Special teams and position drills were the focus. Connor Halliday was eased back in, seeing some time throwing the ball in passing drills and 7-on-7s. Halliday, who missed the last four practices, shook off some rust during the first couple of periods before returning to form as the day wore on.
The redshirt sophomore spent this day working with the 2s and developed good chemistry with WR Gino Simone as the two connected on four different occasions in the short session.
During 11-on-11s the defense owned the advantage against the offense, really controlling the tempo. Nose tackle Toni Pole fueled the D early on when he flew through the offensive line and "sacked" QB Jeff Tuel for a 5-yard loss. The rush up front was consistent, causing Tuel to either try and scramble outside of the pocket or check down to a receiver.
When Tuel would connect on a pass, Cougar defenders were there ready to make a play on the ball. Unfortunately for WR Marquess Wilson, he learned this up close and personal. On two plays, Wilson was drilled after catching balls in traffic, stood up first by LB Chester Sua and then by safety Deone Bucannon.
The linebackers led the way for big hits and pass deflections on Tuesday. MLB Darryl Monroe returned after missing Saturday's scrimmage. Darren Markle had a big hit in drills down near the goal line.
"I feel like as a unit, all the linebackers are coming together and we have plenty of chemistry," Monroe said. "We just have to keep talking about the schemes and it can be a great year for all of us."
Monroe wasn't expected to go full throttle this spring coming back from an Achilles injury.
"It feels good just because last year I couldn't play all season," Monroe said. "To get back on the field feels good and I just have to be smart and not try and over do it. As a linebacker you have to be a student of the game and there's so much to learn but I love it." Here's more from Monroe:
As for special teams, the team spent a good portion of Tuesday working on several drills they have never seen before.
Special teams coach Eric Russell ran stations during practice with fumble recoveries and punt blocking being the focus. For the recoveries portion, players would line up and sprint through a 4-foot goal, where on the other side an assistant would drop a tennis ball and the player would have to pick it up. The drill focused on footwork, agility, and hands.
For blocking, players would line up, have to fight through a defender and then try and block a boot from a punter. The only difference however is rather than block a football, the players would be blocking a soccer ball.
As for returners, the also joined in on the fun with inside receivers coach Eric Morris leading the direction. The players would have a football in hand, throw it high in the air, catch a punt, and then try and catch the original ball they threw in the air. Rahmel Dockery and Marcus Mason were able to do it at least once, and Leon Brooks was able to successfully perform the drill twice. He said he's enjoying all the new drills he's going through.
"They brought their own style, it was different, we haven't done something like that before and it helps out a lot," Brooks said of the new coaches.
"I think our guys do a really good job of teaching technique," Leach added. "Sometimes special teams gets to where it's just scheme related but one thing Coach Russell does a good job of is that it's not just scheme, its technique and here's how you do this at this position."
The Cougars have spent a great deal of time working on different drills to improve from last season and it appears to be paying dividends. Leach added that the team will continue to make special teams a focus and believes it can separate the Cougs from other teams in the conference.
"There's teams that don't even do special teams other than kickers and punters," Leach said. "I think its key because we develop skills of guys. It's a point of emphasis and it's the biggest exchange of yards on a play that exists in football."