The majority of the special teams drills were devoted to punt and kickoff coverage. Players constantly reminded of the need to stay in their coverage lanes, and coaches repeatedly emphasized the need to use their hands and arms in the "contact zone" with blockers to shed quickly shed those blocks and advance towards the return man.
It was clear again that though Steve Dunlap will carry the title of special teams coordinator, he will hardly work alone on that facet of play. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and head coach Dana Holgorsen were all intimately involved in the work being done. Holgorsen himself blew the whistle to start each rep of kickoff coverage.
"This is your résumé," Gillespie reminded players before one rep. "Put it on tape."
The first drill saw signal-callers tasked with moving around four small cones on the ground while keeping their head and eyes up and looking downfield. As their feet constantly chopped and shuffled, position coach Jake Spavital signaled which way they were to move next.
Finally, Spavital called for the ball to be released. Quarterbacks threw to a net about 10-15 yards away with three small targets to hit.
The net stayed in place for another footwork drill that also honed players' awareness.
Spavital threw four bean bags (one at a time) at quarterbacks as they again shuffled their feet and looked downfield. Geno Smith, Paul Millard and Ford Childress each took turns avoiding the bean bags by ducking or stepping out of the way. Once the fourth was released, they were free to throw at the targets.
Quarterbacks were tasked with throwing just as the receivers broke their routes, while the receivers were ordered to turn upfield as soon as they made a catch.
Dawson barked at one receiver for not using his hands and arms aggressively enough when the assistant coach had simulated a jam near the line of scrimmage.
He paid for that decision shortly thereafter, as another receiver then aggressively slammed his arm into Dawson's forearm, causing the coach to complain of pain and half-jokingly declare that he might need a protective sleeve for Thursday's practice.
In fact, his back was completely turned away from the offensive players, and he stood at least 90 yards away from their workouts as he watched Slaughter's group instead.
A small cooler was planted on one sideline, back near the stadium wall at about the 50-yard line. It was adorned with a BCS logo on the top and the logos of Big East Conference schools on the side.
As reporters prepared to head out of the stadium once the 30 minutes of open practice expired, Holgorsen opened the lid. He pulled out a cold Red Bull energy drink and popped the top -- perhaps a sign that the real work was only just beginning.