– Mark Stoops had an old friend in town watching the scrimmage, but not just any old friend. Pete Jenkins has coached for 41 years at the best programs in the country, focusing primarily on defensive linemen. He was on the Eagles’ staff during their NFC Championship runs in the late 2000s after coaching 5 SEC championship teams, and most recently at USC.
Jenkins spends most of his time now watching collegiate practices and talking turkey with the coaches. As a bystander last year, it is a night and day difference compared to this year. For Stoops, it’s much more difficult to see the improvement day-to-day, but Jenkins’ confidence reassured him that they are getting better, “Sometimes when you see it every day, you want to make those steps faster, but he knows, and he told me, it’s a much different team, a better looking team. It looks like we’re more physical and all that.”
– After watching the tape on the QBs, Mark Stoops was still a little reluctant to hand the starting job to someone but did have this to add.
“I’ll give you a bone here. I’m still impressed. Patrick (Towles) is improving, he’s throwing some balls we all know he has the arm talent to execute. I feel like Drew (Barker) is doing some good things for a young guy out there. Again, that’s not dismissing the other two guys, they did some good things as well.”
In the words of Malibu’s Most Wanted, B-Rad G, “It ain’t much, but it’s all I got.”
– Za’Darius Smith used his offseason to build more muscle, but physicality wasn’t his biggest concern. With the absence of Avery Williamson, Z knew that he needed to become a Senior leader on the defense, despite having only spent a season on campus. “I’m being more of a leader and being more experienced,” Za’Darius said, “The best is to come.”
– Before team meetings new Special Teams’ Coach Craig Naivar jams 80’s glam band rock. That’s a great photoshop waiting to happen.
– Mark Stoops is a secondary specialist, but last year Ashely Lowery was the only player in the entire unit with a pick. JD Harmon was the team’s interception leader in 2012, but academic issues kept him on the sideline for 2013. For Harmon, it was painful watching from afar, “I took it upon myself. It was kind of my fault.”
Harmon is hard on himself, but it should pay off in the long run. Harmon’s help is just the tip of the iceberg as the coaches constantly stress the importance of forcing incompletions. “It’s something that we’ve been emphasizing,” DJ Eliot said. “We track it everyday in practice. We’ve had some where we had a bunch, and we’ve had some that we haven’t had very many. A lot of it just comes down to finishing plays. Sometimes you get them in the right spot then it’s a dropped ball or it’s a tipped ball that we don’t bring down.”