"Vacation is definitely over," said Coker. "We are excited about that."
Coker has been busy in the off-season hiring six new coaches including offensive coordinator Rich Olson, who spent the last 10 years in the NFL with five different teams.
"We have been working extremely hard to put everything together," Coker said. "This is a very important spring practice for us. We have to believe in ourselves and the players have to believe in what we are doing, which they are. They are excited to begin spring practice."
Practies are close to the public for a few reasons including the team trying to implement new elements of an offense and avoid the negative talk if the defense dominates the offense like in recent years.
COKER'S LIST OF SPRING PRIORITIES
1. New Staff. "Getting our players to really buy into what we are doing and believe in our staff and really realize these guys are good."
2. Offensively. "Fundamentally we have to get better and get better play out of our quarterback from the standpoint that we have to coach him better. I don't mean we need a better quarterback, don't misunderstand me, but we can fundamentally be better in so many areas."
3. Passing and catching. "We can be better in our passing game."
4. Defensively. "I think we are more stable and consistent than we have been because Randy Shannon and Tim Walton are still here. Philosophy-wise we are not going to change much. There will be a few tweaks as there always is."
5. Offensive line. "I think that is going to be a real key that the young kids step up. I think they can and I really like what I have seen so far. They have a new coach there and they have a sense of it being their time."
SPRING PRACTICE NOTES
(quotes are from Coker)
· QB Kyle Wright is expected to step up as a leader and improve on his timing in terms of routes.
· CB Glenn Sharpe will be guarded a little bit this spring as he recovers from two knee injuries as he competes for the starting cornerback position. "He is coming along well. Glenn will be an outstanding player for us if we can get him on the field."
· DL Baraka Atkins will play his more natural position of defensive end in the spring and likely throughout the 2006 season. He prefers to play defensive end and his stills are better suited on the outside where he makes more plays.
· James Bryant has moved from fullback to linebacker and will compete for the starting MLB spot with Darryl Sharpton and Glenn Cook. "He wants to be a linebacker and that is what he feels he came here to play. I am the head coach and I don't care where he plays."
· LB Darryl Sharpton is the front-runner for the starting MLB position, "I am real excited about him. We want to see what Darryl Sharpton can do at middle linebacker. I think he is a special guy."
· LB Jon Beason (WLB) and LB Tavares Gooden (SLB) enter the spring as the starting outside linebackers. Willie Williams (WLB), Spencer Adkins (WLB), and Romeo Davis (SLB) could also figure into the mix.
· LB Jon Beason "might have been the best defensive player we had last year" which doesn't help LB Willie Williams in his quest to get on the field.
· WR Lance Leggett has added 10-12 pounds and has been "crazy" catching the football during off-season workouts.
· WR Ryan Moore "has to take it to another level and we have to get him the football." Coker believes Moore is a more talented Reggie Wayne.
· FB Jerrell Mabry enters the spring as the starter at fullback, but with the new offense the position could be phased out especially considering Mabry weighed in at 290 pounds yesterday. Chris Zellner and Richard Gordon could also play the FB/H-Back position in the offense.
· Richard Gordon is playing tight end for the Canes and is doing very well according to players and coaches. "I think he is going to be special."
· RB Tyrone Moss is doing well with his rehab according to Coker, but will not participate in spring practices.
· RB Charlie Jones, RB Derron Thomas, and Andrew Johnson will compete in the spring for carries in the fall season. Last year Thomas was one of the top offensive performers in the spring and looks to have another very strong spring.
· OG A.J. Trump enters the spring as the starting left guard and Coker is very excited about him. Reggie Youngblood (LT), Anthony Wollschlager (C), Derrick Morse (RG), and Tyrone Byrd (RT) round out the starting unit.
· The following players are dealing with injuries heading into the spring and could miss the entire spring: RB Tyrone Moss (knee), S Anthony Reddick (knee), TE DajLeon Farr (shoulder), DB Rashaun Jones (shoulder), RB George Timmons (leg), and WR Terrell Walden (knee).
· OL Reggie Youngblood is still a "work in progress" according to Coker, but thinks he will be a good player.
· K Jon Peattie and P Brian Monroe have their own coaches to help them with their skills heading into their final season. "Most football coaches don't know a lot about the kicking game. To go out and yell at them to 'kick better' isn't really going to do anything."
COKER'S FINAL STATEMENT
"Until you actually play against someone else, it is hard to tell how good you are."
Christopher Stock is a Senior Editor with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at email@example.com