Retooling the attack: Owls’ offense shaping up during preseason

During the 2018 season, Seymour High School’s football team rode a workhorse on the offensive side of the ball.

Last fall, the Owls totaled 442 carries and 110 passing attempts. Of those 552 plays, then-senior Nathan O’Mara ran the ball 286 times: 51% of the Owls’ total offensive attempts.

Quarterback Brendan Smith, an incoming senior, ran the ball 21% of the Owls’ plays (118 carries) and passed it 19% of the time under center with 107 throws. The remaining 9% of offense was spread out between seven different ball carriers and three passes from incoming junior Drew Schroeder.

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Last fall, O’Mara’s median average was 30 carries per game.

In terms of yardage, O’Mara totaled 1,986 yards on the ground of the Owls’ 2,669, which was 74% of the rushing total.

O’Mara accounted for 12 rushing touchdowns and Smith finished with 11. The team had 26 total rushing TDs and seven passing TDs (all by Smith).

By the seasons end, after 10 games, O’Mara set school records in rushing attempts in a season, most rushing attempts in a game (42), most rushing yards in a game (356) and second most rushing yards in a season.

While O’Mara is now graduated, the Owls only plan on changing personnel this fall.

“Honestly, what we do from a schematic standpoint is the same. I’m not going to change it,” Owls head coach Mike Kelly said. “We’re an inside and outside zone team. That’s what we’re going to hang our hat on. I think your identity is the type of expectations that you put on your players, and we want our players to be physical and tough. That’s what we’re trying to develop with our team, so that no matter who is in the backfield or under center that’s what people will see from Seymour football. We haven’t really changed a single thing about our playbook.”

Kelly said that that having a system in place is important to the development of the program, and that the offense the Owls run has some flexibility.

“Coaches can get in trouble when they start flip-flopping what they do based on their personnel,” he said. “When you do that, you have to install a new scheme and the kids don’t know it. We are trying to develop something that is wholesale for years to come, but we also have flexibility. We have the ability to go wide open and get in tight. It gives us some variations on what we do from tight ends and wide receivers standpoint.”

This summer, the Owls have worked a committee of running backs through practices and scrimmages.

Among the runners are juniors Chandler Drummond, Josh Pennington and Colin Greathouse.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Kelly said. “Drummond has done a nice job. He is a guy who came in and kind of surprised us. We weren’t really planning on having him playing a lot of running back for us, but has done a nice job. Pennington has also come in and done some nice work as well. Greathouse is a returner for us who has been dealing with some injuries that has been kind of holding him back.”

Kelly’s message to his backs this offseason has been clear.

“I told them I’m not looking for the next Nathan O’Mara,” Kelly said. “I am looking for the next Seymour football program player. Nathan is a hard guy to replace for sure. He was a tough, physical runner. We feel like we can do that with a committee, and not just one guy.”

The biggest benefit the new runners will have is that Smith is returning under center, and four offensive lineman will also be back at SHS.

“We’ve been working on pushing harder than we’ve ever pushed before,” lineman Adam Carter said. “We’re trying to get all of our plays down right. Sometimes they are difficult, but we get it.”

Smith passed for 842 yards last year while completing 47 percent of his passes with an average of 84 yards per game. Rushing, he averaged 48 yards per game.

The senior said the offense has improved throughout the summer months.

“I think it’s just evolving from a personnel standpoint. We can’t just rely on one guy,”Smith said. “I think everyone realizes that everyone has a part to play, and that changes the mindset.

“I think it’s a lot of repetition. to get better at something you have to work on it a lot. The plays aren’t too hard to learn. You just need to know where people are going and where they need to be. A lot of it is staying focused on each play. I think the young guys are really picking up on the playbook and offense.”

Kelly said that the offensive line has a chance to have a strong season if it buys-in to the process of becoming great.

“Sometimes you can get complacent,” he said. “Most of them were playing as sophomores. Sometimes they get the mentality is they don’t have to work really hard because they know what’s going on…versus getting extra work in and pushing and finishing. That is what we’re really harping on: Not settling. They should be a group that we can hang our hat on and say ‘we’re coming after people.’”

The Owls have four returning wide outs and will have to replace two tight ends.

“We have a lot of guys that I think are doing a great job,” Kelly said. “Brayden Barker has worked hard in the offseason on his hands and his blocking scheme. Jackson Low and Caleb Elliott have been doing a nice job at tight end. We have some other young guys, like Evan Smith, that have come in and are busting tail.”

Kelly said that he and has staff have pushed the team hard.

“We have seen what they’re able to push through,” he said. “This year for Seymour athletics has been very, very challenging. We want to make it challenging for them. We want to know who is going to quit now and not who is going to quit when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter. We want to know who is prepared physically and mentally. We put a lot of pressure on them this year, and that’s the growth I’m most encouraged by. We have guys that are able to push through.”

The Owls will have an intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 10 and go to Silver Creek for a scrimmage on Aug. 16. On Aug. 23, SHS opens its season against South Dearborn.