Thursday, December 27, 2007

Practice Report - Thursday

It still is pretty chilly in Fort Worth, but that didn’t seem to bother Air Force one bit at its practice today.

The Falcons went for nearly two hours in full pads at TCU, and while the session included contact and plenty of intensity, the players seemed to be having an awful lot of fun too. There was laughter, cheering, smiles and a high tempo throughout the session.

That seems like the right mix for a bowl game. It’s a contest, to be sure, but the bowl experience is meant to be a reward for a good season. Finding the right balance between work and fun is a crucial element of these games. Air Force is doing a good job of finding that balance. So far.

On-field notes: Air Force went “live” – full speed with full contact – during several drills including kickoff coverage. Players flew down the field and there were a bunch of big collisions. Junior Ty Paffett made a particularly nice stop on one long kickoff. …

As I noted for tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette, rust was most noticeable in dropped passes. There were a handful early in practice by defensive backs and offensive players. …

Speaking of receivers, they went through a couple of pretty cool drills that, according to receivers coach Mike Thiessen, are designed to make them catch with their hands instead of cradling the ball to their bodies.

In one, the players laid flat on their backs and then leaned up slightly to catch balls that Thiessen rocketed at them. In the other, one player would stand behind a partner and wrap his arms around the partner’s waist. Thiessen would throw the ball at the player in front, and the player behind would have to catch it.

But my favorite drill the receivers have is a kind of modified Globetrotters circle. The receivers stand in a circle and throw the ball to each other. When a player drops the ball – or if one makes an off-target throw – he is eliminated. This, of course, leads to behind-the-back passes, no-look flips and all other sorts of surprise tosses. Fun to watch. …

Got a quick peek at Cal today. Only the first 10 minutes of the practice were open, so I didn’t see a whole lot, but I’ll say this – the players pass the eye test. They are big and very athletic. I understood immediately why they were No. 2 in the nation after five games. But it made me wonder even more why they collapsed so dramatically. I know they had injuries, but it had to be more than that.

Off-field notes: All the Falcons were clean shaven after getting that order from Calhoun. … The Falcons had dinner last night at Reata, a restaurant downtown that the locals say is very good. … Haven’t had too much time to check out the city, but the downtown area seems to have potential. Lots of restaurants, bars and people walking around. … Tomorrow night there will be a Madden Football Tournament (that’s a football video game for those that grew up without Segas and PlayStations) at a local establishment. I hear 10 players from each team will play in the tournament, but I’m still trying to find out who the Falcons are trotting out there. I wouldn’t be of much help. My video game prowess ended with Nintendo and Tecmo Bowl.


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