"It's been a fast, long, hard stretch out of the gate, but on the whole I don't know that the team has ever been in better condition. A lot of the guys have really held up their end," one observer said.
Training camp opened last Monday with five consecutive practices before its first two-a-day session on Satuday. That was also the first full-pad, full-contact drills of camp. Sunday then saw another practice, which surprised some.
The practice pace has been "fast and furious" from the outset, aside from the second session on Saturday, which was "more of a walk-through pace focused on fundamentals."
A major focus has been on the running game and blocking scheme. Bill Belton has led the charge and has been focused on ball protection and "reading his blocks." As one observer explained, "He's so much more comfortable (at running back) and has been running with more and more authority every practice."
Another back who has made early progress is true freshman Akeel Lynch, who has been working to "see the lanes consistently" and has been "getting increased confidence." He also "seems to love contact," a common trait among the backs on this team.
The passing game has had Matt McGloin as the lead quaterback, seeing the bulk of first-team work, with Paul Jones getting second-team and some first-team reps. McGloin "has benefitted from the coaching (from Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher) he's gotten." He's said to be increasingly patient and "seeing more of the field."
Jones has shown "power" and "increased consistency" with his passing. He continues to work on his progression and check-downs, but is "a strong presence in the pocket," according to one observer.
In terms of the receiving game, the tight ends have gotten a lot of attention in the early training camp sessions. Among the players here who have stood out are Kyle Carter and Garry Gilliam. Both have "been able to get off the line and set a block." They continue to work the fundamentals in this regard, like keeping with their assignments.
However, just as important (if not more) to the staff is their receiving skills. Jesse James has also made strong impressions with his progress in this area. "He's young, but really picks up on the coaching he gets." In regards to the most complete tight end, there's debate as to who will make the biggest impact. Some observers point to Gilliam's 6-6, 265-pound frame and others feel that the "quickness" of Carter will give the passing game a lot of looks.
With the receivers the standouts have been Shawney Kersey, Allen Robinson and Alex Kenney. All three have shown speed, with Kenney "really showing he can use it to his advantage" from the slot. These three are also the most consistent with their hands, although position coach Stan Hixon "wants borderline perfection" on routes and receiving fundamentals.
With the young crop of wideouts, a few are making early impressions, namely Eugene Lewis and Malik Golden. "Geno came in and really seems to get how important sharp routes are. Rounding a corner or dogging a cut can kill a play. He gets that." As for Golden, he's got "good feet and hands." He's been working on "sharpening his routes," but he "has a lot of the basics down early on."
In regards to the offensive line, the set has primarily been:
The interior of the line is "coming along," particularly with Stankiewitch and Urschel "working well with their calls."
With regard to the tackles, redshirt freshman Donovan Smith has been out for much of the period, but projects as a starting tackle. O'Brien has said he feels he could be a four-year starter at the position given what he has shown in the off-season. This alone makes for the tackle situation being a "work in progress."
All told though the linemen have been described as "bigger," "stronger," and "more agile" by various observers. The question is how they can pull together as a unit once the season starts.