BOLINGBROOK — Three weeks from now when the calendar turns from July to August, the Morris football team will be putting on the pads and start hitting. However, before the team suits up for its annual camp before the start of the school season, there's the rest of the 7-on-7 season for the Redskins to finish.
"We're going pretty well," Morris senior Danny Friend said. "I mean, 7-on-7s are always a little slow because we're all wanting to put the pads on soon, but we're doing O.K. right now."
Essentially, what the bulk of teams do in the summer is assess talent at the skilled positions in addition to getting a look at incoming players to the team. Most of the time that means sophomores who are coming up to play varsity ball for the first time. However, this year that includes evaluating Streator senior quarterback transfer Zach Cinnamon, in addition to the incoming juniors.
"It's been a good summer for us. You can only get so much out of 7-on-7 without the line, but what we're getting is a lot of reps for our new kid Zach Cinnamon at quarterback," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "It's helping us to get him the chance to learn the offense. And we're seeing some good things out of him."
Cinnamon, Friend and junior Matt Darlington are the three quarterbacks on the team this year.
"Zach Cinnamon right now is probably our No. 1, he's been getting a majority of the reps and doing a great job for us. He's a great athletic quarterback," Thorson said. "You're going to see kind of the same things we did with Feeney. We're going to run him, sprint him out, but he's got a nice arm on him, as well."
Friend was Austin Feeney's backup last season and a starter at both the freshman and sophomore levels.
"It's been pretty good competition between me and Danny," Cinnamon said.
"Cinnamon's been getting most of the reps right now, so I'm working more with the wide receivers or at tight end," Friend said. "That's how it's going to go for most of the summer right now."
One of the reasons the 6-7 Friend has been getting more time at tight end/wide receiver is quite obvious.
"Danny Friend is obviously our best tight end, so when we play him at quarterback, we lose a big receiving threat there," Thorson said. "So, we're trying to keep Danny at tight end if at all possible. But Danny throws a good ball and does a good job at quarterback and he knows the offense."
"We're really trying to see who will settle into what positions. Danny Friend, Zach Cinnamon and Matt Darlington - they are getting a lot of reps at quarterback," Morris offensive coordinator Bill Lauer said. "It was a really tight race early in the 7-on-7 season, but Zach's starting to do a much better job. He's more confident and learning the offense. He's doing a good job of throwing the ball, making the right reads and doing what we're asking him to do."
Which means learning a new system from last year to this.
"Our numbering system and learning the routes and all that stuff has been new to him," Lauer said. "We're throwing at him a ton of information that he needs to learn, but he's done a really good job of picking it all up."
"It's not that hard," Cinnamon said. "I learned the playbook real fast."
Cinnamon's development certainly would seem to be what the coaching staff has been looking to.
"Danny's been playing both receiver and quarterback. He's gotten a lot of reps early in the 7-on-7 season. He's had the experience as a freshman and a sophomore, so we have a lot of confidence in him if Zach doesn't win the position," Lauer said. "Matt was injured a lot last year and has had to learn a lot of offense moving up from his sophomore to his junior year. In time, it will come to him, too, but he still has a bit to learn. His arm strength is improving a lot too as he works out more."
"Matt Darlington is our junior quarterback and he does a good job," Thorson added. "He's learning the system and at the varsity level, you are adding a lot more plays, but he's adjusting well and we're seeing good things from him also."
In the meantime, the summer schedule is unfolding the way everyone wants it to.
"We're been hanging out a lot ... on the field as long as I know their steps and how they run their routes, we'll be all right," Cinnamon said. "We need to get in better shape, even though we are in good shape to this point. We have to keep on working."
And getting the ins and outs of things.
"Our skilled players are getting a lot of good reps, including our wide receivers and we're also seeing the defense come together," Thorson said. "So overall, we're real happy."