Even head coach Gary Crowton alluded to it. “The one question that has been answered – and what I like – is that the guys came ready to play with a good attitude. That’s a great way to start. We just have to polish things up and get ready to go from now and into two-a-days.”
Coaches had to scream at defensive players to lay off from being overly physical to offensive players in half pads during the no-contact drills. For the third consecutive day, linebacker Justin Luettgerodt leveled an offensive player and caused a minor ruckus.
When the pile was cleared, one irritated wide receiver yelled to his teammates, "Come on, fellas! Hit or be hit!” His ire raised the collective fire of the offensive unit which starting clicking on passes, blocks and receptions.
Clad in light pads, Crowton noted the hitting was something he wanted toned down until the players were equipped with full pads. “It was a good full practice. We’re not in full pads yet, so they can’t tackle and I have to remind them of that. Right now, they’re real aggressive and want to get going, but I want to calm that down a bit until we scrimmage with full pads. But I’d much rather try to get them calmed down than try to get them going, so that’s good.”
Scott Young, a senior offensive lineman, added, “It’s hard not being as aggressive as you want for right now in regards to hitting. I love to hit and eventually I’ll be able to hit again, but you just need to be patient until that time. Now is the time to work on other things and to be aggressive doing other things.”
Crowton is also making a concerted effort to improve discipline to reduce unnecessary penalties. “I’m trying to teach the players more this year about poise, sportsmanship and about composure. Last year we had too many penalties. We’re emphasizing that to the players a lot this year, having many talks about keeping composure.”
In regards to turnovers, Crowton said, “We always have to work on the center and quarterback exchanges. We work on that at least 10 minutes a day.” To help with reducing fumbles, Crowton brought in a new machine he refers to as his “gauntlet machine” that tries to dislodge the ball as players run through it.
Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall unveiled a drill that can only be called the “sumo drill.” Defensive players were formed in a circle. Two at a time were picked to wrestle each other to the ground complete with a sort of sumo-style walk-up. Mendenhall raised the arm of the victor and the entire defensive unit hooped and hollered to the delight of more than 500 fans in attendance.
On the opposite side of the field, Crowton and receiver coach Todd Bradford ran stop-and-go receiver drills in which two receivers would get up from laying down, do a couple of ladders and then receive a pass as they crossed the finish line. Freshman Antwaun Harris went against junior Todd Watkins several times, beat him and good naturedly teased him.
Not to be outdone, Watkins closed practice with a great reception of a 40-yard fly pattern thrown over the wrong shoulder by John Beck. Watkins made the adjustment flawlessly. Matt Allen ran a great post corner route for a 20-yard gainer on a John Beck pass.
Tight end Daniel Coats also made an outstanding one-handed grab on an out pattern and freshman running back Raymond Hudson turned some heads with receptions of flare passes from the backfield.
On defense, Spencer White had a great knockdown of a sideline pass intended for receiver Chris Hale and Aaron Francisco also had a good pop on Antwaun Harris on a pass over the middle.
* Defensive tackle Vince Feula has been cleared to play. He dressed for the first time today, but wasn’t in pads.
* Defensive tackle Isley Filiaga is still awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse regarding his eligibility.
* Injured wide receivers Michael Morris and Joe Griffin both dressed, but did not participate in drills. Griffin stayed after practice playing long-ball catch with Michael Affleck.
* Linebacker Paul Walkenhorst has not yet been cleared to play.
* Middle linebacker Cameron Jensen was downed late in practice with an apparent ankle injury. The nature of the injury is yet to be determined.
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