First-year Rockvale football coach Rick Rice didn't even know the names of any of his players over a month ago.
However, he said the transition for his team (comprised of many players who went to other high schools last year) has gone "very smoothly" for his staff and team.
"We've got 112 on our roster and it's pretty safe to say I know 100 of them," Rice said. "I probably need to learn another 10 or 12. It's a learning process but a fun process. They've gotten to know our coaching staff and we've got to know them.
"Our kids have done a great job giving total effort and our coaches have done a wonderful job and made my job a lot easier."
Rice and staff have used the early part of summer practice deciding a depth chart, which he admits is forever changing.
"The first day we did a combine type of thing," he said. "Then next day we said, 'all right, what position to you play on offense and defense.' We had some big kids who thought they were running backs, so we had to a switch pretty quick. We had a lot that said quarterback, and again we had to make some switches. It's been about getting them to the right positions and them learning that side of the ball.
"We have 112 on the roster and 85 are either freshmen or sophomores. We might have some playing JV that might be playing on Friday nights as well. Right now it's about getting them in the right spot and making sure we get them fundamentally sound. I think we've done a good job with our organization on both sides of the ball. Our practices are running very smoothly."
Rockvale competed in the Riverdale 7-on-7 tournament last week, and Rice as pleased with what we saw throughout the day.
"Our thing is get better every day and we wanted to get better every game we played, and we did," he said. "I'm not a big 7-on-7 guy. I'm a guy who wants to run the football, but you need to do it and you have to do it.
"From a football standpoint it helps you on defense more than anything. It's not real football, but the secondary can look at formations and you can see if you can cover a guy man-to-man and you can make coverage calls. You don't win championships in July, though. I'm not big 7-on-7 guy, but I'm not dumb enough to know that you've got to do it. The game has changed a lot with people throwing so much. One other thing it helps tremendously is with conditioning, and I like that part as well."
Rockvale and other high school teams can begin practice in full pads on July 29.
"We'll get in pads at 12:01 a.m. on the 29th for a midnight madness," Rice said. "Our plan is to practice about 2 1/3 or 3 hours. We've done at Wayne County the last seven or eight years.
"My son wanted to do it and I thought he was crazy. We did it in 2001 and we won the state championship, so we kept doing it every year. I think it's something that will be a lot of fun for our kids."
Rice said the school's football field will be ready for the home opener on Aug. 30 against Franklin County. The Rockets open the season at La Vergne on Aug. 23.
"The field is looking great," he said. "I thought we might have to play our opener at Franklin County, but I think we'll be in good shape."