Tim Thies has returned to Desert Vista to coach the offensive line and just like that, the energy within the unit has picked up.
The Thunder had many struggles a year ago, but most surprising, if not the most glaring, came along the offensive line.
Desert Vista struggled in the run game, and the Thunder, no matter what kind of season they are having, can always runs the ball.
Something was amiss last year as Desert Vista didn’t have an individual go over 400 yards and finished with a team rushing total of 1,185 yards and 11 touchdowns. There have been three-game stretches in years past where the Thunder would run for close to 1,200 yards, let alone 10 games.
It just wasn’t Thunder football.
“I don’t care if or how they played last year,” said Thies, who stepped away from football to help at home with two young children. “We are done with that stuff from last year. We are going to be fundamentally sound and task oriented.
“What I want to know is — can you move, come off the ball and punch someone in the mouth and let the chips fall where they may?”
The first week of camp began Monday with plenty of position battles on the offensive line, but is clear the unit is already buying into Thies’ approach.
“We are working together and that wasn’t always the case last year,” junior tackle Adrian Perez said. “We are understanding what we need to do more and we have a lot more confidence. Coach (Thies) always talks about playing for each other and that’s the approach we are taking.”
Head coach Dan Hinds is an offensive guy, and last year’s struggles when the Thunder had the ball ate at him. He has always been able to get his run-oriented offense rolling.
Desert Vista averaged 2,022.5 yards rushing and 29.4 touchdowns on the ground the previous nine years with highs of 3,300 yards (2007) and 54 TDs (2011) before being humbled last year.
Hinds believes the struggles were just an aberration and not a trend, so he doesn’t foresee similar difficulties in 2014.
“Tim and I, in regards to offensive philosophy, we are on the same page,” he said. “That’s why I love coaching with Tim Thies. We are talking the same language.
“There are some battles going on, but our offensive line right now are very intelligent players and we have been able to do a lot of things with them. They are going to do their assignment and know who to block.”
The team starts with the A-team — senior Andrew McNair and junior Adrian Perez — as they were both named captains by teammates. McNair had some time at guard, but moves back to his natural position of center, while Perez played mostly defense with some time on the offensive side, where he is in line to be the right tackle this year.
“We have been hanging out a lot as a group,” McNair said. “Everyone came to my house and we had pizza and hung out at the pool. We are all getting along and trust each other. It was an important thing for us to accomplish.
“We are definitely showing signs of being there for each other. Selflessness is a big thing on the line and we need it to be successful.”
Other members of the unit will come from senior guard Brett Wooley, senior guard Will Moore, junior tackle Zach Budzik, senior tackle Elijah Marotta and junior center Torrey Hickle, along with a few other candidates.
“What we preach is coming off the ball and being smart,” said Thies, who ended up coming back midseason last year to help with the freshman team. “We are going to use our athleticism to our ability. I’ve seen great stuff in how far they’ve come along. What I don’t know is what happens when the pads come on. When you play for one another, you make sure you get your job done.
“That’s what we are trying to rebuild.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.