An upcoming weeklong skills camp will afford aspiring Longhorn football players the opportunity to nail down a spot on the 2007 roster.
The gridiron camp will be held July 16 to 20 at Payson High School.
Although the camp is not mandatory, second-year coach Josh Anderson is strongly urging all prospects to attend so they might get a jumpstart on the upcoming season, improve their skills and learn the nuances of the game.
Although the camp agenda is still being finalized and both head coach Josh Anderson and defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes are out of town this week, the schedule is expected to be similar to last year's.
Two-a-day sessions will be held throughout the week and during the evening hours. 7-on-7 passing league competitions will heat up Longhorn field.
During the course of the camp, athletes will bed down in old PHS gymnasium and eat their meals in the school cafeteria.
The camp is a scaled-down version of the preseason training sessions the Arizona State University Sun Devils undergo at Camp Tontozona and the Arizona Cardinals do in Flagstaff.
If there is a difference in this year's camp and the one conducted last year, when Anderson was in his first year as head coach, it could be the offensive schemes.
In 2006, the Horns ran traps, sweeps, bootlegs and misdirection plays from a Wing-T offense Anderson used previously at Chino Valley High School.
This year, Anderson has appointed Bret Morris as offensive coordinator and the team will run the "Power Option" offense.
Payson fans last saw the Power Option in 1998 under former Longhorn coach, Jim Beall.
The "O" utilizes features of the option attack and the power ploys.
In the option, the quarterback -- who will probably be last year's starter, Ridge Halenar -- as signal caller, has the choice of carrying the ball himself or pitching to a trailing back.
When running power plays, a running back wedges his way into the line, often between the tackle and tight end, looking for yardage.
On the collegiate level, Nebraska successfully uses both the power and option attacks.
Defensively, the Horn coaching staff might not make many changes from last year when Hayes called up both odd and even-front "D's" and man-to-man and cover 2 and 3 zones in the backfield.
In addition to the players learning the Longhorn systems at the camp, coaches will emphasize conditioning, discipline and teamwork.
Registration for the camp will begin at 9 a.m. July 16 in Wilson Dome. The fee is $150.
Athletes should bring with them to the first day of camp a sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries and towels, changes of clothes and physical form (if not on file with the athletic office).
Around the region and state
All the efforts the coaches and players put forth at the camp will be directed toward preparing for the 2007 season and a run at East region and 3A state honors.
Next season, the Horns will face daunting East challenges against several teams expected to battle for the region crown.
Blue Ridge (8-4 in 2006) is considered a contender but that's nothing unusual.
In the past 13 years, the perennial White Mountain powerhouse has won seven state championships and twice finished as runners-up.
Other East contenders include Round Valley (11-1) and Show Low (9-2).
The most improved team in the East might be the Snowflake Lobos, who struggled to a 4-7 record last season.
Optimism in the Lobo camp is fueled by the return of running backs, Matt Reidhead and Devin Peterson. Both have the speed to buoy the Lobos, as evidenced by their outstanding track showings last spring in the sprint events.
In the 2006 football season, Peterson averaged 103 yards rushing per game and scored 11 TDs.
The Lobos also return wide receiver Chris Rogers, who caught 21 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Around the state, title contenders could include Wickenburg (13-1), Coolidge (12-1), Fountain Hills (8-4) and Winslow (11-2).
Payson will counter the region and state powers with an offense led by Halenar, who was one of the top players in the state last year.
Through the airways, he competed 56 of 112 passes for 928 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the ground, he rushed for 688 yards on 125 carries.