By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Spring workouts bring fall wins – at least that is what the ACU football team hopes will be the equation for 2007.
ACU, which started its spring training on March 19, hopes its focus and a work-equals-wins mentality during the offseason will be the fuel behind the Wildcats second-straight winning season and another playoff appearance in 2007.
“This is where all the work comes in, and in the fall we put it to use,” said returning all-conference linebacker Cody Stutts.
Spring training will end on Thursday after two inter-team scrimmages. ACU’s first scrimmage will be played at Shotwell Stadium at 10 a.m. Saturday, and another scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday at Shotwell at 7 p.m.
ACU is on the heels of one of the best seasons in the program’s history – 2006 was the Wildcats’ first NCAA Division II playoff appearance, its first eight-win season since 1981, and ACU finished the season with a No. 20 national ranking – and the coaches and players understand the pressure on their shoulders to meet the expectations after a successful season.
“How well we play later is a direct reflection of the work we put now,” said defensive coordinator Jason Johns.
Johns, who is in his second year as the Wildcats’ coordinator, said he anticipates his defense to be ready come August.
ACU will open its season against the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla., a game that returning starting quarterback Billy Malone is already focused on.
“I’m just thinking about UCO,” Malone said.
UCO is one of 11 teams ACU will play in 2007 and the first in a list of preseason opponents scheduled to prepare the Wildcats for the always-competitive Lone Star Conference South divisional play. Probably one of the Wildcats’ toughest opponents scheduled is NCAA Division I-AA Texas State.
Malone, a sophomore, is coming off of the best season of his career and will most likely be the Wildcats’ starting quarterback for his third season in a row. But despite his experience, Malone admits he still has a lot to gain from spring training.
“You can never learn enough,” Malone said.
Jody Walker, sophomore outside linebacker, said his personal goals for spring training is to get stronger and focus on finishing when it counts the most.
“It started after we lost [in the playoffs],” Walker said. “The main point is we need to finish everything,”
Walker said the work put in is worth the fruits of success in the fall, but sometimes the early morning workouts get to him.
“Those 6 a.m. workouts are tough at times,” Walker said.