CAROL STREAM – With a punishing rushing attack and an aggressive, physical defense as his staples, Ryan Wilkins and his staff have helped turn Glenbard North into one of the top football programs in the state.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Panthers head coach isn’t the biggest fan of the summer 7-on-7 passing competitions that have sprouted up all over Illinois. Those events feature no offensive linemen or running plays.
“It is not really in our game plan to throw the ball that many times,” Wilkins said. “But we get to see the kids compete and see what kind of athletes we have.”
Glenbard North did take part in the 24-team Red Grange Classic on June 24 and 25 at Wheaton Warrenville South. That is the only major 7-on-7 competition the Panthers will partake in, although they participate in a couple of much smaller ones.
“We can try different coverages and run different plays,” the coach said. “You can see how your kids run. And the biggest thing is timing and continuity. When we do decide to go four-wide, we want to get so we are in rhythm.”
For a wide receiver like Kendall Holbert, the 7-on-7s are a chance to work with new quarterback Brett Gasiorowski, a junior who takes over for the graduated Brian Murphy.
“It helps us prepare for the season,” Holbert said. “We see the different matchups we get and how we can exploit them. It helps the receivers get their routes down and also get our timing down with the quarterbacks.
“And it helps get your mindset back into football mode.”
Incoming senior running back Justin Jackson, who has committed to Northwestern, also sees the positives despite the Panthers breaking away from their normal offensive routine.
“Last year we came to the Red Grange event and did real well, we got second,” he said. “That really showed throughout last year, we made some big plays on offense in the passing game and that is something we want to do again this year.
“Even though we are running the ball on offense a lot of the time, we still need those big passes, those third-and-8 kind of things.”
The competitions also provide a nice change from the grind of summer camp.
“It’s fun to compete against a lot of great teams,” Jackson said. “They are not an indicator of what is going to happen during the year but it shows what you’ve got. You can gauge the competition and I think it also helps the coaches out.”