"Welcome to the cage, men."
Day 2: 08/08/14; 8:30am
With Friday being pretty much a success, I took the night off while the miles and MSG took over. I tried Inn of the Mountain God's buffet while I scribbled notes on Friday and NFL preseason kept my brain entertained into the afternoon. Not the most barnburner Friday night I've ever had, but I kept my line dancing boots in Albuquerque for the time being.
They're right next to a handsome hat, lasso and accent I've left somewhere in an Albuquerque western shop. The nice shiny price tag is still affixed and operators are still standing by if you need them. For the record, I can't say I yahoo-ed enough when I was up in Ruidoso but when two local watering holes - total - come calling I'll have to do it with my own city slicker collar and New Mexico sized (i.e. normal) belt buckle.
Needless to say I had some more zest the next morning. I snagged a hotel muffin and leaped into my truck refreshed. I had eyeballed another local coffee shop on the way into town and I wanted to try it out before practice. Zocca Coffee had all the coffee standards for this small town outfit and I was happy they had some small stuff to nosh on for breakfast. Ruidoso's sleepy town charm doesn't allow for many early breakfast options, so I did what I do best and winged it over there.
Here is where I definitely ran into my surroundings head on. Aside from being blitzed by pine trees and beauty, sitting in this little contemporary coffee shop space: 90's acoustic pandora station playing in the background, coffeehouse decoration, moody lighting....sitting here in the psuedo-coffee shop vibe the locals introduced themselves and did it loudly.
I have my coffee and someone walks through the door: a grey haired gentleman in a bolo tie enters while someone from clear across the room shouts:, "Edmond, Oklahoma! Is that you? How the hell are ya!" at the top of his lungs. The greeter proceeds to get up and shake hands from twenty feet out, catching the man at step three through the door. The rest of the early birds (mostly elderly) look on unaffected. Mind you, the shout is coming in mid-typing swipe on a laptop while an espresso drink sits on his table. in the heat of 90's coffee shop angst a conversation about horse racing continues. It's a clash of worlds that's stirring.
I groaned when I found out they have a Starbucks here, but you get reminded where you are constantly despite the backdrop in places. You are who you are regardless of packaging I suppose.
I get up and check out the bulletin board...a good barometer for what's going on in the community underneath and out of sight. It has sizable missing gaps and only a couple notebook sized posters. Some speckled business cards are also pinned. I ask the guy looking what he thinks about it..."Well, there's a golf tourney with a hundred dollar buy-in *points*...I think I might have to miss that one this year".
Seeing the locals introduce itself in this environment was...a little strange, but I can't say that they weren't friendly. "Did you come to see the team? How are you enjoying yourself in town?" I stuck out like a spur in Lobo gear but I didn't mind. The prime local paper headline was about the state karaoke champion and the staff jumped on my order like it was growing legs,
I stuck out like a spur in Lobo gear but I didn't mind
The truth was I liked it just fine.
I have their standard latte and they make me a nice little panini sandwich to go. It wasn't bad. Turkey, swiss, tomato and S&P seasoning...It doesn't pay to be picky when you've got only enough options. It got the job done and I left there happy. I drink too much coffee anyway. It was good for every walk of life.
When driving past the resort I noticed practice wasn't set up, so I went to the program's "secret field"...what I started to call it last year. It's literally up on a hill, covered by trees in every direction and you can drive around it in circles without seeing it. You only have the trees to watch you play.
Coach Davie came up with a better name though: As the team got set up and out of their buses, Coach Davie clapped his hands together and shouted, "Welcome to the cage, men. Today's as good as any to work."
Coach Davie clapped his hands together and shouted, "Welcome to the cage, men. Today's as good as any to work."
The Cage? You know, I hadn't noticed until now but the field is covered on three sides by chain link fence up a good ten feet. It continues up to create a safety barrier on the edge of the hill on two sides. It gives the Stone Cold Steve Austin warm-up music new meaning during stretching, that's for certain. It's a hell of a lot better than "secret field". It'll do....because Coach Davie said so.
It was Saturday, so I was happy to see Paul Krebs circle back to watch the team practice. I had checked the weather before hand and prepared for the worst. 80% chance of rain got my attention @ 7000+ feet. Unfortunately the internet link got lost in the trees and robbed the players of some music on the field. They got through it unfazed. Finally! I had a better view to see all the positions warm up. Previously seen in this video from the spring, the linebackers gave Coach Cos a Bruce Lee caliber "YAAHHHH" after he yelled "break down!".
