As the winds picked up and thunder was heard in the distance, the team moved the entire operation indoors. The team immediately set out doing drills within their own units. The defensive backs did a change of direction drill that called a safety-corner tandem to adjust on the fly to a receiver while keeping proper technique.
It is a new drill for the Cougar defensive backs, but according to Robinson it is a drill that will benefit them.
"It's a tough drill," he said. "I mean, that pursuit drill we do is hard enough, but this drill? It was brutal, but it's going to help us. Coach Hill is doing a lot of new stuff and I think it's really going to help us. I think it already has."
The team then combined units and did light-contact passing drills. Chris Bolden picked up exactly where he left off Saturday. On the very first play he sacked John Beck. The offense immediately rebounded and got on track.
True to what head coach Bronco Mendenhall began in the spring, the team did extensive special teams work. Today's focus was on kickoff coverage. McKay Jacobson, Curtis Brown, Zac Erekson, Brett Cooper, Nathan Meikle and Isaac Taylor all took turns fielding kicks. The deep-snappers in the kickers drills were Brett Denney and Bryan Kehl. JC signee Matt Johnson is still waiting to be cleared.
Back and Forth
Dustin Gabriel played with the ones again at safety. He is fully healthy and cleared to play once again. Gabriel was moved to linebacker in the spring, but moved back to safety, which is where he logged time at last season.
"I guess it's just because I'm so incredibly athletic that they had to move me back to safety," joked Gabriel. "But seriously, I just feel more comfortable there and I'm just happy to be back playing."
Gabriel was joined by Gooch as the other safety in the new 3-4 system.
"We all like the system a lot and think it will help us play more effectively as a unit," said Gabriel. "I'm with the ones now and my goal is to stay there."
Over the Hump
Tico Pringle has improved dramatically since spring ball. The difference is simply having time to get in shape and learn the system.
"I wasn't ready coming in," said Pringle. "I thought I was, but looking back I wasn't even close. I was just running around out there trying to catch up with guys while trying to remember my technique and man, I just couldn't do much. It's so much better this fall. Conditioning is everything, and I feel I'm doing much better."
Where Pringle once was, new cornerback Andre Saulsberry now is. The JC cornerback transfer is trying to develop stamina so he can contribute immediately and consistently. After struggling through the first day of practices, Saulsberry is getting the hang of it.
"It was a lot better today," said Saulsberry. "It was a little overwhelming on Saturday. I couldn't believe how bad I did at times, but it's just that I wasn't comfortable at all. Now it's about getting comfortable in the system and getting adjusted to the altitude. I reported in great shape and once I fully adjust to the altitude I should be fine. It's just all about not getting frustrated and knowing that it's going to take time."
Saulsberry is currently running with the third-team defenders where he made his presence known today by knocking a deep sideline pass away from receiver Ryan Neely. Saulsberry is also very vocal in encouraging his teammates to elevate their performance.
Robinson was the last player to leave the practice field today working with graduate assistant Micah Alba in a number of different drills. Robinson will be putting in a lot of extra work heading into the season because he wants to finish his career with a bang.
"There are so many little things that you have to get right as a cornerback and I need to get those things right," said Robinson. "Just the most little thing can make the biggest of differences, and that's what the work is about. I want to be the best corner I can because I don't think I did that last year. This year it's going to be different."
One of the main differences this year is that Robinson will not have to spend five to ten minutes after each practice unwrapping tape from his ankle. For Robinson, being healthy makes a big of difference in his personal expectation. He has a goal of 6 interceptions for this year.
"I'm favoring my ankle still a bit in my mind, and I'm getting over that," said Robinson. "The ankle affected me a lot last year. I didn't want to say anything at the time, and I still don't or my momma is going to get mad at me. She always told me ‘no excuses' growing up and I stand by that. No excuses this year hurt or not. I have to get it done."
Robinson feels he has been helped tremendously by new defensive backs coach Jaime Hill. The new secondary coach runs around during drills almost as much as the players.
"Coach Hill is the best," said Robinson. "It's hard to imagine a better coach, that's my dog, right there, man. He's just the best. A great coach and a great man. What more could you ask for?"
Today's standout player was tight end Daniel Coats. He was one of the top two targets on just about every rep for the first-team offense. Coats looks to finish the year strong and contribute wherever he can.
"There are no egos on this team," said Coats. "We have a lot of players that could be the primary play-maker on offense, but it isn't about that and we know that and accept that. We have so many options and we're all about doing whatever we need to do to win. How many catches I have this year? It doesn't matter. Winning games matters."
-Offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds popped the question over the weekend and is engaged to be married in early December
-Among the practice observers today was Jeff Allen who will be a walk-on this fall when classes begin. Allen is the cousin of current Cougar receiver Matt Allen and is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He played his high school ball at Mountain Ridge High School in Arizona before leaving on a mission to Pocatello, Idaho.
-Michael Moore had a CAT scan just prior to practice and he will find out the results tomorrow.
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