In fact, it might have been called "Healthy-N-Happy" for head coach Mark Snyder, as walk-on and freshmen did the ball carrying and no first-team players were involved. The offense only scored twice and that was when the running backs and receivers were going up against linebackers and defensive backs. That match-up was 2-for-3 scoring, but the offensive line against defensive linemen were 0-for-4 in that match-up.
Sophomores Vinny Curry and Delvin Johnson, both who sat out last season, led the defensive side with three tackles each. True freshman Devin Arrington forced a fumble, although it was against quarterback Johnathan Garner who was not supposed to have the ball but missed a hand-off. True frosh Ahmed Shakoor had the big hit of the drill when he prevented a touchdown by stuffing walk-on receiver Ryan Smith at the one-yard line. Smith scored on the next play and freshman Jordan Taylor had the other score.
Snyder was happy with the first day, the way the team came out with excitement, amped up by the crowd of 400-500 of Herd fans on a perfect 80-degree day for football. "I thought they carried their pads good today," said the coach. "I was pleased, and its always different when they put the pads on for the first time. Hoot-N-Holler is a fun drill. The crowd was nice and the weather was nice. I think (the crowd) gave them a boost, they made a little noise today, so (the players) couldn't hear us (coaches) so I'm sure they liked that. I thought they were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed today."
Mark Snyder was happy with hitting, and health of Herd, on day one of full pads. "Hoot-N-Holler," however, was a former shadow of what the coach did in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as back-ups and walk-ons did seven series total on Saturday. photo from HerdZone.com
For comparison for the difference in the hitting level, last year Chubb Small and Kelvin Turner got scores behind the starting offensive line and the offense scored on eight of 16 tries on a day where the real temperature was 96-degrees and the "feels-like" was over 105-degrees on the FieldTurf. In 2006, there were eight scores in 18 separate three-down series in "H-N-H" while the 2005 drill went on for six periods, or over 30 minutes, with seven scores from the long-gone Gerwin Williams and Will Albin. Starting offensive and defensive linemen dominated the drills the last three years.
Vinny Curry, who sat out due to poor high school record-keeping that didn't allow him to be cleared for play by the NCAA Clearing House in 2007, was making up for lost time on day one of the full pads, recording two sacks and another tackle for loss in team. photo from HerdZone.com
Curry, who also was dominating in last year's "H-N-H" drill before being pulled out after two weeks and forced to sit the season due to clearing house problems on his junior transfer to Harmony Community College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is excited to be a part of the Herd for 2008. "It felt so good to be part of this "BOB" team, this Band of Brothers, it's like a brotherhood someone like me is proud to be part of," said Curry following practice.
"The feeling that I will not be taken off this year feels so good and I am going to go give it my all every play." Curry's missing of 2007 might have even been rougher than Delvin Johnson or Brandon Bullock missing 2007 as props, because he was really showing signs of being an impact player, especially when Albert McClellan was lost at defensive end, and then it was all taken away due to a paperwork snafu. "It was devastating," said Curry of being pulled out. "All of that stuff is in the past, but it helped me mature in many ways. I got a year in the weight room and I don't take anything for granted. I am going to go 100 percent to the ball, surround the ball, and help my teammates in anyway I can."
The depth is pushing everyone on the defense to work hard, said Curry, and he is impressed with the athletes on the defensive side of the ball with him. "I've been on high school and prep teams, but this team is super fast. Everybody on this defense has heart, from the ones to the threes. Right now, I'm part of the threes and I've got heart, these guys have heart, we are "BOB."
Curry was asked about playing in the Rick Minter defensive scheme, which Ian Hoskins called earlier this week being, "let off the chain." To a man, said Curry, the entire defensive unit is excited about the attacking nature of this year's unit. "Exactly. It's like not feeding a pit bull for a couple of weeks. You tease a steak in front of him, then you let him off the chain...what is he going to do to the meat?"
Snyder was excited about Curry, Johnson and Bullock and the defensive line, and concerned about his offensive line. "We need to pick it up on the offensive side a little bit. Some of those (Curry) was not blocked, but all three of those guys are going to be good players here. I'm excited about them. Bullock, to be so big (345-pounds), he has a lot of sudden-ness to him, which I did not expect. When I put on the film, I went, 'Wow!' He is a very strong human being."
John Shannon, the Herd offensive coordinator, was happy with day one. "We've really been pleased with the tempo we have had in camp so far. The first two days in helmets, the two days in shells and today, they carried their pads real well. I thought we ran well and they were enthused to be out here today." Shannon, who has coached most recently at Toledo (2003-07) but also Troy (2001-02), Jackson State (1994-2000), Maryland (1992-93), Pacific (1989-91) and Richmond (1984-88), was stunned by the huge crowd of Herd fans who arrived nearly an hour before practice started. "I couldn't believe it."
Shannon was also pleased with Chad Schofield stepping in at center with John Bruhin sidelined with a "boot" on since Wednesday. One of the things Shannon said on Monday at Media Day was the Herd had to have three centers ready to play. "Exactly, and we're training. We are moving our juco guy, Landis Provancha, and we are going to look at him at center,too. They need training, and more training than anyone else up front." Matt Altobello can also help the Herd at center, said Shannon.