What To Take Away From Scrimmages

Leman Saunders

Six-man expert
Preseason Comes to a Close: What to Take Away from Scrimmages
By: Leman Saunders

As I live and breathe I can not remember ever attending a scrimmage post high school graduation.

For obvious reasons scrimmages are great for coaches, players, and in some cases booster clubs and the local arm chair quarterbacks/want-a-be coaches and are great fodder for kick starting conversations between the local gossips at the city café, coffee shop or hardware store about the local team(s).

However, to the sports writer, news caster, or any other type of professional/semi-professional/want-a-be-professional prognosticator, there is very little one can gleam from scrimmages.

Thus, I have avoided scrimmages for almost twenty years now (the last scrimmage I was at prior to this year was one I played in in 1999). So it should go without saying I put little stock in scrimmages as a true indicator as to how any team will do in the regular season…and so should you and here’s why.

This year I broke down and went to three scrimmages. I saw five different teams play in those three separate scrimmages and honestly no team was playing like they would become week one on Friday night.

The reason why I’ve never went to scrimmages is that you can never tell just how much meaning to put into them. Coaches are mixing things up, and trying to figure things out themselves. They are working out the kinks and experimenting all at the same time before the season kicks off.

As a former play I realize that in scrimmages coaches will run things as a test… and if it doesn’t work or they don’t like it for whatever reason…they won’t run it in the first few weeks of the season if ever again. For example, a coach could experiment with a Veer style formation in a scrimmage, get killed, and then based on the scrimmage results decide he doesn’t like it and never run that formation in the regular season, switch to something else and just dominate on offense. Another example along these lines: This week I saw one team run about 5-10 screen passes in one of their offensive series just to work on it. Now in the regular season they may only run a screen pass once a game.

Also, at the same time, players are being tested at different positions and in various combinations of packages together. Come week one, players might not be playing at the same spots as they were in their scrimmages. Thus a team could be a completely different animal from the second scrimmage to the first game of the season.

In baseball they call knowing these kind of inner workings “inside baseball”. Knowing what the true purpose and meaning of a scrimmage is is kind of like that… inside football so to speak…and for the prognosticator there is really nothing substantial to be extracted from them on the whole other than maybe participation numbers for a given team, the basic ability to pass, catch, block and tackle, and what the level of community interest or “local buzz” is that you can gleam by talking to the various people posing as fence posts watching along the border of the field.

As I said, this year I can say I attended three (very local) scrimmages… simply because I had nothing better to do, AND, in all honesty, to try to acclimate my three-year-old daughter to the environment of a high school football game (It’s like potty training in a way, but for one of dad’s preferred leisure activity). So to be honest my main take away from these preseason scrimmages is that my daughter likes watching football (big plus for dad!) and is relatively easy to handle at football games and stadiums…which are great things!

I was also able to talk with many old friends and coaches who were out taking in the first looks of their respective teams. I spent more time reminiscing and listening to how things "aren’t like they use to be” than watching football. I learned that much like old soldiers dream of past battles, so do old coaches and players dream of their days of past gridiron glory. The fellowship that exists in the stands and along the border of the football field is like no other, and is something that no one will be able to take away from Texas high school football.

Good luck to all the teams, coaches, fans and communities as we enter the 2018 season!