a vertical passing game, they know they have to take the underneath stuff there and be able to put the down markers.
He said that Eastburn, the offensive coordinator, has tracked their competition percentage for every quarterback, and they feel like they have improved.
"But you have to have everything work across the board. Unfortunately, the only thing that goes into the stat books is for the quarterback," he said.
Reiners said that Kerr, the defensive coordinator, had a few new wrinkles that he wanted to add this spring in the coverage and up front.
"We're always self scouting ourselves and see what people can take advantage of," Reiners said. "Some of those wrinkles really gave (the offense) fits this spring. I'm excited to see some of those come into play this fall."
All-in-all, Reiners has said all spring that his team has competed well despite the adversity of the weather the last few weeks.
"I've had to juggle our spring-ball schedule more this year than I have ever have had to," he said. "I'm talking late at night, switching and going in the morning, maybe inside once. We went Saturday-Sunday once because those were the two best days that we had. These guys just rolled with it and kudos to them."
Reiners said it will be a game-type format today where all phases of the game is in place. The quarterbacks are live and kickoffs and full punts will be utilized. They have divided into two teams — the Green and the White — and will play four 10-minute quarters with a running clock until the final two minutes of each quarter.
It will be as close as a true football game as they can get under the circumstances of playing each other. Reiners said his players like the format as it will give them a little competition, which he said is always healthy.
"We split the teams this week and let those guys practice together," he said. "They get a little chippy with each other, which is good; it's what you want. It's what competition is all about. Come (today), it will be Green vs. White. Then at the end, we'll hug it up and be on the same team."