Rick Giampietri looks happy. Very happy. In fact, as football coaches go, he looks downright giddy.
The Central Valley head coach had just completed his second day of turnouts for the 2011 season and his well-tanned face framed a broad smile. The kind of smile you see on the face of a youngster who got everything on their Christmas list.
“Our offensive line looks really good,” he said. “That was a concern for us coming in, but a bunch of seniors stepped up during summer camp and just took over. They’re really playing well already.
“They’re not that big – not big like the kind of kids we’ve had in the past. But they’re fast and they’re athletic.”
The Bears graduated a batch of three-year starters from their offensive line a year ago, leaving natural question marks. Senior Jay Jay Talafili, a starter at defensive tackle last year, took over the starting job at right guard. Senior T.J. Torman stepped in to nab the starting job at center and classmate Tyler Conners did the same at right tackle while junior Shawn Buck grabbed the job at left guard.
“We had a group of sophomores that we were looking at to start in those spots, but those seniors – especially the seniors – just took over those jobs,” Giampietri explained. “And really, that’s what you want to see. You want to see your seniors take over and lead by example like that.”
The coach said he’s still looking for quality back-ups at those positions – an especially important role with most of his offensive line also starting on the defensive line.
“We need to find someone to step in and take maybe 10 plays per game for those guys,” he said. “We need to give them a breather. Right now we’re not that deep.”
The coach said he was particularly happy with the way his squad worked in the weight room over the summer and participated in the program’s speed camp.
“We had great participation in the weight room and our coaches did a great job running that,” he said. “And we had a great summer camp. We worked against a lot of teams and not one of them beat us on the line and we moved the ball against everyone.”
A fast start will be critical for the Bears this season, Giampietri said. “We start with Mt. Spokane and we didn’t see them last year, and we’ll know if we’re going to be in the playoffs by Week 6. We have Mead Week 2, University, which is always a tough game for us, in Week 4, and then we have Ferris and Gonzaga Prep in Weeks 5 and 6. We’ll definitely know how good we are by then.”
• Third-year coach Bill Diedrick is pleased with the growth his University Titans made during the summer camp – an integral part of building his program.
“Between spring football and summer camps, we get a lot of work done,” he said. “We’re able to stay with our players and work with them. I think if we were to just say good-bye to them at the end of one season and not see them again for nine months, we’d be so far behind that we’d never catch up.”
After two seasons and three summers together, Diedrick said the program starts each new season a little farther down the road.
This year’s senior class members are the only ones who have played under a different head coach and Diedrick said having an established relationship with his players pays dividends.
“Football is really all about teaching,” he insists. “There’s a little more yelling than you can do in the classroom, but you’re there every day to teach.”
Diedrick spent some time reinforcing one of his primary lessons after practice – putting a small group of players through some extra conditioning because they’d showed up late for a meeting.
U-Hi players are expected to be there early, he explained. Just being on time isn’t good enough.
On Day 2 of the season, Diedrick already was stressing tempo to his squad – a key ingredient to the offensive philosophy he developed over his long tenure in both Division I college football and in the Canadian Football League.
“You have to practice at game tempo,” he said. “You don’t have time to stand around during a game with your hands on your knees breathing hard.”
He told his group that he was pleased with their second-day tempo, but promised to push that level even faster each day.”
Once again the Titans can’t ease into their GSL schedule, opening with consecutive games against Ferris, Lewis and Clark, Gonzaga Prep and rival Central Valley.