Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Football Season Should Never End.....

Yes, it's March Madness time, and everybody's focus is and should be on basketball. But for yours truly, I'm still in denial that football season is over. And with the offseason for both college and professional programs being covered in depth more than ever this year, I thought it might be appropriate to write a little bit about our first spring practice, which at least in Coach Bobby's mind went quite well.

The Commodores really stepped up last year, even with the loss of Jay Cutler, and that is going to pay dividends next year, because the team will not only have talent, but also experience. The Commodores return 17 starters from last years squad, including their entire backfield, Big Earl Bennett, and NFL-worthy Jonathan Goff. Instead of worrying about getting guys to fill positions, Coach Johnson can focus much more on installing more of his playbook on both sides of the ball.

The first days of spring practice are pretty light: shoulder pads, helmets, and shorts with no contact. Mostly 7-on-7 pass skeleton drills, position instruction, and conditioning were done. But one thing Coach Johnson liked about his team's first day back on the field was the intensity and enthusiasm they all showed. "I really thought our guys were energized and enthusiastic," Johnson said. "You expect to have their attention the first day, but the guys were clearly there to work, learn, and get better. It's exactly the attitude I was looking for."

I find this to be extremely encouraging, because it means our boys are developing confidence, and that's a must-have in a rigorous conference like the SEC. Having played the usual big bullies so tightly last year (and offing one of them in Georgia), this team is realizing it has the potential to run with the big boys. Give Coach Bobby some credit, the guy is leading us in the right direction.

As Bobby notes in yesterday's hotline, Jeff Jennings was back on the field after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. He's badly needed back there as one of the 'Dores real difficulties was their lack of depth at running back. He and Cassen Jackson-Garrison should be able to manage the carries and keep their legs fresh. In addition, Brian Stamper, who was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA, was back at practice as well, giving us solid leadership on the o-line.

Off the field, Earl Bennett was named Middle Tennessee Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Nashville Sports Council. Interestingly enough, Earl is the first WR in SEC History catch more than 75 passes in two seasons. Maybe next year he won't get completely HOSED by the Biletnikoff voters down in Tallahassee.
Things ought to get more interesting when full-contact practices start on Friday. In the meantime, we've got a ball game to think about.

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