Portales Rams coach Mark McAfee liked what he saw Monday as his team took the field for its first day of workouts.
Approximately 50 varsity players attended the workout on the first day of fall practice allowed under New Mexico Activities Association guidelines.
“The team hustled and their work ethic throughout the day was good. I think good things can happen,” said McAfee, in his second stint as Rams head coach after being named to replace Andy Correll this spring. “The majority of the juniors we had last year are seniors now. I think in football you’ve got to build on your strengths and right now I believe our offensive line is our strength.”
That means McAfee figures on running the ball a little more out of the Rams’ spread offense.
“We’re not saying we’re not going to throw the football any less,” McAfee said. “We’re going to control the tempo of the game through our running game and our passing game.”
Senior J.J. Collins and junior Phoenix Russell are battling for the starting quarterback position.
McAfee said opponents were able to wear down the Rams (3-8 overall, 1-2 in district) last season running the ball. McAfee said he plans to simplify his the defense, which he hopes will allow his players to react quicker.
“The kids tried hard and played hard for me, but I confused them,” said McAfee, the team’s defensive coordinator last season. “I made some changes trying to help them, and the only thing that happened (is) it confused them. This year what we are trying to do is keep it simple.”
Senior offensive linemen Justin Strawn said practice was a lot of fun.
“The one thing that stood out the most was how well everyone played together,” Strawn said. “We had very few big mistakes and hardly any slip-ups. Everyone knew what they were doing and were looking good.”
Strawn said he has taken upon himself to be a team leader.
“I want to be a better leader,” Strawn said, “the go-to-guy if someone has questions because last year we didn’t have that many guys to step up and I don’t want us to be in that position again.”