Thoughts on the first day of spring football practice

It was the big things. It was the little things. But no matter where you turned, you noticed things had changed.

Willie Fritz was not casual in practice. He didn’t meander from one position group to another, acting as an indifferent CEO. He coached, he pushed, he demanded effort, and he called out those who were slacking. But he did it as a coach, not as a boss. He coached the coaches, and, most noticeably, was active and involved.

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Oftentimes, I got the sense that Dana Holgorsen’s on-field anger stemmed from his detachment. He wasn’t aware of how poorly coached the players were and gave no thought to the lack of structure in the program. He was unaware of a lot, actually. He didn’t, or wouldn’t, understand the daily sacrifice and the hands-on work of leading over 100 players and 30+ staff. The daily work on recruiting, NIL, the portal, academics, fundraising, media obligations, the mental health of your players and staff, and a hundred other components.

But there’s something about Willie Fritz that loves every bit of it. The details matter to him, and you can see it in every single movement in practice. It was the regime’s first practice, yet it was more organized, structured, disciplined, and logical than anything that occurred over the last seven years.

Here are my observations from day one:

The team went through 24 ‘periods’ in the workout. Periods last from a couple of minutes to 12 or more, each for a drill or specific work. After warmups and stretching, the first organized period was PAT and field goals. Fritz was intimately involved in the special teams work. Later on, he was right in the middle of punt team. He huddled the punt team before every snap.

The plan is to conduct every spring practice outdoors, three times a week in the mornings. Practice will also be outdoors in the fall, in the mornings. Fritz wants his team prepared for the conditions they’ll play in and ready to go for four quarters, something that was missing last fall. They’ll go indoors when needed or due to weather.

The former head coach was not a fan of morning workouts for pretty clear reasons.

As he walked from position to position, and sometimes between snaps, Willie kept notes using a digital voice recorder like a TV doctor.

Coaches ran down the field with players—there went WR coach Derrick Sherman sprinting down with a receiver, coaching him up as they jogged back to the huddle. There was no screaming, no performances, just coaching.

And everyone hustled from snap to snap, drill to drill.

Previously, the field closest to Scott Street was for offense, and the one closest to Fertitta Center was for defense. That’s flipped now.

Willie allowed the media to film the first 21 periods. The final three were devoted to 11-on-11, and they asked we not film that.

Going back 25+ years, the media has only been allowed to see a little bit of one (sometimes two) days in spring and one in fall camp. And by a little bit, we’re talking 30 minutes of stretching and simple drills. This spring, we’ll be able to see every minute of every practice.

Officially slated to begin at 8:30, Oscar Giles had the DL working when I walked in at 8:05.

Parker Jenkins said he’d given great effort on a rep, only to be coached up on ball placement by RB coach Jordy Joseph. But once it was explained, Parker understood the issue and agreed with Joseph.

Jamal Morris told me he’s up to about 240 lbs, up 15 from last year’s playing weight. He says he’ll probably play between 233-236. He looks absolutely jacked but was quick to point out that it’s not ‘look good’ weight. He’s quicker, has more twitch, and he’s more football-ready.

Jamal says in the seven weeks that Kurt Hester has been running workouts, he’s already added two inches to his vertical. He also said he’s mentally in a good place, which is amazing to hear. You should read his story. It’s powerful.

He’s one of the good guys.

Latreveon McCutchin is listed as 20 pounds heavier than his Fall 2023 weight.

Center Demetrius (formerly Pancake) Hunter said he’s improving on inside runs. He was running with other linemen (from left tackle to right tackle): David Ndukwe, Peyton Dunn, Hunter, Tank Jenkins, and Shamar Hobdy-Lee. Another unit – unclear who is on second or third team – was Larry Crawford, Dakota White, Cayden Bowie, Thomathan Good, and Jake Wiley.

Tevin Shaw and Cayden Bowie are up about 15 pounds from last year. Hunter, Dunn, and Karson Jones are 10 pounds heavier than last year.

Who has lost weight? Specialists. Jack Martin and long-snapper Jacob Garza are down 10 lbs. Fellow LS Quillan Jimenez is down six, and punter Brandon Phan is down nine. I asked S&C coach Kurt Hester to explain his secret. Is getting leaner better for velocity on kicks? Better for punting?

“They’ve never really had to work out before,” he deadpanned. “They’re actually training now. Just losing the fat.” Welp! There went that story angle.

Jack Martin was punting. UH’s new Aussie punter, Liam Dougherty, hasn’t enrolled yet, but Martin had good technique and ridiculous hang time.

Wide receiver Sam Brown missed Tuesday due to a stomach bug. He’ll be back on Friday.

One of the play calls for the defense was “Vegas Sucks,” alluding to first-on-the-schedule UNLV.

When the offense worked on situations, major emphasis was placed on third-and-medium and third-and-long plays. “Four-point plays,” the coaches kept saying. Be a little better here because this is a four-point play. The difference between an FG and a TD.

One coach told his position group they needed to keep getting in better shape and process things fast. “You can’t bullshit around and drag your ass” because it shows you’re not ready to play. He pointed out that players must change their demeanor and respect the reps they get.

Willie focused on learning, telling players to keep their ears and eyes open and learn how this staff does things. “We’ll clean it up tomorrow.”

Speaking with several players off-camera after practice, to a man they were happy with the discipline and structure that the new staff has brought. “Every movement has meaning,” one said. He said coaches explain the method in everything they do so everyone is on the same page.


Willie Fritz previews spring football