Tuesday’s practice was the first in full gear for the UC players, and Bearcat Lair spoke to Coach Jones immediately after the session to get his impressions.
“Actually, I thought our quarterbacks performed much better than they did on Saturday. I thought they took care of the ball and managed the offense much better. It was obviously the first day of pads, and there should be energy and excitement, but we’re still working on our identity for 2012, but I like what I see right now.”
Coach Jones is following the same blueprint he used last season in developing a physical unit.
“We hit the same as we did last year,” said Jones. “We’ve made it a point of emphasis that we need to play with a hard edge. We may lose players to graduation, but our expectations and standards will never change.”
Two of the early enrollees are Josh Posley and Jonathan Burt from Warren Central High School in Indiana. Burt has been sidelined with a foot injury, but both defensive linemen are shorter than the typical BCS defensive linemen. Coach Jones was asked about their size.
“They’re probably six footish, but we really like their explosion. They are extremely competitive and right now just the speed of the game is going a million miles an hour for them, but they’ll be fine.”
Because of the graduation of Alex Hoffman, Randy Martinez and Evan Davis coupled with the injury rehab of returning starters Austen Bujnoch and Sean Hooey (that has severely limited their participation), the Bearcats have a very inexperienced offensive front this spring. The group was consistently beaten in the one-on-one pass rush drill earlier in practice, but when it came time for scrimmaging, the unit fared much better and showed the ability to create some daylight for the UC running backs. Coach Jones talked about the difference between drills and team situations.
“That’s why you can do one-on-ones and all that, but in team situations so many things go through the mind of a defensive lineman. In one-on-ones, they are thinking of only one thing. They are lining up and rushing the passer, but in team, they need to worry about draws, runs, and a pass rush. Now it becomes a thinking game and reading schemes. It changes a little bit for them.”
Coach Jones opened up Tuesday’s practice to Ohio University’s football staff including Bobcat head coach, Frank Solich. Although coaches view this as a courtesy, it also strongly suggests the Bearcats and the Bobcats won’t be playing any time soon.
“We’ll never open practice up to an opponent,” said Jones. “But it’s a form of respect. That’s what we do in the offseason. It’s all about getting better. Ohio is here today as is the University of Minnesota and some other schools. In this business, there are no patents, and we can always learn from each other. We’re pleased to have them here because it’s a great resource for us.”
Three days into a series of fifteen spring practices, Coach Jones was asked what area has him feeling the most confident.
“Nothing right now. Everything is still ongoing. I’ll have a better idea of where we’re at when we get into the meat of spring football. Every position right now is up for grabs. I do like some of the older veterans. I like the way Walter Stewart is playing right now. I like the way Nick Temple is playing. I like the way Maalik Bomar is playing. Offensively, I like the way George Winn is playing, but it’s still way too early. Our receivers still have to get into game shape and game condition. That’s a big thing identifying who are playmakers are. I was really encouraged by what I saw today out of Ralph David Abernathy.”
Jones continued talking about his 5-foot-7, 168 pound sophomore running back.
“He has to be our playmaker, and we’re going to ask so much from him not only in the backfield but on the perimeter. It was encouraging to see him make the plays he made today.”
Abernathy had several nice runs getting to the outside.
Another veteran that could see his role increased dramatically is Jordan Luallen as the Georgia Tech transfer is expected to get playing time at both quarterback and H-back.
“It’s ongoing for Jordan,” said Jones. “We’re asking an individual in three days of practice to learn an entire new position so it takes time.”
Practice No. 4 will take place on Saturday. Then the squad will take a two week hiatus for exams and spring break before returning to action on March 27.