Rams ‘pick up pace’ on first day of fall camp

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Sports Editor

For the first time in 20 years, West St. John began its fall camp on Monday without longtime Coach Laury Dupont at the helm.

For the first time, new Rams head coach Robert Valdez stood on the team’s field instead of the man who earned his 200th (and 208th) career victory in 2007. Now, Valdez begins his attempt to make his own mark at the school.

But first comes a transition period. One Valdez is fully aware of.

“There’s 20 years of a particular rhythm here that I have to interrupt,” Valdez laughed. “We’re really focusing on getting the kids used to a new practice tempo. We’re teaching them how we practice, and how we organize things.”

After months of 7-on-7 drills, conditioning and lifting, Valdez says this week will be used to install the squad’s offensive and defensive systems.

“We want to pick up the pace so that we can get as much in as we can before the season starts,” he says.

Many of his players will be learning both the offensive and defensive systems – players playing both ways is a necessity at a smaller school that currently rosters only 35 athletes.

    “We’re going to have to play a little bit of throwback ball,” Valdez says. “Players are going to be contributing on offense, defense, and special teams.”

So far, Valdez is pleased with what he’s seen from a group he says came into the week with great enthusiasm.

One of those players is junior quarterback Dray Joseph, who Valdez expects big things from. Joseph enters camp bulked up from a year ago, ready to take on extra responsibility.

Valdez says he’s ready to give just that to Joseph, who has started at the quarterback position since his freshman season.

“He’s so mature, and so smart,” says Valdez. “He’s a kid who’s been around. I can look at his strengths, and try to put a package in that allows he and some of our other athletes to go out and make plays.

“He picks things up so quickly. Really, he’s like a coach on the field. That frees me up to help out in other areas.”

The Rams worked on the kicking game Monday, and Valdez says the coaches were able to work more “in depth” with the players in individual drills.

All in all, it was a smooth beginning to this transitional phase.

“This team has been running on the same track for 20 years,” Valdez says. “I’m just trying to create a few new grooves in it.”