HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—If it were up to offensive line coach Alex Mirabal nobody would keep stats during spring practice. No rushing, no passing, and especially no sacks totals would be kept during scrimmages because Mirabal says the numbers may look good they don’t mean a thing as he evaluates his linemen.
“Stats are stats. I don’t care about how many sacks we gave up there,” said Mirabal after Friday afternoon’s scrimmage.
The defense collected 11 “sacks” on the day. Although nobody was allowed to actually tackle the quarterbacks the plays were blown dead in the backfield. That’s one reason Mirabal does not put much stock in the stats but also he’s not evaluating the line as a unit right now.
“To me spring ball is about individual development. I worry about what our communication is like and self-improvement. If it were just the starters out there I’d be worried but it wasn’t and I’m not worried.”
Spring football is the one instance when coaches and players can focus on individual development. Coaches are looking to see if the quarterback can make the right throw with just a five-man protection or if the center makes the correct block calls. You want to see if the tackle can pass set. For Mirabal spring football practice is more about those concepts rather than how many “sacks” the defense is credited with during a scrimmage.
“I worried about self-improvement from each kid,” emphasized Mirabal. “If we wanted to run the power play, we could’ve run the power play every play and not thrown the ball and not been stopped. We have a check-list of protections and runs we want to do and we go and check to see.”
And over the last few practices Mirabal has liked what he has seen from some of his younger offensive linemen. Newcomers Sandley Jean-Felix, Chris Huhn and Cody Collins saw reps with the first-team during the scrimmage. While they still have a long way to go to be game ready, Mirabal feels things are just starting to click for the young blockers.
“We haven’t added anything. We put in a certain number of plays so we can evaluate our kids. It’s now allowed in the last week and two days to take those kids and take those techniques we’ve got and put them into action.”
“I think Sandley Jean-Felix, the light bulb has gone on and everything started to click. All the sudden Sandley Jean-Felix is playing right tackle and he’s next to Michael Selby and he’s a better player,” praised Mirabal. “A.J. Addison is getting better and [Chris] Huhn is getting better. Addison and Huhn need strength. They need to get in the weight program with Coach Sinclair.”
A year working with strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair will certainly add some size to Addison and Huhn. Addison had to drop down to 275 pounds at Fork Union Academy in Virginia and Huhn has been limited in the weight room due to a shoulder surgery.
“Those young guys still take a little bit longer,” complimented Mirabal. “I’m very, very happy with the development of our young offensive linemen.”