RUSTON - Louisiana Tech practiced for over two hours in shells on the Tech Practice Fields Thursday afternoon with the defense taking advantage of a young offense trying to learn the system.
A young and inexperienced offense, particularly in terms of game experience, continues face growing pains early in camp. That showed as the defense got the offense to bite with some bad snaps and some false starts and offsides calls during team drills.
"Early in camp, offensively it is different than the defense," said offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. "All 11 guys have to execute. Anywhere I have been early in camp you kind of have your ups and downs offensively. Usually the defense gets a little bit ahead. But we also had some issues where, in a couple periods, we had a couple bad snaps, receivers jumped offsides when we tried to go on a hard count and we just never got it going right there, never got it executed and rolling. We had some good things out there, though. Usually every time you come in you usually think you did bad but it is never as bad as you thought it was and it is always never as good as you thought it was. That is just early in camp for an offense in the second day of pads."
Part of the growing pains the offense is facing is in dealing with the rapid installation of the game plan with several players that were not on campus during the spring.
"We put in almost the entire spring in two days," fifth-year transfer quarterback Cody Sokol said. "That is a lot of verbiage, a lot of signs, a lot of play calls that you need to know and understand and really rep before you get great at it. That is the biggest thing. Moving forward us going out there every day getting better and better individually and when we come together as a team at the little things."
It is especially not easy for the offense, particularly the quarterbacks and receivers, to execute something new when they face a veteran secondary that won't let up to allow a false sense of security.
"Those guys do a great job," Sokol said of the secondary. "They are veterans out there and you can tell with the way they move, they know what is going on. They know what we are trying to do and that just makes us as an offense better. I think it is good that we are working against a team that is a veteran defense that we are going against every day."
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That, combined with a young offense swimming in the game plan, has allowed the defense to stand out early in camp. An early strong performance by the defense is nothing out of the norm for any program this time of year and the goal for the coaches is to get the entire offense even with the defense by the time the first scrimmage comes around in a little over a week.
"They are starting to pick it up," Petersen said of the young offense. "We are really new and really young so it is going to take a week or two of camp getting through it. You're going to have your ups and downs, you'll have kids start to get this concept or start to pick this up. Next thing you know, we add this or this and a couple more things and then it changes. They are going to pick it up. Experience is everything and that is what we are lacking right now and it will get better every time we go out there."
For Sokol, he may be a newcomer to the team but he brings a much-desired aura of leadership with him after transferring from Iowa.
"Cody's biggest thing that he brings in is that he was a starter for two years at his junior college football team, went to a Big Ten school - the University of Iowa - and he was there for two years," said Petersen. "The coaches I talked to there loved him. He brings to the quarterback position the experience, the leadership - he just exudes that. He comes in and it's like bringing in a veteran quarterback in. I think that is the thing you don't see if you are just watching practice. That is one of the biggest things that he brings."
Friday's practice marks the first day for the Bulldogs in full pads with a 3:30 p.m. session out on the Tech Practice Fields.