With all the news about players that weren't available due to one thing or another, it was probably refreshing for everyone to hear about someone that was going to become available and many thought might not be at NU at all.
While there is no doubt some relief as to Thomas finally arriving, Thomas will not be able to participate in full-padded practice for a period of five days. That five-day time is termed by the NCAA as an "acclimatization period" in which Thomas will not be allowed to practice more than once a day, except in the case of athletic testing, in which case Thomas could participate in testing for an hour and the actual practice for no more than three hours.
Also, during that five-day period, Thomas will have to progress in being able to make his way to full pads. The first two days, it's helmets only. The next two days, it's helmets and shoulder pads and on the fifth day, Thomas will finally be able to wear full gear.
Thomas will also have to undergo a complete physical before he's allowed to participate.
With that bit of technicalities behind them though, Thomas will be able to work himself into a system that his future teammates are still yet working into themselves.
It's been a progression since Spring for most of the players on the team to grasp, comprehend and execute the varying principles they have learned at a feverish pace. It had to be that way if Callahan and company were going to have any hope of getting everything in that they wanted to and actually execute it before the home-opener in early September.
Up to his point, Callahan said of his team's progression that while some things are there, many things still have yet to be accomplished. "We're in a position that we are making strides." Callahan stated. "(but) We are still not honed up in protection, our audible gain - we're not where we want to be in terms of our perimeter run yet."
"Where we've made great strides is in other areas. Our inside run looks good, it's physical and that's what we want to get out of practice. The pass-protection is continuing to make strides, but again on the edges, we are still not pleased where we are at in terms of our tackle-play."
"We've made strides and we're hit and miss and we are still trying to reach that leavel of consistency with the offense."
As the team reaches the middle of their two-a-day sessions, the limbs have started to become a bit weary. While fatigue is always a factor, Callahan stated that he doesn't address fatigue by letting up on his players one bit. "We're not backing down." he said. "We are going to continue to find ways to be smart in terms of where we are with the team from a health perspective. If we get the guys back healthy, but we'll be smart, but we definitely don't want to be scrimmaging out here for three hours and putting ourselves in a position for injuries."
One player that has managed to stay healthy for a couple of reasons has been starting quarterback, Joe Dailey. Between the green jersey that doesn't allow contact and Dailey not having to run nearly as much as he would have in last year's system, the Sophomore QB has managed well and his management is actually his highpoint through practices according to Callahan. Comprehension, action and effectiveness have all seen marked increases since Joe first started learning the system during Spring ball. "Knowing the system, learning the system and being able to get us out of bad plays and bad looks - that's where we are progressing right now with Joe." he said. "As we are in practice, we are putting him position where he has to get us out of a bad play."
Example: "If you were to run a "sweep" play and the defense overloaded that particular side of the formation, we'd certainly not want to run the sweep into an overloaded formation, so we are working on him to audibilize to get us into a good play to get us in a pass or a run."
"He's done pretty well there, but we are working on it continually."
Another player at the position that is getting the proverbial crash-course in "West Coast" verbiage is true freshman Ryan Goodman. Since his ascension to the number two spots, one might wonder just how good this young man is or what his best potential even early on in the season. Reality hits as Callahan made note that Goodman is what he is, young, new to everything and a long road in front of him to be where they want him to be. "He's a ways away." Callahan stated. "He's a young guy. He's got great skills communicatively and he can really spit the verbiage out. He can get in and out of the huddle - he sees the big picture, but it's a matter of being refined in terms of his technique and making decisions."
"The game is a little fast for him - the passing game right now, but if he doesn't play outside of the system, he'll be fine."
The system is the theme though. Option to West Coast. That's the headlines and Callahan's system from the Oakland Raiders is as daunting it seems as it's amazing to watch when ran to perfection as it was his first year with Oakland.
Teaching this system to a group of kids basically, daunting becomes seemingly insane. It's a time where Callahan knows he's going to see the ups and downs of comprehension from his players, but much like the players have to push through fatigue, Callahan and his staff have to battle the mental fatigue of trying to get so much in so fast. "I'm patient with training camp." he said. "I understand from the aspect of guys being tired mentally and the physical fatigue that sets in."
"We just push through it."
The pushing will continue until the 23rd when the team gets their first rest of this hectic practice session as that is when the first day of classes begin. The rest doesn't last long though as they are back at it the next day and will continue until the home-opener against Western Illinois.
The game is scheduled to be played at 6:00 p.m. central time and will now be aired on TV, but will only be available as a Pay-Per-View product on Fox Sports Net.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-476-5006