Although players are working hard, the whole mood around camp seems to be a relaxed one, at least in terms of mood. There is nothing relaxed about the play on the field. Players are fired up and the coaches are intense in scrimmage situations, but you don't see them flying off the handle during drills. The players know what is expected of them and the coaches are able to guide their charges with less interruptions.
The Cats were finally able to get a full pad practice in. There is more hitting but tackling is still very limited.
Running drills were the first opportunity for both lines to pop pads and both sides had something too prove. All too often the defense knows exactly what is coming, so the offense decided to add a few short passes to keep the defense honest.
Chris Jennings showed an impressive burst when he hit the hole on a counter and burst for a big gain. The hole was opened up thanks to a big block by Daniel Borg. Xavier Smith showed a great burst on a carry a few snaps later.
Special teams were fun to watch thanks to a nice breeze. Kyle McQuown boomed some great kicks. The wind helped, but the junior punter got some good leg behind them.
Extra attention was also spent on punt blocks and fighting off press punt coverage at the line of scrimmage.
The skeleton drills showed little in terms of anything new. Most of the passes were short, underneath stuff that is the norm in 7-on-7's. The most interesting aspect was the extra attention focused upon Michael Turner. The freshman corner is playing catch-up and he was getting a lot of extra coaching…from Antoine Cason. Stoops put a little extra pressure on the junior corner and he responded. It was not uncommon to hear Cason give a piece of advice just seconds before the same instruction was lobbed Turner's way from the head coach.
Team drills feature a lot more hitting and a lot of intensity. There were a number of big plays. Freshman Earl Mitchell had the catch of the camp. Brandon McCall let a ball deflect off his hands and Mitchell came out of nowhere to dive and grab the ball before it hit the ground.
Syndric Steptoe was the first to "score". He took a little inside screen and raced untouched for a long gain. The play was very reminiscent of the type of plays that helped put Dennis Northcutt and Bobby Wade into the NFL.
Anthony Johnson had two big plays. Twice he went up the seam and got behind the safeties. Both times Tuitama hit him perfectly for gains over 30 yards.
Louis Holmes had his first big play of camp. He blew by Tanner Bell and flushed Adam Austin. Had it been a contact drill he would have had the sack, but instead Austin threw an off balanced pass and it was picked off by freshman Cam Nelson.
The Cats return to practice on Thursday with their first two-a-day.
NOTES: *Freshman D'aundre Reed is working at linebacker. He was recruited as a defensive end but the move the linebacker is not a surprise for the athletic newcomer.
*Mike Stoops indicated that Cam Nelson will see the bulk of his reps this fall at cornerback, but that his future is at safety.
*A number of players were held out due to minor injuries including Peter Graniello, Adam Hawes and Travis Bell. All three should be back in action in the next few days. No serious injuries have occurred at camp, although Adam Grant and Bobby McCoy will miss extended time due to injuries suffered over the summer.
*I erroneously reported that Derke Robinson would not be in full pads this week. Thanks to two-a-days he will be eligible to go in full gear by the week's end.