Portales senior Phoenix Russell was happy playing cornerback last season, but he’s looking forward to moving to the other side of the ball this fall.
Russell, the Rams’ backup quarterback in 2010, is taking over under center for the graduated J.J. Collins and hopes to help PHS make big strides after going 1-9 a year ago.
“There’s a lot more responsibility to it, but that’s what it takes to be a quarterback,” said Russell, who started the team’s first two games at QB last season with Collins nursing an injury.
The fact he’s already played the position at the varsity level should help ease the transition. A spread formation team last season, PHS plans to plan some spread and some I-formation in 2011.
“Some stuff’s new, but it’s not hard to learn,” the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Russell said. “It should all work out pretty well with the personnel we’ve got.”
The Rams, going from 4 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m., were in pads for a second day on Friday as the first week began to wind down in the searing, near-100-degree heat. Next week, freshmen begin practice from 7:30 a.m. to around 10:30 or 11 a.m., coach Mark McAfee said, while the varsity/junior varsity candidates are slated to work under the lights from around 7:30 to 10 p.m.
Thursday’s first practice in full gear went well, McAfee said.
“The kids got after it,” he said. “We were able to make a little ‘noise’ (with pads popping), and that’s always exciting.”
McAfee said the Rams have between 55 and 60 players in the upper three classes, including 23 seniors. They return about a half-dozen starters on both sides of the ball, including four offensive linemen.
“Our base is pretty good,” he said. “We’re going to rest our hat on our offensive line this year.
“Having this extra week (of practice) is a tremendous help for us. It helps us implement our offense and defense.”
Russell said he’s ready to go, adding that he’s thought about playing QB since around fifth grade. He’ll still see spot duty on defense, but is ticketed for mostly offense.
“I liked corner, but quarterback is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “We’re improved over last year. We’ve got a lot of seniors and we’re ready to go.”
Portales has a scrimmage on tap Aug. 19 at Lubbock Christian before opening the season against Las Vegas Robertson a week later at Greyhound Stadium.