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April 11, 2007

Spring Practice Notepad

Tuesday afternoon was relatively warmer and the Hurricane broke out the shorts and sweats, which was fitting since the pace was closer to a track meet than full contact football. The hope for change between winter and spring weather has been a bumpy ride, especially for a fall/winter sport trying to manage change when its spring on the calendar.

The humidity was high enough to fall on your head, meaning mist/rain drops. But as usual, it was worth the time spent watching.

A few observations.

This coaching staff spends more time running the offensive and defensive lines through common drills against each other than previous seasons. Walter Boyd must felt a crushing sense of déjà vu. He's spent three years running next to a group of guys he is now either hitting or falling on top of.

Boyd is consistently running with the first team line and running is his strong suit. Herb Hand described him as athletic. For an offensive lineman, that means he can pull and be effective. Boyd consistently accomplishes this.

Watch for the name Donald Gobert. The redshirt freshman from Crockett, Texas stands 6-foot-3 and is playing regularly alongside linebackers Tanner Antle and Mike Bryan.

Gobert has been listed as a defensive back since arriving at TU, but next to the 6-foot-4 Antle and 6-foot-1 Bryan, he is getting more and more comfortable. Consider the choice a quarterback has for passing lanes. On one side is Anthony Egbuniwe (6-foot-4), on the other Gobert or Antle.

Currently, Gobert is working on technique, but his effort is eye-opening. The switch from defensive back apparently energizes him. The sight of him next to Antle and Bryan could indicate he is the final piece of the crew that will take over for Chris Chamberlain, Nelson Coleman and Alain Karatepeyan when they graduate. It also gives Gobert time to add to his 185 pound frame.

Only the older ones of us remember Al Humphreys from the John Cooper era, but Gobert's potential frame is reminiscent of him.

Wide receiver Jesse Meyer has had two straight solid practices. He and Dion Toliver can be formidable. Meyer made several acrobatic catches Tuesday night and continues to show speed. Two other names to watch out for are Stephen Polk and Daniel Morrell. Both have size at 6-foot-1 apiece and are catching the ball consistently. Both are able to separate and stretch for the catch.

And then there is Kyle Young. The 6-foot-6 sophomore consistently makes the most of the balls thrown his way. Young has yet to trap a ball against his chest. I don't remember that last time he dropped a ball in drills. He's a player who will have to work his way up the depth chart, but he has the time and work ethic to make the climb.

Tuesday's practice was slanted more toward running play. Co-Offensive Coordinator Herb Hand called plays during 7-on-7 drills. It would be easy to surmise that with co-coordinators, one might be running and one passing. Or one might be up in the press box and one on the field. Consider the turnaround two years ago when Todd Graham, then the defensive coordinator, moved from the press box to the sideline three or four games into the season.

Hand and Gus Malzahn are obviously planning these drills together. Watching this relationship unfold during the season will be interesting.

So far in 2007, Tulsa football has replaced a head coach, seen the return of several former assistant coaches, signed 29 new players, instituted co-coordinators on both sides of the ball, made at least four position switches by my count, and added a basketball player. Spring practice has a completely different tempo, new drills from new coaches, and noticeably more attention from area high school coaches. The phones at the Hurricane football office are answered with the phrase "Home of Champions".

Change is a fact of life. Managing change is a skill. For football coaches, change is sometimes a fact of daily life, so their management skills in this area are sharper than the average citizen. Watching all the changes play out is what Tulsa football is all about this spring. The results are anticipated at least as much as the end of this soggy weather.

• Remaining Spring Practice Schedule

Wed., April 11th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Thur., April 12th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Tue., April 17th, 3:30 - 5:30 pm
Thur., April 19th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Sat., April 21st, 6:00 pm SPRING GAME


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