By: John Lewandowski/ULM Athletics
MONROE, La. – Under mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s, ULM associate head coach and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez sent the team through a 2-hour-plus practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets in Malone Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6 to open preseason football camp.
The Warhawks began preseason camp without first-year head coach Terry Bowden, who traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, on Thursday to spend time with his parents. His father Bobby, the fourth-winningest head coach in college football history (377 career victories, including stops at Samford, West Virginia and Florida State), was diagnosed with a terminal medical condition earlier this summer.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Bowden and his family,” Rodriguez said. “We had prepared for it. Coach Bowden had talked to us quite a bit as a staff as well as with our players, so we had a plan already in place. We’re keeping in touch with Coach Bowden. I talk to him quite a few times daily, but we’re going to keep on moving (forward).”
Despite the warm temperatures and practice lasting slightly longer than the normal two hours, Rodriguez was impressed by the conditioning of this team.
“The intensity and energy levels were good,” Rodriguez said, “which you would expect for the first practice back. Everybody was pretty excited (this morning).
“Our players did a really good job this summer, and our strength staff did a phenomenal job of getting the guys in shape.”
The team roster has been overhauled since the conclusion of spring practice, so the learning curve remains steep for many newcomers.
“Now, we have a lot of new guys out here – over 50 new names on the roster – so, some of them are still learning,” Rodriguez said. “So, practice probably didn’t go quite as fast as I would like, but the energy was good and the intensity was good. And I think we’ll keep getting better.
“They understand how we’re going to coach them hard and we’re going to have a lot of intensity. The biggest thing I’m looking for is a sense of urgency. Even though we don’t play for 30 more days, we’ve got to have a sense of urgency to get ready as much as we can because we only have one week of camp. It’s kind of crazy the way it’s condensed down, but this is the biggest week we’ve got.
“We’re taking it a day at a time. We’ve got a lot of stuff we’re putting in … probably, more than you think you could on the first day, but our guys are handling it pretty well.”
The coaching staff will continue to look for leaders to emerge from this new-look roster.
“We need some leadership,” Rodriguez said, “but the problem is even our upperclassmen have only been in the system for eight months. It’s still their first season with this staff, so, it’s like everyone is a freshman. There are a few guys who have been around and have an understanding of what Division I football is all about. These guys have been around a little bit and they carried over what they had learned in the spring into the summer workouts. They understand there needs to be a different type of urgency here in preseason camp.”
ULM returns to the practice field Saturday (Aug. 7) for another workout in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The team has only team and position meetings scheduled for Sunday (Aug. 8). The Warhawks will resume practice in shells (shorts, jerseys, shoulder pads and helmets) on Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 9-10) before wearing full pads for the first time in preseason camp on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
“There are still a lot of fundamentals you can work on without pads,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, you can do a lot more with pads on, but from the mental, drill and scheme standpoints, there’s a lot we can put in these first two days in shorts and we’re doing that. We’ll get more installed than I ever thought we could at this point in the game, but at the same time, our guys know that they’ve got to set aside the scheme part when they start wearing pads, so they aren’t spending too much time thinking, instead of reacting. Installation will be heavy these first three or four days of camp, but by two weeks, we have most of our stuff in.”
ULM opens the Terry Bowden era as head coach with a road game at Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET.