Burnett using in-depth film study to take North Clayton football to new heights

Anthony King (from top left) Yaya Diaby, Sonny Anderson, James Monroe (from bottom left), Rayvon Kee and Keelin Lee are among the North Clayton Eagles taking to new head coach Cap Burnett’s intense, educational leadership. (Staff Photo: Luke Strickland)

COLLEGE PARK — When Cap Burnett was appointed the head football coach at his Alma Mater at North Clayton High School, there was no question that the Eagles would soon take on the hard-nosed, devoted persona of their new leader.

Less than a few months into the new regime, Burnett’s vision of what he wants North Clayton football to look like is taking shape.

The Eagles, like many local programs, are using the dog days of summer to improve before the start of the 2016 football season. Many times, those who watch the games on Friday nights in the fall fail to realize the work that goes into the finished product on the field. Before the physical tackles, highlight reel runs and game-winning touchdowns, work must be done in the weight room and in the film room.

As the Eagles have realized, Burnett’s intensity isn’t just on display during practice. His passion for playing the game the right way is evident by the manner he conducts both his conditioning program and film study sessions.

“The biggest thing is his intensity…coach Cap wants to get it at it more,” said rising senior James Monroe.

“The tempo has definitely been increased,” added rising senior wide receiver and defensive back Anthony King. “The intensity has definitely been increased. We try to give maximum effort in everything we do and we make sure that even the little things we do at a fast and quick pace.”

Many players would shy away from increased expectations, especially during the blazing temperatures experienced during the summer. Yet, to his pleasure, Burnett said he’s seen his players answer the call to work harder on and off the field.

“From day one I’ve talked to them about how intense it was going to be,” said Burnett. “Then again, it goes back to ‘yeah, I hear coach saying that.’ But when we actually got out on the field in the spring, they saw it. The good thing though is that they took to it. Nobody turned their back to it, nobody wanted to quit and they’re trying to pick it up now.”

Spending time in the film room with Burnett has won over several players this summer. Burnett uses time before practice to go through plays from last year with individual position groups, explaining fundamental philosophies that, to be executed correctly, have more to do with the brain than speed or strength.

“He’s making sure everybody knows the coverages and that everybody is on the same page,” said Monroe. “Even though a lot of the people didn’t play last year that were on that film, he still wanted everybody to know what they’re supposed to be doing for next year.”

In a memorable moment, Burnett analyzed a play from last season’s Riverdale-North Clayton clash. Early in the game, Riverdale’s Joseph Cambridge escaped for a long touchdown run to give the Raiders the lead. Burnett’s comments on the play weren’t about the end result, but rather the beginning where the Eagles failed to maintain their pass-rushing lanes, allowing Cambridge to escape the pocket and ultimately score.

By simplifying the play down to each defender’s individual role, Burnett was able to teach those observing the film with an example fresh from last season.

“You see it for yourself instead of hearing it,” said Burnett. “A lot of times, I realized, I was telling them but they didn’t know what I was talking about. They see it now and get that ‘ah’ factor, like they understand what I’m talking about. That’s the biggest thing, they see it now and now they understand where we’re coming from.”

“I’m learning more this year with coach Cap,” said rising junior Sonny Anderson. “Last year, I was looking at the film, there’s nothing I’m doing now. I’m doing way better than I was last year.”

Burnett has brought a no-nonsense attitude back to his Alma Mater. No aspect of the game is too little, no play too insignificant.

“To me, every play you can learn from,” said Burnett. “I don’t really go get certain plays right this second because it’s the summer time and everybody is learning. Any play I’ll teach from it.”

More importantly, Burnett is cultivating a positive attitude among his players. It’s clear that North Clayton football means very much to Burnett, and his players are beginning to understand what it means to don the white and blue.

“We work harder,” said rising senior Rayvon Kee. “The work ethic in the weight room and on the field, they push us way more.”

“We’re having fun now,” added rising senior Yaya Diaby. “We’re actually grinding, we’re grinding.”

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Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.