It was the offense vs. the defense. Separated by a good 40 yards, however, that didn't keep Ardmore's spring football participants from having a verbal go at each other.

Ah, spring football. Where months of built-up gridiron frustration comes to a head. Challenges are layed out by teammates vying for spots. Words are exchanged.

And in between all of the competitive back-and-forth, players are get better.

Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel wrapped up his first week of spring with what he said was possibly the best session he's had since taking over the program in 2011.

"A lot more reps, a lot less teaching out here on the field; that's been a plus," Wendel said. "We look faster because they know what to do, especially defensively.

"We feel like we've got a good defensive scheme. Very little, if any, has changed on defense, maybe a couple of slight adjustments."

Wendel has the advantage of bringing back experience. Aside from the 2011 state semifinal team that he inherited, Ardmore is flush with the most returning starters Wendel has had under his watch.

In spring, Ardmore had defensive starters back at nine of 11 positions. The only significant change was moving outside linebacker C.J. Long to defensive end in the Tigers' 3-4 alignment. Devin Reynolds slides into the OLB spot, which gives Ardmore more speed at both positions.

"We're tinkering with a few things to get as much speed as we possibly can on the field," Wendel said. "We feel like he (C.J.) brings a physical sense to the game."

Rising senior defensive lineman Trey Baptiste said the moves on defense are only going to help the Tigers, but the biggest boost in improvement will come from the experience of last season.

"It's just going out there and playing, not teaching as much," Baptise said of the difference from last season. "It's best on best everywhere we go, getting more in, learning more that we didn't learn from last year."

On offense, Ardmore will have a good mix of youth and experience at the skill positions, with a mixture of sophomores Kydric Knox and O.J. Walker in the backfield, as well as seniors Jamarcus Mills and D'Vron Roberts.

"Kydric's just gonna be a sophomore, O.J. Walker is just gonna be a sophomore," Wendel said. "Jamarcus Mills is very consistent and knows what to do, D'Vron Roberts is gonna help us out.

"(Kevion) McGee is looking real good on defense, but he looks like he needs to touch the ball a few times. We've got some talented kids."

On the offensive line, the Tigers bring back a few players who saw action in 2012, albeit in different positions. Sophomore Michael Nichols, who started at left tackle for Ardmore, is making the transition to center this spring.

"I think he has a chance to be a special center," Wendel said of Nichols. "Moving him to center has been a real good move for us. Becoming a nasty, physical offensive line is gonna be a big part of our success."

Rising senior wide/receiver safety Carter Swanson said practices have been much improved with the maturation of the team.

"It's a faster pace, better competition," Swanson said. "We've just been able to go through and actually practice instead of having to slow it down."

It seems like a small thing, but it makes a difference. At the conclusion of practice Thursday, the defense was swarming, conceding little to nothing, players swarming to the ball in the middle of a sloppy field. Ardmore started nine sophomores or juniors on that side of the ball last season, but those that were thrown into the fire are starting to run toward it without hesitation.

Ardmore will wrap up spring practice Thursday.

"We were forced to play some real young kids, and they performed pretty good," Wendel said. "They're a year older, a year more mature, and with that maturity and the experience they got last year, there should be some dividends during the season."

Erik K. Horne