Johnson welcomed more than 100 prospects, including 15 starters from the 2005 season finale at Tennessee and 45 letterwinners from last year. The practice was held in moderate mid-70 degree weather after an early afternoon thunderstorm helped ease temperatures. Several hundred Commodore followers watched the proceedings.
Afterward, Johnson said he was pleased with the desire and focus his squad showed during the practice. "It was the first practice and in some ways, it was what you expect from the first one," Johnson said. "But I was really pleased with how the guys went to work. It was obvious that the players were excited to get things started. Overall, I thought our guys went hard, wanted to learn, and showed a lot of enthusiasm.
"I also liked our overall attitude. Frequently, I'd look around and see some of our veteran guys working with the younger players. The first day of practice can be pretty overwhelming for newcomers. As a coach, you want to see older guys that have been in the system willing to help out. That's a good sign for our team," he added.
Four quarterback candidates – redshirt sophomore Chris Nickson, redshirt freshman Mackenzi Adams, junior transfer Richard Kovalcheck and true freshman Jared Funk – drew plenty of attention from fans and numerous media outlets in attendance. The four quarterbacks rotated with most of the passing and team-teaching drills.
"We have some talent at the quarterback position. I liked what I saw from the whole group," Johnson said. "Those guys believe they can play and want to play. The competition at the position will help all of them and help our team."
Of the 30 players participating in their first Commodore practice, five were walk-ons invited by the coaching staff. The group includes two sophomores transfers – Roger Herndon, a safety from Greenbrier, Tenn., and Nick Forte, an offensive lineman from Brentwood Academy – and three freshmen: linebacker Michael Garcia of Jacksonville, Fla., kicker John Laughrey of McKenzie, Tenn., and tight end/defensive end Sam Panke of St. Louis, Mo.
The Commodores' next three practices – Saturday, Sunday and Monday – are open to fans. Each practice is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Commodore followers should enter the Rich Practice Complex through the Natchez Trace entrance.