It is completely normal for the focus and mindset of pretty much every high school football team in Georgia to switch during offseason workouts as the calendar changes from June to July.
But at Mountain View, that process involves the turning of the page in more than one respect.
Of course, the most obvious way is the nature of the summer workouts, and exactly how each individual player and position units about about those workouts.
And head coach Rob Kellogg says he his staff have ways of emphasizing and explaining the hows and whys of the shifting focus to the Bears players as the beginning of preseason practice of the 2019 campaign approaches at the end of the month.
“June is kind of what we call an external month,” Kellogg explained. “We have a lot of kids off at camps. We participate in padded camps and 7-on-7s, but we don’t have consistent attendance just because we have kids off doing football-related things, just not with us, which is fine. We certainly encourage (participating in individual camps).
“Then July, we kind of call that an internal month when we start looking at not (being) worried about competition with anybody else and just kind of focusing on the things we want to get done to improve ourselves. … “We’re very up front with them in terms of what we’re trying to get done in June and encouraging them to do other things rather than just come be with us. But July’s a different deal. It just is. In July, we’ve got to begin to shine. We have guys we know we can count on. They understand that."
The other reason that Kellogg finds it important to for the team to shift its focus in July has to do with the makeup of the team for 2019.
While there are some players returning from last year’s 8-3 playoff team, the Bears must turn the page from a recently-graduated senior class that saw the the most success in the program’s relatively brief history, including a 24-10 record and Mountain View’s first three postseason berths.
And he is counting on this group to build on that success.
“That group, they were by far the most successful group we’ve had in football,” said of Mountain View’s class of 2019. “The thing I’ve noticed with the group that we have now that are rising seniors is we still understand how difficult it is, but they expect to be successful. And I think when you expect that, they’ve seen the growth and been part of the growth.
“So now when they come through, this is a seven- or eight-win football team in the program we’re in. So we want to improve upon that. That’s kind of the benefit — the expectations being a little bit higher than they’ve been (in the past).”
Kellogg and the Mountain View staff is confident those players he and the staff can count on that he mentioned before will emphasize the change in expectations to some of the younger players.
He is also confident that some of those players, like running back Enoch Walters, who accounted for more than 500 yards of total offense and five touchdowns last season, and the heir apparent at quarterback Nathan Payne, and others will step forward with their preparations as the season draws closer.
“It would definitely start with Enoch in terms of offense,” Kellogg said. “Then our quarterback, who’s going to be a junior, Nathan Payne. He’s got a big arm. He’s a big kid, very athletic, and we’re looking for big things from him. On the offensive line, we don’t have Aidan Higgins (anymore), but we have two or three — particularly Kyle Brown — that we feel like can be dominant-type leaders. Then the receiver corps is deep. We don’t have (receivers) we’ve been blessed with like Jalen Virgil and Malachi Carter and Thomas Stewart. That’s a real blessing, but we’ve got several this year.
“Then defensively, we’re returning a lot of guys just because we were so young last year. So the defense should theoretically be ahead of the offense early on. We feel like with so many of those guys coming back on defense, we’re in a pretty good spot.”
In the end, just how good a spot the Bears will be in as the beginning of practice approaches, and beyond, will depend on how well they adjust to the change in approach that the coaching staff is preaching.
And Kellogg says he and his assistants are taking tangible steps to try to make that transition go more smoothly.
“It looks more like a practice would look without (actually) practicing, obviously,” said of how he has changed workout schedules this month. “We do plans and specific practice periods every day, understanding that we’re still in summer and we’re not trying to win a state championship tomorrow or anything. But we do want the kids to understand the practice pace a little bit and just moving from one workout to the next. So that’s a big change (from June), just being a little regimented on doing complex plays like we would at practice.”