There was a slight chill in the air, but it was sunny, and the team was fired up for the first day of spring practice.
As the media walked in, Irish head coach Charlie Weis was clapping, and the team was hooting and hollering at each other. The team was in shorts and helmets.
Irish Eyes had a few staff members in attendance. Here is what they saw.
"Don't call it a comeback, No. 2 is back in action," Walls laughed.
Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus quickly went over to Clausen and backup Dayne Crist to talk about something. Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta shared a laugh on the other side of the field.
As the team broke off for position drills, I went with the offensive linemen.
The first thing I noticed was how intense new offensive line coach Frank Verducci is, and I think he was trying to get that across to his line. Verducci certainly wasn't there to waste any time.
"We need better tempo," Verducci was saying right away.
The first drill the offensive line was doing, was something where they worked on their back pedal (I assume pass protection), then their lateral movement, and then moving forward and getting on a linebacker.
Sam Young led the offensive line through the drills followed by classmates Eric Olsen and Paul Duncan. Chris Stewart, Dan Wenger, Andrew Nuss, Matt Romine, Mike Golic Jr., Lane Clelland and Braxston Cave followed on through.
Trevor Robinson, who cut his hair off, was limited in drills and off to the side taking mental reps and moving around as best he could during the media-allowed session.
"Stay down Lane," Verducci instructed during the first drill.
"Braxston, stay down and work."
"We need better tempo, form up on the linebacker, lateral!"
I noticed that Olsen looks as big as Stewart. Over the last few years, it's easy to see the physical maturation these guys have made from freshmen year, to their respective junior and senior years, has been tremendous.
As the offensive line moved to its next drill, they didn't move fast enough for Verducci, who shouted a few expletives to get their attention. Clelland took the brunt of it, but seemed unfazed and ready to work when his turn for reps came. I think the offensive line is responding well to Verducci, although I only watched 20 minutes, and it's the first day.
The next drill was coming off the line of scrimmage and getting into the defensive line.
"Right foot, I want leverage, hands in, climb, climb," Verducci explained.
Young, Olsen and Duncan started the drill, followed by Wenger, Stewart and Nuss.
"Tempo's getting better," Verducci said.
"Get your hips underneath you," Verducci instructed to Mike Golic Jr., who looks more like a college football player than last year.
After the first rep, Verducci wanted the drill done off the left foot.
"That it, that away to climb Sam," Verducci said to Young.
"That away Danny, way to get your hips under him," he said to Wenger.
"I want to see you strike and rise and climb him," Verducci said to the whole line.
The next time through, Verducci had his guys out attacking linebackers.
"Coming off, gathering steam, base out and climbing a linebacker," he instructed.
"Hit with a base Chris," Verducci said to Stewart.
"Pretty good Matt Romine. Athletic move there."
Head coach Charlie Weis was over watching much of the drills.
One of the first things I noticed were the presence of fifth-year players who were not listed on today's roster. Offensive lineman Paul Duncan, safeties Kyle McCarthy and Ray Herring and linebacker Scott Smith were all out there today.
Wide receiver Duval Kamara was sporting a Barry Bonds-like brace on his left arm, but it did not seem to restrict him at all. Wide receiver George West was listed as ‘limited' on today's depth chart and he looked like it as he went through warm-ups gingerly.
Quarterback Dayne Crist has moved up to the front row of stretching with Jimmy Clausen. Crist made himself comfortable right away with the defensive backs across from him, telling cornerbacks Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls about his new handshakes. Walls and McNeil immediately fell into their old routine after a loud shout from Walls about being back.
New defensive line coach Randy Hart never stops moving during stretching. I did not hear much from new offensive line coach Frank Verducci during stretching while new running backs coach Tony Alford was all over the place with a smile.
The team was extremely energetic as they broke from stretching and sprinted from their pre-practice meeting with Charlie Weis to their respective positions. By the time the running backs and tight ends reached Bernie Parmalee and Alford for ball security drills, Alford's smile was gone.
When the tight ends broke off on their own, Alford put the running backs through footwork drills with the emphasis still on ball security. The cones were placed a half-yard apart and Alford made it very clear that he did not want the backs touching the cones.
Alford spread the cones out and placed them in a zig-zag pattern as the backs worked on their cuts and staying low. Alford stressed to his players to finish the drill strong as Weis looked on.
I got the chance to check out the receivers for a bit at the end of the 20 minutes. John Goodman looks like he has added a little weight while Deion Walker still looks thin. Walker may be skinny, but he is plenty fast and gets in and out of his cuts quickly while catching just about every pass thrown his way.
As I said, the brace did not seem to bother Kamara at all as he cruised through the four-square drill. Michael Floyd is still one of the loudest, hardest working guys on the team.
As we first walked in, the team was stretching. The mood was light, and the players seemed to be animated and excited to get back in the swing of things.
Coach Powlus had his typical conversation with Jimmy Clausen before practice, who was stretching with Crist.
Sergio Brown and Raeshon McNeil were giving Darrin Walls some flak for missing last season during stretching. Walls was enjoying it, laughing along with them.
Coach Ianello had a short talk with Floyd and Duval Kamara.
One of the best lines I heard all practice was thanks to coach Bernie Parmalee. As I was walking to watch the D line, I overheard coach Parmalee speaking to the running backs as they were doing bag drills. One of them stepped on the bag, and he said, "If that was a land mine, we'd all be dead now."
I was watching coach Hart coach the d-line and he is electric as he coaches his players. He never stops talking, and is always motivating them. "Get out and go, get out and go. Get out and buzz," he would tell them working on their footwork.
You can tell that KLM has worked his tail off over this past year. He looks quicker, agile and pretty explosive off the line. He has also gotten considerably bigger too.
Bryant Young was working alongside Hart with the D line.
"Tackling will be the most important thing you're going to do," Hart said. He then went over how he wants his players to attack and tackle, doing the drill in slow motion himself. I've noticed that he likes to focus on the details when explaining his methods. "Where does my head go? I want you guys to put it right on the numbers of the ball carrier," he said.
Tyler Stockton is short and stocky, and fairly big, but he needs to redistribute his weight a bit.
Ethan Johnson looks fit and ready to go. He does not take one rep off and he looked pumped to be back.
Zeke Motta is tall, but could add some weight. The good thing is that he has the frame to do so. he was working with Tenuta and the linebackers.