UC opens spring practice

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Of course, there was plenty of over-the-top yelling and plenty of coaches whistling and plenty of players woofing and plenty of managers screwing everything up. Which led to even more over-the-top yelling.


This was the first day of spring football practice, so, of course, all of this was occurring, just like it does on every football campus about this time of year. At UC, it happened the same way under the reigns of Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly. With Butch Jones, it was more of the same.


At the same time, though, Wednesday's first of 15 spring practices was a bit different. There was the yelling and the woofing and the cheering. But there was also something else - there was also a little bit of sportsmanship.


Never was that more evident than at the end of the 2 ½ hour practice than when the players lined up and shook hands with each other before leaving the field.


"We talk about in our football family that we want to compete in everything we do," Jones said. "A lot of times during practice, especially in the spring, there's an offense vs. a defense mentality. But what they understand is once the double horn blows and practice is over, we're one. We're the Bearcats. That's just a very fitting way to end practice. Now we come together as one."


Said junior defensive lineman John Hughes: "That's just showing sportsmanship after everything we did today. We're showing that we still love each other. These coaches care a lot about team chemistry and how everybody gets along with each other. That makes it more of our team. These coaches are a lot more in tune with the brotherhood of the family."


The end of practice handshake line wasn't the only aspect of the practice that was a little different than what we've seen before. Music played over the loud speakers during warm-ups, and Jones chest-bumped players before chiding the managers for not spotting the ball correctly (though he apparently was a little less brutal with them than Kelly might have been; Kelly, after all, could curse you out with the best of them). And for some reason, and I'm sorry I forgot to ask for an explanation, there were two ladders in the middle of the field where the quarterbacks were throwing (my best guess was that maybe the ladders were acting as really, really tall defensive linemen).


Bill Koch had an even better line.


"Maybe," he said, "after practice, they're going to do some painting."


Either way, the mentality at practice was just slightly different.


"The intensity is a lot higher in everything we're doing," junior quarterback Zach Collaros said. "Even coach Jones is running around here chest-bumping before practice. We go a little bit longer. The receivers, when they catch the ball, everybody has to get to the ball, even the other receivers to get a block down field. It's just real high intensity."


Jones knows these players know how to be successful. Now, he has to mold them into the mindset that he wants to see from them.


"I like our kids' mentality, and the mindset is they expect to win," he said. "You wouldn't want that any other way. But we're also an extremely young football team. We have a lot of young guys. There's some teaching for them. They're eager, but we have to teach them what we want. But they're winners. We're not having to come in here and try to build a mentality of how to win. They already know how to win. They've proven that. But there are also some individuals who have already hit a triple without coming up to bat. They have to understand the work ethic that comes into it."

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