E.A. Sports Today

High-tech Jackets

Wes Brooks, Oxford's director of football operations and baseball coach, explains the nuances of the Yellow Jackets' eye-in-the-sky game monitoring. In the main photo, he puts the technology to use.

Wes Brooks, Oxford’s director of football operations and baseball coach, explains the nuances of the Yellow Jackets’ eye-in-the-sky game monitoring. In the main photo, he puts the technology to use.

Oxford brings eye-in-the-sky technology to its football sideline

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SOUTHSIDE – When Ryan Herring first saw those pictures on NFL telecasts of players on the bench looking over snapshots of formations happening in the game he was like a lot of us, wondering if there wasn’t something underhanded afoot.

Now that he and his Oxford coaches have access to similar material, he’s wondering why they weren’t using it all along.

Eye-in-the-sky technology has made its way to high school sports and the Yellow Jackets have embraced it.

They made use of the Echo 1612 technology for the first time during their season-opener at Southside Thursday night and even with their learn-on-the-go approach Herring can see big benefits in the short and long term.

“It started last year and we didn’t do it,” Herring said after his team’s 42-21 victory. “Looking back now, I wish we would’ve.

“When I saw it back then I was like what is all that? How are they doing that? It kind of seems like you’re cheating. Well, now that I’m doing it, I like it.”

Use of eye-in-the-sky monitoring was approved by the national high school federation only last year for every sport except baseball (it was included this year). Spain Park used it at Oxford last year, and it turned into an overhead highlight film of Roc Thomas as the future Mr. Football ran for 414 yards and five touchdowns.

Every time the Jaguars coaches would rewind a play, there was Thomas right in the middle of the frame doing something spectacular.

With cameras strategically placed in the stadium, an internet router and an iPad, coaches and players now can see almost instantly the entire breakdown of any play — every play – instead of guessing what happened or waiting until the next day to dissect it.

Coaches can check alignments, formation trends, assignment execution on a key play and other important elements of a game with a few taps of the screen. In more heated moments a harried coach even might wave the tablet under an official’s nose over a penalty that may or may not have been called — not that Brooks would do that or it would bring a reversal, although the Yellow Jackets did look closely at a block-in-the-back penalty Thursday they never found on the screen.

The coordinators have access to the technology in the box, the on-field coaches have access on the sideline. In time, the Yellow Jackets hope to have a monitor for groups of players to review.

Cost of the investment? For Oxford, about $2,500. It’d be more depending on the number of cameras being used.

“You come to watch film on Saturday morning and every coach in the state of Alabama on Saturday morning has the answers,” Yellow Jackets director of football operations Wes Brooks said. “The head coach is sitting there saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell us that last night? We needed that last night.’

“So now our Saturday morning is a series away. Our Saturday morning turns into the in between the first and second series.”

Brooks admits the technology can be addictive and you could lose the game buried in the screen, but the system has real-time implications and that has real appeal to coaches like Herring.

“We don’t have to sit here and argue about what they think happened,” he said. “After a play you know exactly what happened; you can correct stuff right then. … The film doesn’t lie; you just show it and there’s nothing to argue about.

“It can help make corrections, therefore the quicker you get those corrections, the better off you are, so it can play a role in helping win a game.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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