Thursday: Morning practice/evening walk through

Last night's practice was rained out so the Cats were at it Thursday morning. The highlight of the day was a full-contact, goal-line scrimmage that saw the defense gain a mild victory over their offensive counterparts.<B>UPDATED, August 15th, 9:20 p.m.</B>

The Cats concluded practice with the goal-line drill. Coaches placed the ball at the four and let the first team offense go at the first team defense. The offense struck first, but it wasn't easy. On first down Gilbert Harris went up the middle but was stood up after a one-yard gain. Sean Jones took a quick pitch to the left side and gained two yards to put the "O" at the one-yard line. Harris had his number called and bulled his way through the line before he was met at the goal line. After a moment of deliberation the coaches ruled that it was not a touchdown and marked the ball about three inches from the goal line. Fourth down gave us a glimpse at what makes Nic Costa so special. Costa faked a hand off to the left and sprinted to his right. The speedy quarterback made a beeline for the pylon and easily outraced safety Lamon Means to the endzone.

The defense would dominate from there. The ball was placed back at the four and on the next play Chris Henry gained half a yard. He and Richard Kovalcheck became crossed up on second down and the pitch sailed past the freshman runner and the fumble was recovered by the defense. Costa's lone pass attempt was batted at the line but Costa caught the ball and was headed into the heart of the line when the coaches blew the whistle. The Cats gained just two yards on the next two carries and after Clay Hardt stopped Harris at the line the coaches ended practice.

"We gave them some full-speed work," John Mackovic said. "The first offense scored and the first defense stopped them so they were 1-for-1. The second defense stopped them. It was a good activity. "

The Cats spent a good deal of time on special teams. They worked punt coverage, field goals and kick returns. Mackovic had high praise for his place kicker.

"Bobby (Gill) was 3-for-3," Mackovic said. "He looked good, his swing was good and his ball was dead-on"

Mackovic also praise snapper Tom Robinson. Mackovic likes his size and said that he and Gill have been working well together.

"He's big enough and I think he can do a very good job for us," Mackovic said.

Gill has a firm grasp on the place kicking chores, but the punter's spot is wide open. Danny Baugher and James Molina have been battling, but neither has shown the consistency that the team needs.

"Last year one punts well one day and one punts well the next day," Mackovic confessed. "Right now I could not pick one over the other."

Situational work was the name of the game. The 7-on-7 drills had the teams operating in the "scoring zone" inside the 25. The offense got the best in this drill. Nic Costa tossed a pair of touchdowns, a 25 yarder to the corner of the endzone and then a nice slant pattern to Ricky Williams for a 15-yard score. O'Hara found a leaping Biren Ealy in the corner and the sophomore receiver did a nice job of getting his feet down. Freshman Kris Heavner found Lance Relford for a score as well. The one negative was an O'Hara interception. The sophomore passer and his intended receiver were not on the same page and his short dump off pass was picked off by Lamon Means who may still be running. One observer noted that it looked like one of Neil O'Donnell's pick in the Super Bowl. Costa and O'Hara took all the snaps in 11-on-11 drills, which were also "scoring zone" drills. O'Hara and Syndric Steptoe connected on a 25-yard score on the first pass attempt. It wasn't the prettiest pass, but the freshman receiver hauled it in. O'Hara finished the drill 2-4, with the touchdown and an interception by Gary Love. Costa was 3-5 for 10 yards and no scores.

Earlier in practice the quarterbacks worked a lot with roll outs and sprint outs. The tight ends and linebackers were going at it 1-on-1. With three walk-on tight ends, Charlie Dickey was doing a lot of coaching. The offensive line was working on double teams and there was a lot of popping going on.

UPDATE: With afternoon rains, the Cats moved their scheduled practice to inside McKale. Instead of a normal practice, the Cats went through a walk-through. As per NCAA rules, a walk-through does not count as a practice as long as there is no hitting and no balls involved.

All the Cats did was work on various formations and plays. The defense worked on pass rushing drills. The Cats will practice at 7:00 am and 4:30 pm on Friday.


*Darrell Brooks was back in practice after sitting out yesterday's morning practice.

*Cedric Cofer had surgery this morning on his injured leg and the Cats expect him to be just fine. He will miss the season.

*John Abramo will miss a few more days.

*Phil Clark took a hard hit yesterday and was feeling a bit woozy. He was held out of practice as a precautionary measure. Marcus Smith also sat out as he recovers from surgery to his thumb.

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