Brett Fowler is the sports editor of The Walton Tribune. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of North Georgia and a 2010 graduate of Monroe Area High School. Brett has been covering Walton County sports since 2011.

It’s been well documented in this space that I’m not a huge fan of the way 7-on-7 is these days. So, when I get a chance to stroll on out to one of these padded camps that high school football teams are now participating in, it’s a breath of fresh air during the summer months before we get to the season.

For those of you who don’t know, 7-on-7’s are what many football teams do during the summer time to help tune up their offense and defense for the skill players. There are no pads involved since players are only allowed to wear pads during limited times of the summer as you’ll see below, but players do still wear helmets during 7-on-7 camps. Offensive players, mainly quarterbacks and receivers, are able to work on the timing of routes and the pace of the offense. Defensively, linebackers and defensive backs can work on installing new coverages and techniques.

When I was playing high school ball about 10-13 years ago — gosh, that statement makes me feel old — 7-on-7 was just beginning to become popular. Going in to my sophomore year at Monroe Area we decided to install a new offense that was extremely pass-heavy. Because of that we started going to 7-on-7 camps all over the state and even some out of state camps like the one at Clemson University.

Through the years 7-on-7 has gotten more complicated. Two years ago as I sat and watched the 20-plus teams playing at Walnut Grove during the Airo 7-on-7 state tournament — yes, we have a state tournament for 7-on-7 — I noticed some teams ran an entirely different offense for 7-on-7 than they do during the regular season. Let’s not forget to mention the fact the scoring was all sorts of jacked up. Evidently now teams get points for turnovers? News to me.

But, beginning last year, the Georgia High School Association began to allow teams to participate in camps where players are allowed to wear what we always called “shells” where it’s just a helmet and shoulder pads. Even better is that contact is allowed, except you can’t actually take players to the ground and “tackle” them, you can just give them a nice “thud” then the whistle blows.

It’s a nice change of pace to go out to a padded camp like I did on Tuesday at Social Circle and see what I call “real” football being practiced. It’s amazing how a little bit of contact separates those who really want to play football and those who just want to be flashy on the field. Trust me, there have been some kids I’ve seen show out in 7-on-7 who get lit up come football season because they were used to not getting hit in 7-on-7.

Kudos to the GHSA for allowing coaches the option to get some real work in during the summer instead of just going to passing camps all summer and allowing these kids to get soft before the season rolls around.

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