“It’s kind of weird in ways, but it’s neat and weird,” Oxford’s new head coach said. “This is the exact same field house and exact same facility as it was when I graduated.
“It’s like I told someone, every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet. That’s the best way to put it. I wake up at 4:30 every morning wide awake.”
Herring, a Class of 1994 graduate, took over the program in early February and has had Oxford working non-stop since his arrival after saying the Yellow Jackets will “outwork everybody” on the day of his hire.
Monday marks an important day for the team — the start of spring practice.
“He’s working us out well while letting us know how he wants to coach us in the weight room,” said rising senior Racean Thomas, a running back. “We haven’t had a chance to get on the field and do any plays or formations or anything like that.”
While in the weight room, Herring said his workout is “unique.” Its design has players essentially living in the weight room during the winter months.
“It’s probably a little more intense than anyone else’s,” Herring said. “Our conditioning isn’t intense, but our lifting is. During the cold and wet season we’re really in that weight room every day getting after it. We haven’t taken a day off since Feb. 5. I’ve been really impressed by how they’ve been working.
“The main thing is you get results. Our max increases have just been phenomenal.”
Two players who have caught Herring’s eye are Thomas and defensive end Scottie Conley, a rising senior.
“In the weight room, Scottie Conley goes in there with a business-like approach,” he said. “He’s worked every day relentlessly. And, of course, the tailback, Thomas, has worked great. A lot of those upcoming seniors have really shown up every day and worked great.”
Oxford enters spring practice after not making the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“Oxford has been in the playoffs nearly every year since the AHSAA started them,” Herring said. “There’s only been a hand full of years they haven’t made them. These kids want to get back in them. I haven’t had to try to push that. They know where they should be and know where they want to be.
“I think they’re tired of hitting the weights and ready to hit each other. And that’s what you want. You want to see how much the weights have changed them. They should be a lot more powerful and explosive on contact compared to where they were five months ago.”
The Yellow Jackets will see a few changes, moving from a spread offense to a pro-pistol. The defense, led by the line and linebackers, will run a multiple 4-3.
And although Oxford lost several key members of last year’s team, including the entire starting offensive line, there’s still optimism as the team moves from the weight room to the practice field.
“A lot of teams have pulled it off with a young team,” Conley said. “So I think we can go all the way.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star