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Change is in the air

Tempo, turnovers among key focal points

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

men's football 2

Talya Lazerus — THE BATTALION

Junior wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu runs a drill during spring training at the Coolidge Practice Fields Monday afternoon.

men's football 3

Matthew Wong — THE BATTALION

Sophomore running back Ben Malena runs an agility drill in day two of spring training.

Tempo, energy and “how-to” were the names of the game for head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggie football team as they concluded their second practice of the spring Monday at the football practice fields.

Practicing for the last time in shorts before donning pads, the Aggies’ focus remained on learning new schemes on both sides of the ball and adapting to a rapid increase in drill speed.

Sumlin complimented the pace of the workout and said he anticipates a change in the practice dynamic as contact is gradually incorporated.

“The tempo was better, and it should be, getting on and off the field and getting lined up,” Sumlin said. “Just as we were getting that figured out, we were installing new stuff on offense and defense. We talked after practice about getting the pads tomorrow … the sounds are different and there are actual collisions. Some guys start playing better, the games slows down for them and some guys disappear.”

The Aggies are unique in that the start of spring practices is launching at a time when other schools are closing down their spring football operations. The delayed start was intentional and gave the players more time to condition for a new practice tempo and prepare for an increase in conference athleticism.

Larry Jackson, A&M’s director of football sports performance, said he is pleased at the additional time given for physical preparation but acknowledges there is still a ways to go to get the team game-ready.

“Sumlin and I have worked together long enough to recognize that we needed some more time to get these guys right and get them ready to start these practices,” Jackson said. “I tell the guys I’m getting them ready for practice, not getting them ready for a game yet. We’re still a long ways away from being able to strap some pads on and play a game. That’s why we have the spring and the summer.”

Players have taken note, too, of the increase in enthusiasm ingrained in workouts and practice — in large part thanks to Jackson’s workout style.

Junior wide receiver and 2011 starter Uzoma Nwachukwu said he enjoyed the energy Jackson brought to team workouts in anticipation for spring practice.

“[Jackson] has been great,” Nwachukwu said. “He has a great system going, and he’s been getting us excited in the weight room and when we’re running. He’s added a lot of excitement, and we’re just ready to start rolling.”   

Already addressing two major concerns from the 2011 season — two that directly contributed to several second-half debacles — A&M coaches have become particularly stingy in limiting dropped passes and turnovers. The Aggies committed 64 drops and ranked 106th in turnover margin, numbers that would guarantee a slot in the cellar of the SEC.

Nwachukwu said he’s noticed an increase in the scrutiny of sloppy play, a change that the team will need to embrace if they want to compete in the toughest division in college football.

“[Sumlin] came here to win,” Nwachukwu said. “You can see that in his eyes, you can see that every day in practice. He’s trying to win. Any missed opportunity that we have, any dropped ball, interception or turnover is definitely emphasized. Those are mistakes we’ve got to get fixed.”

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