As the second day of spring practice ended Tuesday, the Rattlers goal for the 2010 football season was clear, a conference championship.
There was no shortage of energy on the field. During drills, players were challenging each other to make plays and put forth their best effort. Head coach Joe Taylor paced the sidelines supervising what was ultimately a productive practice.
“The more reps you get, the less anxiety. That’s why everyone loves the idea of experience,” he said.
“Experience comes from [repetitions], so we’ll get better every day.”
The aura of excitement not only surrounded the players, who are finally getting to strap on their gear once again, but Taylor who said he is pumped also.
Familiar Faces, Different Places
Some of the most notable position changes this spring are on the offensive and defensive lines. Former offensive linemen Frank Carter and Brandon Davis have both switched to defense.
Former wide receiver Anthony Shutt is taking snaps on the opposite side of the ball with the defensive backs.
“I’m impressed. We’ve made some good personnel adjustments,” Taylor said.
Also in attendance at Tuesday’s practice were former players Curtis Pulley, Donovan Johnson and Steve Brazzle. Pulley and Johnson worked with the players at their old positions while Brazzle was more of a spectator.
Martin Ukpai enters the spring as the projected starter at quarterback, but true freshman Austin Trainor has been impressive. Trainor was the first quarterback to take snaps in 7-on-7 drills, and he showed off the strong arm and pinpoint accuracy that Taylor and his staff has been raving about.
Ukpai made quality throws down field but also missed on several occasions, throwing an interception that fell into the hands of Alvis Graham.
Senior Eddie Battle struggled to find open receivers downfield on his first couple snaps. Battle made the adjustments throwing short, accurate passes to receiver underneath the defense.
Newkirk, New Home
Winston-Salem State transfer Joshua Newkirk is already comfortable in orange and green.
“I’m really excited,” Newkirk said. “A new environment, Florida, it’s about 10 hours from home. I love it out here so far.”
Last season with the Rams, Newkirk was third on the team in tackles and a two-year starter on the defensive line. He left Winston-Salem State amid the program’s move back to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference in NCAA Division II.
In addition to the location change off the field, Newkirk has had to make adjustments on the field also.
“The change of positions is the main challenge. I went from defensive end to linebacker and I’m still trying to get the plays down,” he said. “I’ll try to help the team.”
Starting wide receiver Kevin Elliot sat out yesterday’s practice with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Elliot assisted with drills but sported a pack of ice wrapped around right leg.