The Cougar football took to the practice field for the first time today in frigid early spring weather. As the defense went through their drills, not much had changed from a year ago, but offensively, the things picked up noticeably from where they left off at the end of the season.
Said Brown: "It's just more fast-paced. Coach Mendenhall, Reynolds and Anae told us what it would be like and it was just like they said. Just really concise and fast-paced and I like that."
"I feel so much more confident with what I'm doing out there and I think the rest of the offense does as well," added offensive lineman Jake Kuresa. "A lot of that is me just having a year playing, but I really think the offense is clicking right now and it's only the first practice we've had. I just feel that we're more certain of where we need to be. It's a lot more simple and we're going to be good because of it."
The offense went against the defense briefly in skeleton drills where several of the highlights included:
-Nate Hutchinson leaping high to pick off a sideline pass
-K.C. Bills, raring to go after a long year sitting out due to injury, laid a big sideline hit on Nate Griffith
-Oneil Howell on a couple of occasions ran step-for-step with his coverage assignment knocking down the attempted fly pass
-Daniel Coats made a nice leaping grab across the middle
-tight end Johnny Harline was perhaps the offensive star of the practice going up and getting balls on several occasions
Said Brown about today's opening session: "It was great and I like being involved in the passing game more. It's something I've worked hard on and prepared for a lot since Coach Anae got hired. The quarterbacks were looking long today for the most part, but I get that with it being the first practice and all. I want the ball of course, but we're a team. It doesn't matter who gets the ball and where. It really makes no difference to me."
The focus on execution was apparent to observers. "Everything is so precise," Brown pointed out. "It's just a more disciplined offensive system. It's disciplined and precise and I'm excited with how far along we already are. We have a long way to go, but we're already clicking and that is exciting."
"It's the offense I signed to play in when I came out of high school," said quarterback Matt Berry. "It's the system I felt I could excel in best and I'm excited that it's back. I feel it will be better for me and for the entire team."
As the team went through their remaining drills, Mendenhall threw in his first noticeable hitch to conclude the practice. He had the team run through an mini-obstacle course which culminated with each position doing pull-ups.
"We knew it was coming, they told us about a week ago that we'd finish doing an little obstacle course or whatever that was, but man, we're big boys and I didn't know it was going to be that hard," said a winded Kuresa with a wink and a smile. "I'm sure I'll get used to it, but geez, having 300 plus linemen do the same pull-ups as 160 pound wide receivers, I don't know about that, man!"
"You look at it and it looks sort of easy, but then you go through it following practice and it's not all that easy," admitted Brown. "But it's all about finishing. That's what the drill is called. The whole practice has to be hard in order for us to be accountable and that is what we're all about."
Other Practice Notes: - Nick Longshore and Travis Bright saw reps with the first team O-line at right guard - Gary Lovely won the linebacker sprints at the end of practice. - Paul Walkenhorst saw reps with the defensive ends