The first 3 weeks in Saarbrucken
March 23, 2014
I’ve been here for three weeks already and it went by in a flash. Yesterday we had the first rain since I arrived but its clear and sunny again this morning. Our 19 under team opened their season yesterday with a nice win. They are the defending national champions, have around fifty players, and are very well coached by a veteran group. They are of course the foundation for our program and I’m very impressed with their organization, their enthusiasm and their focus.
As for us I would give it a grade of “B”. We’ve got a solid group of twenty five players but to be a top team we need at least another ten and fifteen would be even better. Like all teams with small numbers it doesn’t take long before illness, injury or indifference make’s practicing difficult. For example we’ve got seven decent offensive linemen, we’ll be just fine there, but two are injured and on Saturday we were down to three healthy and present. It’s the same number issue on the defensive front and because of that it limits the options for practice.
We had scheduled a couple of weekend ‘camps’ but had to rethink that decision. It makes no sense to practice longer and harder when one key injury can nearly kill the season. One of the issues here in Europe is for players and coaches to understand that you don’t have to be ‘physical’ every practice. Working on proper ‘technique’ is way more important and seriously smarter than beating each other up. What’s the point?
The two areas where we excel are with the skill set of offensive players and defensive backs. The numbers there are better and speaking athletically we are fast, athletic and appear to have a number of play-makers. Paul Motzki, brother of our GM Felix is the leader on the defensive side and plays for the German National team as well. This year is a ‘National Team’ competition year so we’ll have a two week break during our season while that is happening. This year the tournament is being held in Austria.
Our wide receiver set is coming along nicely. Swen Norrick is a very solid and reliable ‘possession’ receiver. Marcus Richardson, off to the USA for a two week adventure, is a play-maker in the slot. While Bastian Schmidt, coming off a broken finger, shows a ton of potential. Trey Fairchild, our USA import, is very talented as well as being a force as a returner. We have four others who’s improvement through effort and hard work is impressive.
Of course any offense that relies on throwing the football needs a trigger man. Most good European teams, there are more exceptions now than when I began twenty years ago, import an American QB. We have the luxury of not having to do that. Alex Haupert, led the 19 under team to the European championship last season and it’s not difficult to see why. He can run, has a very strong arm and a quick release. He is improving daily in making decisions as he gets a feel for the offense. He’s a shade over six feet tall, around one hundred and eighty pounds in an athlete’s body. His instincts are excellent, especially when running the option, and I like his leadership qualities as well.
I’ve gotten comfortable with the area, not getting lost quite as often when I venture out and about in my Mercedes. Our flat is great and our host family, Ralf, Karin and Michael Keller, are wonderful people. We are located only ten minutes from city center, by car, in the small village of Gersweiler, which is only five minutes from the French border.
Our American players will join us the first of April and our team will begin to take shape. Our two defensive guys can both play linebacker or defensive end and Trey will help everywhere while Giovannie will give us a major threat at running back. I like where we are at the moment. I wish we had ten more players but if we’re smart and a bit lucky I believe we’ll be a very competitive football team.