Thanks to a 7am start, I was able to attend today's practice before getting the rest of the day going. It felt so good to see some football and I know many of you wish you could have been there so I'll pass on a few notes (football and other). gbruin has already written up much of what took place so I will just add some other observations. I'll start with the non-football ones and get them out of the way.
I arrived and there was almost no one there, fortunately for me, so I could get the high corner seat that is as close as one can get to the second 80 yard field. I immediately noticed the blinding low sun shining in everyone's eyes, including the photographers, as the wonderful parking lot was gone. So too was the sun screen the lot provided. Photographers were grumbling that all they could get were silhouettes, thanks to Gene's new vital hotel. The other problem, of course, is that the team can no longer take video from the east side as construction is going on. I didn't care too much, I was just glad to be there, but I do advise a visor and strong shades for early practices.
The players and coaches all looked focused and happy to be out there. Things seemed even more serious than spring practices last year. Everyone was serious, focused working hard, and listening. I watched the running backs during a lot of the drills (they were close and I was really interested in watching Kennedy Polamalu coach). What a change! When I left I mentioned to Chris Foster that I now knew what a RB coach does! I was really impressed. He spent a lot of time on detail. For instance, he didn't want them to jump at the snap, rather move their feet. Some of the rbs were having difficulty breaking the habit, but he kept working. Then, in hand off drills, he lined up four trash cans (representing suc's d-line I suppose) and he and another assistant would move between the cans, getting them to see the opening quicker. He got on guys when they spent too much time picking a direction. He wanted them to just go quickly (in response to those in the stands yelling "just go, stop hesitating"). Kennedy was really getting on their case for not taking off quickly. I am so happy to see him woking on this. It has frustrated me to no end! Watching he and Foster out there with our runners was a joy!
I am really looking forward to Thomas Duarte this year. I thought last year that he would have a break out year this year. I remember him being able to get open on almost every snap last year and this year, he will be starting, so I hope Brett is looking for him. He (and others) were smooth out there. And he still knows how to get open. Gbruin has already reported on the starters, so I will just add that they all looked good out there. Duarte looked stronger and made some nice catches. Jordan Payton looked faster than I remember. And all looked really focused. I also noticed Brett working through more progressions than I remember during the passing drills, but then again, they are just drills. This was good to see however. I kept seeing Duarte open last year and wished Brett had. Okay, yes, I think #18 will be big for us this year.
Craig Lee really impressed me. He is fast and quick! He could really take off and hit the holes fast. Jordan, Perkins, Manfro, and Rosey all looked better too. But Lee really caught my eye. It will be interesting to see if he gets some play this year. I do hope so. He looks to me (after one practice mind you) like our best pure running back.
Kenny Orjioke was killing it. I didn't have the roster with me until after practice, but I kept noticing his number and couldn't remember who he was. He was with every receiver, tight. He seemed to really read the plays and be in the right place. He was fast and strong. This LB crew is going to be special, once again. I didn't get to see the DBs very much, they were too far away most of the morning, but the competition out there looked really good. The defense was working a lot on stripping the ball, and Myles got one out of someone's hands that he returned for a score. That was fun.
Field Goals: 5 for 5 (although one hit the cross bar and went through). Ka'imi Fairbairn looked much steadier. He now looks like a confident kicker and like he has been working hard.
Over all, practice today looked much further along then I remember spring last year. There is definitely a different, more elevated focus. The next practice is scheduled for Thursday at 4:30. There are fewer stands so if you want a seat, you might want to get there early. Oh yes, the music...well, I am beginning to wonder if the kids are going to get tired of listening to music from my generation. While I loved it (especially the Zeppelin) I have got to believe they might want to hear something not from the 70's?
You can find the spring practice schedule here.