Tifton Gazette

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July 8, 2014

Young gridders learn skills at Tiftarea

CHULA — Timing gave a handful of young campers at Tiftarea Academy fits at one point Tuesday morning. Dan Henderson would demonstrate a three-point stance, make sure everyone was in the right position and then he would signal for them to come off the bit of chalk that served as their line of scrimmage.

Henderson's signal caught a few off-guard. Some broke too early, others broke too late. Timing improved over a few tries, then, when the whistle for a water break came, the run to the Gatorade bottles was in perfect sync.

The group at Ryan Branch's annual football camp were future gridiron stars. There were 50 of them there, by Branch's estimation and ranged in age from first graders to sixth. There had been some fluctuation in numbers as a few here and a few there were going to or coming back from vacation. The camp, which started Monday, was slated to run through Thursday.

The focus was offensive and defensive skills, he said. Drills were adapted from those used at the NFL combine.

Camp was split into two sessions Tuesday. The kids worked on offensive skills during the first half. After a break in the cooled Tiftarea fieldhouse and a few minutes of film from the Panthers' 2013 game against Pinewood Christian, they were ready to go outside. Before they did, though, Branch led a call and response. He asked, "One thing we can always do?" "Hustle!" was the reply.

Defensive drills in the second half were set up as four stations, led by Branch and his assistants. Tackling was the focus of all of them, but in different situations. Some  did a shimmy move to be ready for a moving ballcarrier. Others drove a shoulder through and onto a padded surface and at another there were cone drills before rotating. Proper technique was stressed during all of them.

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