Practice Report: Day 1

The Toledo Rockets opened opened the 2009 football season with their first practices today. Rocket Digest was in attendance for the afternoon practice to get a first look at the 2009 team. Who was practicing at quarterback with D.J. Lenehan no longer with the team? How did the team look in general?

The Toledo Rockets opened the 2009 season with a pair of practices on Thursday at Carter field just adjacent to the Glass Bowl. Rocket Digest was in attendance for the entire session open to the media and picked up the following nuggets.

- Senior Running Back DaJuane Collins was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list earlier this week. The Doak Walker is awarded annually to the nations top running back. Collins is still competing with Morgan Williams for the starting spot against the Purdue Boilermakers on September 5.

- All of the Rocket coaches along with the entire Rocket football team stayed last night in the dorms in preparation for the beginning of fall camp.

- Redshirt freshman David Pasquale has moved back to quarterback from wide out after summer workouts. Coach Beckman gave no indication that the move was in any way related to the dismissal of quarterback D.J. Lenehan, but depth issues could have contributed to the switch.

- The team was divided in half for the two practices today. In the afternoon session the coaches worked with the players at the top of the depth chart and the freshmen (who missed the early practice due to their final test of the Summer semester). All others worked out in the morning session.

- Practice today was in helmets, shorts and jerseys. No pads.

- Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens both high amount of reps in walk throughs. Quarterbacks wore yellow no contact jerseys. Freshmen at all positions used helmets with gold stripes down the center.

- Stephen Williams, Barry Church and DaJuane Collins all took turns fielding punts.

- After stretching the first focus of the coaching staff was on special teams. Fielding punts and field goal kicking were two of the first drills run this afternoon. Steigerwald looked good kicking the ball. Newcomer Ryan Casano struggled getting the ball up and had missed on a field goal or two.

- From the top of the roster to the bottom the condition of the team is head and shoulders above last year. Defensive tackles Malcom Riley and D.J. Summers stood out specifically as two players who have worked hard to improve their playing condition over the summer.

- Desmond Marrows was back in uniform practicing.

- Practice was run with high energy from each of the coaches. Bringing in a youthful energetic staff has done wonders for the attitude of this team.

On DaJuane Collins spot on the Doak Walker watch list...
"It's great for him. As you know, though, it's the post season that counts. I'm excited for him and what a great honor, but it is great for UT to have it's name out there with another great running back."

On what the first day has been like...
"I didn't sleep much last night. I'm excited about being here and excited about being the 25th football coach. I feel honored to know that the Saban's, Pinkel's and Amstutz's have been out on these same fields. We're just trying to get better."

On staying in the dorms last night..."
"The mattress was a little bit different then what I've got at home (laughing). It was something that we felt was necessary. We wanted to be with the kids. We've been talking about family and now I'm with my football family."

On if he had to tell anyone to keep it down in the dorms late at night...
"No, they were pretty good last night. I think they were kind of shocked the head coach was right there in the dorm with them. I told them there wasn't going to be any non-sense and 10:30 was curfew. We had everyone at least in there room at 10:30."
On how the morning practice went..."
"It was the younger group I guess. It was the younger kids out there. There were some mistakes being made, but the effort and the attitude was acceptable."

On what he saw differently today that he didn't see back in Spring ball...
"I think that they did an outstanding job this summer getting into shape and working as a team. You can tell they worked on the plays and their knowledge of the plays. There weren't as many missed assignments as we usually have in the first practice. I'm proud because that shows that the kids have really bought in this summer. They were willing to take that step forward to be better football players.

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