Still college kids, having fun...you can tell that this practice was going to have more communication in store for everyone.
Note: Specific players and scheme particulars have been masked to prevent scouting. I apologize for the inconvenience. I took specific notes on the roster: we know who you are, I promise. Most Lobo fans should be able to pick it out too.
This practice took advantage of the turf underfoot and was more scrimmage-like in the structure. I remember players remarking about how it was weird to be on turf again. The warm up to Sunday was intentional but there was no score to keep.
This is Davie's world. It's a circle that you're not in: a finer ring in the husk of a much larger program trunk; where friendly and unknown foe alike receive glares that can pierce both sides of the tree instantaneously. Observing without ripple is hard to do - probably impossible - when everything sticks out from the staff's small ring. Lobo colors or not doesn't matter. Control is everything here and I don't do anything that would contradict (or affect) the field, the players, the practice or even the slightest distracting presence.... which could create a gap between that control and it's direction. Not even a peep or a prolonged glance leaves my position. It's that embedded. It's that tense. It might as well be another country.
This is war and all colors are questioned, though not out loud. A fly on the wall could find room for a few laser scoped dots on it's abdomen. I'm a voluntary shadow and twice as quiet while they work, though I stick out like my hair was on fire. It's that level of control.
I expected some rain but the beginning was surprisingly clear. It starts.
Many more free flowing plays filled this practice while more special teams schematics were installed. Coach Davie overlooks and gives extra instruction. The warm-ups turn into clinics, some test drills on what's just been taught and then some scrimmage at the end. It's basically a scrimmage "lite" today.
Based off of some of the drills, I could tell who's blocking has improved over their already apparent skills from last season. They were special teams-themed but informative. There were some encouraging surprises. I'm picky about certain units in this group because of how much their roles are isolated and hinged on in the scheme. A definite positive in some good areas.
Defense transformation was a theme. The organization of the players themselves sticks out: How vocal ALL of them are. You have leaders and players directing traffic but Coach Cos (Kevin Cosgrove) insists on seeing everyone participate in the machine that's pre-snap. You see seniors and captains speak up. You see movement with less kinks. Communication is getting better and there's more havoc, except this time it's more fluid than last year.
That's a good thing.
Coach Cos insists on seeing everyone participate in the machine that's pre-snap ... You see movement with less kinks...Communication is getting better and there's more havoc...
Very minor injuries come from the Saturday scrum. A pulled hamstring here, a slight limp there. All of which only find a way to limit reps for a few players. The next day proved these bumps insignificant and they're worked out right on the sideline in front of me.
The offense still finds some ways to put the ball out there, even on the first play of the scrimmaging. A running back takes advantage of an anxious front seven that's been practicing against a lot of the same. He breaks it 50+ yards on the first rep and Cos goes NUTS. The offense and the defense looks fairly evenly matched and take several swipes at each other. Very competitive and it's been a while since both sides have traded blows tit for tat. The margin has narrowed significantly.
The defense doesn't always get read correctly and not everything is picked up. O-line leaders continue to try to call out the threats and clean it up. They come from a lot of different directions and pressure is getting to whoever is throwing. The D-line is doing a good job.
The offense gets a misstep penalty from an end and the quasi-broken play ends up in a jump ball with the corner. Not only does the WR come down with it, the "pick" position wins the ball and puts the corner on the sideline while he takes it 40+ yards to score. Broken tackles and a foot race bring it home. The corner and the WR give each other ribs for the remainder of practice because of it.
Later on the secondary gets one back with a pick in the end zone. It was that kind of day. The secondary had some missed assignments but jumped right back in it with more near interceptions from multiple people. Pass break ups come up as runs come under control. It's feast or famine and they're climbing right back in it. Coach Chuck (McMillian) is a busy guy regardless.
QB's are varied with pressure in their face. The pitches from everyone overall were better: a continuation from Friday practice. A newer QB isn't warming up his throwing hand. Injured? Non-starter. QB's are having some choice moments sneaking the ball in between coverage with pop. The window is getting smaller and smaller however.
The rain showed right at the end of the practice. Perfectly timed for everyone but the managers. The most eventful piece of the practice had thunder introduce the two minute warning.
Everyone took cover and it came down sudden enough to wrap everything up in a nice bow.
Tomorrow I'll go over the full scrimmage from Sunday.