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On the latest episode of Inside the Lines Podcast, Reeltown football coach Matt Johnson talked with the hosts about his thoughts on the best way for high school teams to spend their summers. With the debate around 7-on-7 camps against organized team activities (OTAs) continuing among high school programs around the state, the Rebels have focused on the OTAs during Johnson’s tenure and he explains why during the episode.

“I don’t want to totally knock 7-on-7s,” Johnson said. “OTAs is a broad term where you can do a lot of stuff but I feel like our schedule and how we do OTAs is so beneficial because its football. It’s a max number of reps and the kids are getting taxed out of their mind and it’s still football.”

Johnson, a Reeltown native, said he used to favor 7-on-7 camps before getting his first experience at an OTA. He admitted 7-on-7s can still offer plenty of benefits and provide good competition teams but he feels it makes more sense for teams to participate in the team activities.

“This is great stuff for 7-on-7, I commend people for doing them and I’m not going to knock anyone,” Johnson said. “But if they do one of these OTAs like we do… like I said, when I started doing those, I’ll never do 7-on-7s again.”

One of the biggest reasons Johnson sides that way is because he likes seeing the whole team compete as one group. When the players split up during 7-on-7 camps, he feels like it can have a negative effect on the concept of a team sport.

“It’s 11-on-11 football,” Johnson said. “I love OTAs because you know who shows up for OTAs? Every single player on my roster. Seven-on-7s you have to put a list up to say who’s getting on the bus and who’s staying for workouts.”

Johnson and the Rebels are about to turn it up a notch for the rest of summer with multiple OTAs remaining on their schedule for the month of July. He said the summer has been broken down in to two halves with the focus during June being on the weight room and getting the team acclimated with each other.

According to Johnson, Reeltown has really pushed attendance and team chemistry during the first half of the summer and it has been a success for the Rebels. The coaching staff has provided incentives for those with perfect attendance and it has resulted in a 93% attendance for workouts but now the focus is about to shift to the football field.

“The second half of summer is a lot different,” Johnson said. “We really hone in on football and we do an extra day. We still do our workouts and conditioning every week but then we do an extra day of strictly football that’s reviewing the schemes and all of that. By the end of July, hopefully we have enough in that we’re ready to play a game.”

As the rules on summer competition and practices continue to be monitored by the AHSAA, programs have to adjust their schedules to what they are allowed to do each offseason. However, Johnson said he believes everything is heading in the right direction.

“I like how we have our play dates now,” Johnson said. “I really can’t complain about that. There’s always some tweaks you’d like to see happen but overall, I think we’ve got this right.”

Johnson also answered questions on how the offseason workouts have changed since he was a player at Reeltown and also gave a glimpse into how the Rebels have performed during the summer period.

To listen to the full interview, find the “Talkin’ summer on the gridiron” episode of Inside the Lines Podcast on iTunes, Spotify and on our website.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.