Collins was himself heavily involved. At the start of practice, he launched kickoffs from the Jugs machine. He later barked out calls for the field-goal block unit and spilled balls onto the ground, simulating blocked kicks.
In a period for the defense, he made option pitches to cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Collins said. “I’m having a blast with it, so it’s just every day I’m getting to work with the guys and hopefully it’s way less about me and more about our players as we move forward.”
As was the case in the spring, players and coaches ran from one drill to the next. There was a period dedicated to one-on-one tugs of war. In an 11-on-11 period early on, the ball was getting snapped every 30 seconds, and there were two groups of 11-on-11 at either end of the field, all the better to provide as much opportunity for development and evaluation.
There was a greater level of comfort among players as far as understanding expectations and scheme. Grad-transfer offensive lineman Jared Southers said that his unit made “tremendous improvement” over the summer in learning schemes and techniques.
“So we were playing a lot faster (Wednesday),” Southers said. “Definitely a much better understanding of the system.”
For the freshmen and transfers, it was an initiation into the new standards they’ll face with Collins. Coaches chastised them for not competing with the appropriate level of effort. There was no gentle break-in period.
Still, Collins noticed standouts, though he declined to name names.
“Some of them were (overwhelmed), but there’s a couple of them that had some presence and had some spatial awareness and were doing some things that jumped immediately out there,” Collins said. “You could notice it, and it drew your attention.”
Freshman quarterback Jordan Yates came to his first practice having benefited from summer tutorials from quarterback Lucas Johnson and others at the position. Yates had snaps in 11-on-11 periods and also showed proficiency in sending in plays from the sideline for offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude.
“We’ve been going over the stuff, so I really feel like he’s ahead of the game for the freshmen in knowing his stuff,” Johnson said. “It’s really exciting to see how he’s progressing, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.”
The three transfers, wide receiver Marquez Ezzard (Miami), defensive end Antonneous Clayton (Florida) and cornerback Myles Sims (Michigan), all worked out with the third-string units as they await word from the NCAA on their requests for waivers to play immediately.
“So they’re learning the system, learning the program, and whenever we find out, we’ll go from there,” Collins said.”