In the era of aerial football, 7-on-7 passing events are the rage.
Even a team such as Hinsdale South, which prefers to keep the ball on the ground, can get something out of the plethora of passing events that take place each summer.
“You pretty much get on the same page as your quarterbacks and the other receivers and get your timing down, so it helps out in a lot of ways,” senior receiver Mark Watson said.
The dearth of defense at a 7-on-7 makes the event only an approximation of real football, but it is helpful for players. South senior Jake Czjakowski, who has been sharing reps at quarterback with Rob Regan this summer, said the laissez-faire approach to offense has been a benefit.
“This is helpful because you can really focus on technical stuff,” Czjakowski said. “When you’re going full team, 11-on-11, it gets clustered at the line and you can’t really focus on your drops and get into a rhythm with your passes, so this really helps with that technical stuff.
“You get into a rhythm and make your reads, and just focus on who’s open at the time. We mix up a lot of our routes, so I get to make all kind of throws.”
Players love the loose atmosphere and the chance to throw the ball, but South coach Mike Barry and Hinsdale Central coach Rich Tarka prefer full team practices during the summer.
Tarka said he hopes to have nearly 100 percent of the Red Devils’ offense and defense installed by the end of summer camp before pre-season practices start Aug. 14. Central has several 7-on-7 events on the schedule throughout the summer, including one Wednesday at Nazareth and another July 13 at Downers Grove South, but full-team practices are the most beneficial.
“Last year we went to the Wheaton Warrenville South [7-on-7], the competitive one, and it was cool, but I don’t know how much it really means,” Tarka said. “It’s nice to compete, but we’re trying to teach our kids over the summer and find out who can do what and who can compete, and it’s not real football to me.”
Barry and the Hornets competed at their first 7-on-7 of the summer June 26 at Nazareth Academy and are scheduled to attend the West Suburban Conference event Thursday. Like Tarka, he prefers team practices, but he also sees the pros of competing in passing events over the summer.
“I like the 7-on-7s, but it’s a little unrealistic because you can’t run the football, so you get linebackers that drop [into pass coverage]. We focus on it because it’s good competition, but we don’t over-emphasize it like some teams,” Barry said. “We run the option, so we look for a good decision-maker [at quarterback], but we also look at the mechanics, the skills, the decision making and also the leadership ability, and all those intangible things can come out during a 7-on-7.”