It’s almost 9 a.m. by the time new Lansing High School head football coach John McCall dismisses his team for the day during their second day of summer workouts.
The release is earlier than McCall planned and was brought on by a basketball camp some of his new players have to attend.
As the basketball players leave the group, a number of players remain and McCall mentions that while it’s not mandatory, if any players wanted to stay and run routes with an assistant coach, they were free to do so.
Not a player leaves as the team lines up and starts catching passes.
Junior lineman Andrew Berg said this is the biggest change the Lions have seen since the recent coaching change — players want to be there.
“People worked hard (last year), it’s just that we didn’t have enough motivation,” Berg said. “Last year, no one would go to the weight room and it’d be all complicated. Nobody would get their work done, everyone slacked off. But now, everyone’s working hard.”
Last season, Lansing went 4-6 overall and ended the season with a 40-point loss to Bishop Miege High School in the first round of the state playoffs.
Now, the Lions will look to McCall to bring the success he had as an assistant coach at Olathe North High School to a program that’s major goal for the season is to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
Monday was the first step of that journey, as the Lions began their summer offseason program.
McCall said the team is still getting adjusted to the coaching change, and most of the practices in the near future will revolve around getting the team organized and familiar with the new system.
“These first two days this week have been very organizational, outside of their 90-minute weight room workouts,” McCall said. “Whenever there’s a transition of coaching staffs like this, there’s going to be a growing period of everybody getting to know one another.”
McCall said by the time the season rolls around, Lansing will see an entirely new Lion playbook and system. He’s already started drilling it into his team, but said it will be a process to get the team running on all cylinders.
Senior running back Colin McQuillan said after just two days of getting acquainted with the new program, he’s anxious to see what it means for the 2014 Lions.
“It’s a new thing and we’re just trying to get into it and learn everything,” McQuillan said. “We’ve made a little bit of a change and I’m excited to see what happens.”
In the meantime, McCall has instituted a rigorous summer training schedule for the team, with workouts five mornings a week followed by a learning session to get the team familiar with the playbook and to see where his talent lies and where the team needs work.
He said as the summer continues, he’ll start to have a better idea of how to bring out the team’s strengths while disguising their weaknesses.
“Every coach will adapt their system or their playbook to fit their kids,” McCall said. “It’s just going to be a matter of our seven-on-seven program this summer. It will dictate a lot of what our strengths and weaknesses are in the passing game. It will also show us what our strengths and weaknesses are defensively in coverage.”
A major concern from last season that needs addressing, McQuillan said, is team defense. The Lion defense allowed an average of almost 42 points per game last season. There were four games the team allowed more than 50 points.
But this season, Berg said, is shaping up to be different. Due to help in the weight room this offseason from team strength coach Zac Craig, Berg said the Lions are in much better shape leading into the summer.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing for us,” Berg said. “It’s a whole different type of routine. … I think we’re going to be more organized, I think we’re going to be stronger and faster.”
Fans will have their first chance to see the new Lions on Sept. 5, when they open the season with a road game against Piper High School.