Tempo, effort, and attitude were all sky high and that insured a trip to the movies Friday afternoon. It also gives the players a chance to gather their legs a little in preparation for the final scrimmage of camp Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium.
What to look for in the scrimmage? I think after last week's offensive show, defensive coordinator Bill Young and co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will be looking for general improvement in pass rush, pass coverage, and play against the run.
From a position standpoint, the keys will be play at defensive end beyond the starters. It would be the same at defensive tackle, and maybe cornerback, the most key spot for depth expansion. The competition between red-shirt freshman Miketavius Jones, veteran Larry Stephens, gradual returning Devin Hedgepeth, and true freshmen Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin is real interesting.
The competition between linebackers is a plus as the group seems to have a really good three-deep across.
There will be special teams work on Saturday as new graduate assistant for special teams Ty Linder will be making some near final evaluations on who should man cover units and the overall efficiency of some of the units. Kasey Dunn is working returners and needs to make decisions on who will be with Justin Gilbert back on kickoffs and also on punt returns, which also includes Gilbert in the mix.
Offensively, coordinator Todd Monken is wanting to see continued progress in knowledge of and execution of the offense by freshman starting quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt has been really solid throughout and it would be tough to imagine that he would back up at this juncture. He will see a very determined defense.
The expectation of the running backs and also the young but very talented and seemingly balanced receiver corps. Offensive line might be a very resonable focus, and Joe Wickline said on Friday after the morning practice that the offensive line is close to being ready.
"I think we're on pace, I really do," said Wickline after an intense morning session. "That's the biggest thing you can say. We're on time. Any time you lose three starters, anybody out there has to bring some guys along – guys that haven't played as much, guys with a lot of promise and ability.
"It's still not the same…it's a different chemistry. It's a different camaraderie. We're trying to develop this group. Probably the way you'd break it down right now is ones and twos. We have a solid first bunch. There's no real question marks; can this guy do it, can that guy do it?
"Knock on wood, if everyone stays healthy with the first bunch, we have what we need and what we've had. We can be as successful or more than what we've had. We may not have this guy or that guy, but basically as a group, they're doing really well. They're on time. There's still a long ways to go, believe me.
"The third guard and third tackle have really started to rise up. Daniel Koenig and Devin Davis are fighting for a starting job right now. Devin's a little bit behind him, but Devin is definitely a swing tackle – he's really going to be a nice player and he's a solid third tackle. That's what you want to have. You want to have three tackles.
"At the guard position, you have Brandon Webb and he still has a long way to go. It seems like he's been here for 13 years. He's a solid answer for a third rotating guard. At center, you have Evan Epstein, who has been in it for a while now and he's going to get his first start. He's earned it and done a nice job.
"Behind him, we've got two guys battling in Jake Jenkins and Travis Cross. Both those guys are about even right now at center. Travis can also flip over and play tackle or guard. He's a guy that's going to travel and fight for a second-team job and ultimately a first-team job.
"You've got an answer for the first bunch," continued Wickline, who at the least always wants an extra tackle, extra guard, and a second center. "You have an answer for the third tackle. You have an answer – knock on wood that nobody gets hurt – for your second and third center.
"What you've got is ‘where are you at with your fourth guard and your fourth tackle?' Right now, it's Eli Dickerson, who has played a bunch of different positions, but he's trying to hammer in there and be even with Brandon Webb and push Jonathan Rush and push Lane Taylor and those guys. He's a big-body guy who knows what's going on and we're driving him hard. He's got a ways to go and he'll get there.
"The other one is a junior college transfer who got here this summer, Chris Grisbhy, who is still learning the plays. A pass, a run, right from left and it's all brand new to him. You can't give up on him. He's 325 pounds and 6-4 ½ and has a lot of ability. That kind of rounds out not only your third guard and tackle, but also your second bunch."
Maybe the hardest position to replace is center as Grant Garner, who earned All-American mention. He is replaced by a first-time starter in Evan Epstein.
"Grant did a nice job, he really did, and nobody can dismiss that," started Wickline. "He's a great kid and a great guy. So sharp and had leadership skills – everybody knows all that and it's well-documented. Evan is old enough. Will he be Grant Garner? No, but will he be good enough to get done what we need to get done? Yes he will.
"The thing that's going to help Evan is he's got a sixth-year player and a fifth-year player on both sides who can kind of pick up the tackles and pick up Evan as it goes on. They've been around forever. If you had brand new guys at guards and brand new guys at center, then I'd have a real issue with center. So you have a couple older guys that can take care of that inside as long as we can snap the ball and make the right point.
"The youth now is on the edge. I'm concerned about it – we all are until the lights come on – until we get it done. We'll find out, but to this point, he's progressing."
Epstein has a mean streak, as a lot of Wickline's pupils do. It is something more commonly found in the mental makeup of defensive linemen, but you love when it appears on offense. Mean will work. It has worked in the past and will again.
Movies Friday night, scrimmage on Saturday, camp over with two straight days off and then it is time to start preparing for Savannah State.