Albany High’s Derrick Odom, left, defends Cortez Roberts during offseason conditioning drills last week at Albany High School. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — Malik Dungee wakes up early most mornings and heads for the fieldhouse at Albany High School. He’d like nothing more than to sleep in, but he knows there are important things to do, especially if he wants to continue to play athletics at the collegiate level.
His participation in offseason weightlifting and conditioning drills isn’t mandatory, but Dungee understands that this time of the year is when football games are won.
“This is a very intense time,” said Dungee, a rising senior who will likely play a variety of positions this fall for the Indians.
“This is hard work during the summer. We’re very focused during the morning when we get here to lift weights, then when we go out onto the field.”
Football coaches can’t make the workouts mandatory since that would constitute a violation of Georgia High School Association rules. In fact, the earliest date for mandatory football conditioning is July 25.
But Dungee and many members of the Albany High team know this time of the year is about improving, getting stronger and worrying about the Indians. There is no need to break down opponents’ game film or run a scout team offense. There will be plenty of time for that later.
Voluntary conditioning drills are what most high school teams across the nation do this time of the year — anything to get better and improve their chances of winning games later this season.
While many of the teams will scrimmage in 7-on-7 passing leagues, these workouts are an opportunity to work on fundamentals and techniques.
“If many of the athletes wait until workouts are mandatory, they will be so far behind,” Albany football coach Felton Williams said. “We have a good nucleus of kids that have been here every day this summer.”
The Indians have been working out from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday with the first two hours devoted to weight lifting. The last two hours are for field workouts. Since much of the live action centers on passing drills, non-skilled players such as the offensive and defensive lineman have their own voluntary drills.
“What we do this time of year determines what kind of season we have during the fall,” Williams said. “It’s very important.”
While the workouts can be intense, it’s also a chance for the players to have some fun. During live passing drills last week, Cortez Roberts hauled in a pass, just a step in front of linebacker Derrick Odom. A collective “oohs” came from the rest of the players who saw Roberts’ catch.
“In order to be good over there, we’ve got to be good over here,” linebacker/running back Jalen Guest said, pointing to Hugh Mills Stadium across the street.
“We’ve got to work extra harder to become the best we can be.”
Williams said his players aren’t looking at game film of their opponents, but there is film study. The NFL High School Player Development produces DVDs designed to help improve upon fundamentals.
Williams said he’s told his assistants that he doesn’t want to “re-invent the wheel.”
“But if there is something they can take from those DVDs that is going to make us better then I’m all for it,” he said.
The players seemed to enjoy the workouts. There is plenty of time later to get serious.
“We really enjoy trying to make ourselves better,” Guest said. “And competition makes us better as a team.”