In spring football, the name of the game is improvement. It's about tinkering and finding out what you have in the cupboard as the weather heats up and summer camp creeps closer.
Whether their schools are in the middle of spring ball or wrapping things up until summer -- Bluffton and Beaufort hosted spring games Friday evening -- area coaches are trying to figure out just what's in store for the fall.
"This is my first spring practice. We're just getting down to basics," Ridgeland-Hardeeville High's Jahmaal Nelson said. "You think about it: I lost eight kids from offense last year and 13 from defense that had played in some capacity. We've got so many young kids out there."
That's on a team that won a region championship a year ago, one that's trying to find a starting quarterback (last year's part-time signal-caller Frank Fields is back, but Nelson says he has three others battling for playing time) while also integrating a new coaching staff.
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"We're doing a lot of teaching, a lot of basics, the fundamentals of football," Nelson said.
That seems to be a theme this time of year. Over at Beaufort High, coach Mark Clifford says he's recruited kids from all over campus to join the football squad.
"Even got a kid out of band," Clifford said. "Since we're so young and so new, we haven't done a whole lot of team drills. Mostly individual, fundamental group drills. The main objective (at Friday night's spring game) is just to learn and get a little bit better."
Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher might be blessed with the region's best player, DL/OL Nyles Pinckney, but it's finding enough other players to field a full squad that is a challenge. Hatcher said his numbers are low right now, partially because of injuries -- low enough that the Warriors' spring game next week will mostly consist of seven-on-seven drills.
"Our numbers are not what they should be," Hatcher said.
One school that has the luxury of bringing back an experienced core is Hilton Head Island High, which returns the bulk of its offense and many of its defensive parts as well. That has helped things run a little smoother, coach B.J. Payne says, but that doesn't mean there's not some experimenting to do.
Some players have been pushed into new positions, while others are fine-tuning a playbook that doesn't change much from year to year. But if there's something new to be added, this is the time to test it out.
"For us, it gives us a better chance to re-evaluate," Payne said. "We have guys that will be going into this year as their fourth year as starters. They know what's expected of them. We don't change a ton of stuff that we do. Spring does give you an opportunity to look at a couple of different things."
Those experiments could come in handy in late August, when the lights go on and the hits get all too real once again, when the groundwork laid in the spring hopefully turns to wins in the fall.
Follow reporter Kendall Salter at twitter.com/IPBG_Kendall.