During the last week of spring camp, the Cougar coaches stepped aside and handed the coaching keys to the players, allowing them to direct and coach each other. The practices were filmed for player review, if necessary, in order to ensure correct and proper instruction during offseason workouts.
So now with just a little more than a month away from fall camp, how are the player-run practices going?
“Being able to control what we do, know what we’re doing, and know what drills to do and why we do them has really helped us over this summer,” said tight end Marcus Mathews. “It’s not unorganized and dysfunctional. We don’t have guys saying, ‘Well, what are we going to do today?’ ‘I don’t know, what do you want to do today?’ ‘We can do this …’ So, there’s none of that going on and there’s no confusion.”
Much like during spring or fall camps, players in the offseason study film and have team and position group workouts, such as skeli or seven-on-seven drills.
“We know what drills we’re going to do and we know the progression,” Mathews said. “We know how to build on top of each other based on what each group is doing. When we get with the linemen, we know what to do because the offseason workouts have been designed in a way where it’s all compatible.
“When we get with the quarterbacks, we know what to do because it’s been laid out for us. It’s just more organized and way more efficient, you know? There’s no more wasted time or wasted movement. It’s all just more efficient and that’s going to prepare us to be ready for fall camp.”
Participation among the tight end group has been going well according to Mathews. He and Austin Holt have taken leadership to ensure participation.
“I think it’s been good and the guys that want it are showing up and they’re working hard,” said Mathews. “Me and Austin Holt are always texting each other and talking on the phone and getting together. We’re always making sure we know what we’re doing at the next day for practice. We’re always there doing seven-on-seven and making sure everyone’s there and taking control.”
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is looking for the tight ends to be a bigger part of the offense this year.
“In the past the tight end position has played a crucial role in our offense,” said Coach Doman. “I mean, you take a look at all the great tight ends that have come through this program, and there’s a reason why they were so successful. We want to continue that tradition and nothing is going to change, but what we have to do is make sure that we advance the tight end position by developing them in such a way that creates more versatility and puts more pressure on the defense through less predictability.”
What Coach Doman is saying is that the tight ends can’t be specialized. For example, only splitting Mathews out as a flex tight end or just having Holt block on the line would mean that they are specialized instead of versatile, and that creates predictability in the offense. If tight ends become attached – meaning lining up in a three-point stance on the offensive line – they have to be able to be able to block or to run routes effectively, so defenses won’t know if they are blocking or going out for a pass. This requires the tight ends to have size and strength in order to block, while also being nimble and fast in order to run routes.
So, the results of the team’s new nutrition program is vital for players such as Mathews, who’s struggled in the past with gaining weight.
“I think it’s been really good,” Mathews said. “Dan Wilcox is doing a great job and he’s been doing specific diets for each of us. He wants some of us to lean out and some of us to gain weight. I’m a gain-weight guy, and so he’s been helping me with that and so it’s been good. I feel better. I feel just as fast and just as athletic, but I’m stronger and I weigh more, so I feel good, better than I’ve ever felt before.”