'Player run' . . . indeed

The payoff from this year's summer workouts is more than just the improved conditioning and getting farther into the playbook faster, it's also been a team bonding experience.

They call them "player-run" workouts and they're not kidding.

First of all, there's the "run" part. They don't stop.

And the players are definitely in charge.

"Hayes [Pullard] and I get together to make up the script for the plays we're going to run each night," Cody Kessler said of the offensive and defensive leaders' parts in all this.

But it's not just a personal type leadership the way it might have been in the days of Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald, for example, who led by dint of their personal qualities what were essentially seven-on-seven exercises through the summer.

Not so now. These are organized down to the second, because they have to be if you're going to get in 90 plays plus individual position work with seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 mini-practices much like spring and fall -- just without pads.

"We're pretty far into the playbook," Max Browne says, noting how much farther ahead this incoming freshman class is than his was a year ago. "It' timing . . . and it's muscle memory that we're building here."

One reason they can do it this way is the trio of sideline play-signallers working out of a playbook handled by head student manager Alex Collins.

He's next to lead signal-caller Dane Stevens, a sophomore walkon offensive lineman from Marietta, Ga., who can no longer play after an injury but wanted to stay involved -- and do more than just help out with the O-line.

The third man in this trio is senior walkon quarterback Anthony Neyer, who when he's not in the field, is making sure everything checks out.

"I love what we can do with this offense," Kessler says. "The read, the motion, the way I get to move side-to-side more, I really like that."

Kessler also likes the way the no-huddle keeps players focused on the moment. "There's no one next to you to ask," he says of the way you could in the huddle. You're on your own.

"You can ask for a repeat [with a hand signal to the QB]," Kessler says, but you don't see it happening much. If there's any discussion, it's a quick one between the sideline guys and the quarterbacks. Sometimes you'll see the receivers coming by after a play to check out whether they got it right from alignment to motion to the route.

"Honestly this is the most comfortable I've ever been," Kessler says with this speeded-up offense.

He's almost echoing the way defenders look at it. Cornerback Kevon Seymour, for one, said he's been "coming out here to get better every day." But with all the freshmen arriving, he's found something he didn't expect in these workouts.

It's that "player-run" theme again.

"What I'm learning is that when I'm helping the young guys learn what to do, it helps me to learn it even better," Seymour says. "I learned a lot last year but I'm learning even more now doing this. It's really helping me get better."

One other thing is helping. "We're in so much better condition with all the running," he says. And that will pay off in another way.

"We're going to be in so much better shape to play against different styles now," Seymour says. "Last year, it was hard to adjust when we played uptempo teams. We had to change the whole tempo of practice. This year we won't."

All this working together is working, Pullard says.

"It's awesome, you don't see individual guys going their own way. This team is really growing together . . . and that's a continuation of where we left off last year."


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