The new coaching staff has left competition at all positions wide open, giving each player an opportunity to earn a starting spot. This leaves the staff without a set 4-deep depth chart. Their way of approaching this situation is by splitting the team in half, giving the players as many reps as possible. Coach Stoops said, “It’s very helpful right now because we have a lot of guys, whether they’re walk-ons, freshmen, or returning guys, it’s important to get them a lot of reps and to see what they can do to evaluate their talent.” With guys all over two fields, you’d think it’d be difficult for the coaches to keep an eye on everyone, but for Neal Brown it just means watching a little more film than normal.
Coach Stoops admits that this process can be a little taxing on the players, especially with the high tempo the coaches are pushing during each practice. Raymond Sanders doesn’t have to play multiple positions, but it is more than he’s accustomed to, “It’s TIIIIIIRING (with a laugh). It helps us get a lot more reps and helps us with our conditioning. A lot of guys might say, ‘Ahhhh we got the 2-spot today’, but we understand the reps we’re getting and the conditioning. Now every play you have to learn to work through it when you’re tired.”
You might expect a running back to have to go through the most strenuous conditioning, but at least Raymond Sanders doesn’t have to play multiple positions. Last year’s starting left guard Zach West is not only the #1 Center, he’s the #1 left guard. While he isn’t technically playing both positions at once like Bugs Bunny, rotating with Teven Eatmon-Nared and Zach Meyers at both positions is still a heavy load to carry. This heavy load hasn’t prevented West from picking up both positions, “It’s tough but it’s also really simple. The coaches are really good about helping you get used to the plays. The whole offense is installed at this point, so it’s a lot simpler than it was in past years.” Coach Stoops complimented West’s improved ability snapping the ball, something he couldn’t work on too much during the Spring because of a shoulder injury.
While most of the players do not know where they will be when camp ends, they do know how important it is to ‘Attack Every Play’. The additional reps give them more opportunities for accomplishment and failure on the field. A phrase I heard too often growing up, “the eye in the sky never lies” applies now more than ever. With Neal Brown far from pleased with the tempo, these practices will only get more intense as camp progresses. We will have the first chance to see if it has paid off Friday at Fan Day, but more importantly these ‘high-rep’ practices will pay dividends in the 4th quarter.
Some More Stuff
– While there haven’t been any major injuries (besides a few bumps and bruises) in the first 3 days of camp, it seems like everyday we are informed that another player isn’t with the team. Per the usual, it’s a position that could use all they could get. WR A.J. Johnson will not be with the team this fall according to Neal Brown.
– The condition of Max Smith’s arm remains in question, but Neal Brown isn’t worried. “My only concern is his history really, it’s not anything that’s current. We had him rest the last week and a half of the summer, so it’s really just getting him back into the mode. To be honest his reps are decent, we just throw the ball more than most people, so that’s why we’re gradually building him up.”
– In case you haven’t noticed yet, this coaching staff is considerably younger than most D-1 programs. While I acknowledge the fact, it didn’t really hit me how young these guys are until I arrive to the practice fields and see enough kids to fill a day care. By Jen Smith’s count there are 35 children under the age of 11, with at least half running around on the side until practice is over. Once it was over today, someone got ahold of a whistle and went nuts. We may have some future coaches on our hands.
– The Freshman of the Day Award belongs to Jeff Badet. Badet caught Coach Stoops’ eye a few times, “he’s got some juice in him”. While Badet was great, Stoops also had to credit Jaleel Hythchye‘s abilities. Stoops is confident Jaleel can be the player the defense needs, but it will take some time before he becomes comfortable with the defense.
Neal Brown may have spoken to soon about walk-on wide receiver A.J. Johnson. When Brown stated yesterday that A.J. wasn’t with the team, it’s because not all walk-ons can report to summer camp. There is an NCAA roster limit on summer camp, with a large chunk of walk-ons reporting once school starts. Do not count the WR core down one man just yet, there’s still 20 days before school starts.