If head Lansing High School football coach John McCall had to describe his transition into Lansing High School, the Lions football program, the Lansing community and his new job with one word, it'd be "Awesome."
The coach said since his arrival to Lansing June 2, he's received nothing but support from the school and the community, and as the Lions wrap their padless team camp Friday, he said it's starting to produce results.
"The staff is awesome, the kids are awesome and the administration is awesome," McCall said. "It's been great, whether it be with the school district or just with the community itself."
McCall said the team is polishing concepts and techniques they've been working on since June, and adding new teachings to each camp practice. Though the Lions haven't seen a padded practice yet this summer, he said he's caught a strong glimpse of what he'll be working with come September 5 when the Lions travel to Piper High School for their season-opener.
And while the camp is still padless, McCall said it's been everything leading up to this week's camp that has shown him that the Lions are buying in.
"Whether it be in seven-on-seven, whether it be in camp or in a regular morning activity or even in the weight room, the kids are working super hard," McCall said. "On average, they've been committing (two hours and 15 minutes) a day throughout the summer just preparing. ... We definitely can see the talents the kids have."
Offensively, the Lions will be looking to continue their success from last season. The 2013 Lansing offense hung an average of 32.4 points a night, including four games with 40 points or more.
The only problem is, three of those four games ended with a loss. Defensively, the Lions allowed an average of 41.8 points a game. All four of the Lion victories last year came on the only four nights that the defense allowed 27 points or less.
This season, McCall will be looking toward coaches Craig Goerl and Byron Mays to be the co-Defensive Coordinators and the two said the key to the defense is simplicity during the summer and during this week's camp.
Last season, Mays said, a lot of the points scored on his defense came from alignment mix-ups, a mental-intensive system and fundamental flaws. So Mays and Goerl said during team camp, they've been working on the bare fundamentals of lining up in the correct position, having a proper stance and working on initial attack steps.
Even so, Goerl said the intensity has been higher this season than in year's past.
"There are positions that have a lot of competition," Goerl said. "They're competing with each other and driving each other and helping each other become better. There's only so many spots on the field and they're going to fight for that spot."
That starts with Lansing's new approach to its summer strength and conditioning program.
While the Lions have implemented a structured weights program, Mays said the team has also began presenting different ways to gain strength. On any given morning, Mays said a passerby could see the Lions pushing weighted sleds, termed "Prowlers," or even the coaches' cars through the parking lot.
Goerl said the program is seeing athletes make big jumps in strength and size, and others are starting to take notice.
"Just to have that and see their growth, that's going to motivate some kids," Goerl said. "The biggest thing is some kids around the school are seeing kids that were kind of weaker for their grade get bigger and get stronger and start to outcompete the ones who haven't made that commitment."
On the field during camp, the different approach to Lansing football is evident as well. McCall said the system he's implementing doesn't subscribe to a single style of offense or defense. Instead, he's put in a varied style, that way, he said, the Lions can pick and choose from multiple offensive and defensive systems to fit each week's matchup.
"We do a lot of different things both offensively and defensively," McCall said. "We won't go into a game doing everything that we do. It'll be very matchup-oriented as far as to what our game plan is. The nice thing about being so multiple is that you already have halftime adjustments in your hip pocket."
Despite the Lions' progression this summer, McCall said he's still looking for more growth.
While that can come from players gaining experience, he said it also comes from gaining new personnel. So McCall said even once the school year begins, the Lions will be seeking fresh faces to help the team implement its fresh approach at maximum efficiency.
"Everyone that we have began a relationship with this summer, that's kind of the key word is excitement," McCall said. "We would love to take the level of installment and teaching to a higher level, and in order to do that we're looking for a bunch of new ninth graders and a bunch of new 10th graders."