The Kansas University football program’s first day of two-a-days arrived this morning, with the beats at the practice fields blaring by 9 a.m.
The 9 a.m. start was the first of two practice sessions that will take place today, but it did not seem as if anyone was dreading it. Credit that to the music that livens up every practice and probably could make these guys look hype if they were in their pajamas.
A couple of things crossed my mind as I watched today’s practice.
The first was that I should probably point out that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows at these things. Partly because of my nature and partly because of the job I have, it’s easy for me to highlight the positives at practice. This newcomer looks great. These guys worked hard in this drill or that one. And, while all of that stuff is true, it’s not the only thing that goes on at practice.
Trust me, there is plenty of barking and plenty of bad steps and bad reps. That’s part of the game, though, and part of the reason they practice. So whether it’s offensive line coach Tim Grunhard asking his group what the heck they were doing or receivers coach Rob Ianello imploring his athletes to do it right, there are plenty of instances in which these guys are being hammered by the coaches. The biggest thing that’s important to point out about it, though, is that nobody’s crying about it. The players use it as motivation and strive to bounce back with a better rep the next time. The coaches move on and don’t dwell on it or hang on to the negative.
Most of what I write in these practice updates has been and will be flattering, but I thought it was important to point out that there is more than enough grinding going on out there, too.
All right, on to what caught my eye today.
• First, I made it a point to take a closer look at linebacker Schyler Miles today and I gotta tell ya, you just don’t see true freshmen come in looking like him very often. Physically, he’s already ready to contribute and it’s quite clear that there’s still room to grow. Mentally, he works hard. That’s not to say that most of these guys don’t, but Miles really looks like a football machine out there who has just two things on his mind. Playing football and getting better. I’ll look forward to seeing him at Saturday’s open practice when we can see him run a little bit and see what kind of instincts he has.
• I also spent a lot of time watching D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt today and he, perhaps better than anyone out there, best illustrates the major difference between this season and the two before it. Wyatt’s out there walking around, having fun, clowning around with guys and seeming to genuinely enjoy himself. Why? To me, it looks like he gets to be himself again and he gets to love coaching football. No more scripted catch phrases, no more “no cussing” policy. Just a football coach doing his job and pushing his guys to be better. That’s the general vibe of the entire practice, which has much better energy and tempo than we saw during the past couple of seasons.
• One reason for that — though I doubt it — could be the presence of pro scouts. I know they came up to practice a few times during the past couple of seasons, but I also know they weren’t there multiple times during the first week. They have been this year. Today’s rep was from the 49ers (and that was just the morning session) and I’ve seen several others from other franchises throughout the first six practices. Part of that is because there’s more pro-level talent to watch now, but another part of it has to be the influence of Charlie Weis and Dave Campo. Talk about an opportunity.
• I also spent a little time over by the running backs and other than being impressed by the way Charlie Weis Jr. handles himself out there, Brandon Bourbon's health and physical presence really stood out. He looks good.
• Finally, this blog probably won’t be complete each day without the song of the day update, so for those keeping track, today’s Coach Weis dedication was “Runaway” by Bon Jovi. I know Bon Jovi and The Boss have plenty of hits to keep this thing moving along, but it’s going to be interesting to see when we get to the first Coach Weis song that’s written by somebody other than those two guys.