Camp Notebook from Practice No. 2

August 12, 2004 · MT Media Relations
(Practice No. 2)

MCCOLLUM ON TODAY'S PRACTICE: "It was a great work day for us, but it was just too cool. We need the heat out here, but I am sure it is on the way. I don't know if I have ever experienced a day in August like this in Murfreesboro."

"I thought we had a nice 11 on 11 drill and a very productive team blitz period. There are some guys who are stepping up and making some plays, but we will get a better judge of things when the pads go on in a couple of days."

"We really have great speed at receiver and it is a big challenge for our defensive backs, but I have been pretty pleased with the way they have been performing. We got beat on a few balls today, but we will just coach them harder and get better."

11-ON-11 PASSING DRILL: Following are some statistics from today's 11-on-11 passing drill - Josh Harris completed 4 of 7 passes, Joe Craddock connected on 5 of 7 attempts and Sam Hunt was a perfect 3-for-3 and Clint Marks went 2-for-2 ... Kerry Wright led all receivers with three receptions, while Terry Jackson, Pierre Ingram and Linnie Yarbrough had two each.

BRINGING THE HAMMER: It can be said that Thomas Johnson is a soft-spoken young man but the Middle Tennessee senior defensive lineman carries a big stick ... literally. Johnson, the 6-foot-2, 297-pound interior lineman walked off the practice field Thursday carrying a large sledge hammer with the inscription "Think Big" on an extended handle. "(Former defensive line coach) Carey Bailey left this here after last year. I saw it in (strength coach) Robb Rogers' office and carried it out to practice," Thomas said. "I will keep bringing it and remembering what coach Bailey stressed, which is to focus and represent the helmet. We are doing that as a unit and this is just a reminder." Thomas, who had a career-best 31 tackles in 12 games in 2003, brought the hammer (not literally) when the defensive linemen went 1-on-1 against the offensive linemen during a pass rush drill coach McCollum refers to as a toughness drill. Thomas consistently beat his man and took up residence in the offensive backfield. "We've been working on that drill since I've been here and it's so important," Thomas said. "We are working hard to get to the quarterback and that's an intense drill for that. We want to bring it on defense this year. Not just me, but everyone."

CATCH'ING ON: Middle Tennessee track standout Linnie Yarbrough has proven to be a quick study on the football field, at least through the first two days of camp. Yarbrough has starred on the Blue Raider track team for the past two years, but he's giving football a try this fall and has demonstrated good hands and great concentration as a receiver in the first two workouts. His focus was clearly evident during 11-on-11 passing Thursday when he went up between two defenders in tight coverage and hauled in an aerial from redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Hunt. "I'm just going off what my coaches tell me and when the ball is in the air it's my job to get it," Yarbrough said. "I credit (Hunt) for putting the ball in the right place. All I had to do was make the catch. I still feel I have a lot to learn, but it helps tremendously having Pedro (Holiday), Kerry (Wright) and Pierre Ingram out there giving me confidence. I'm trying to give my best and every helping word from them helps." McCollum has been among those impressed with Yarbrough in the early going and believes he has the ability to add to a deep and talented receiving corps. "Linnie has made some catches, and he's looked good in shorts," McCollum said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how he runs with pads, but I'm pleased with what I'm seeing to this point." Yarbrough was a four-year letterwinner at Hunters Lane High School as a quarterback.

BEST CONDITIONED: Robb Rogers, Middle Tennessee's football strength coach, announced today that six players earned the "Best Conditioned Athlete" award for their efforts over the summer. The six who were recognized were: Walt Bell (WR, r-So., Dixson, Tenn.), Jonathan Bonner (LB, Jr., Birmingham, Ala.), Jason Elam (DL, r-Jr., Bartlett, Tenn.), Thomas Johnson (DL, r-Sr., Memphis, Tenn.), Nick McAfee (FB, r-Jr., Marietta, Ga.), and Devarick Scandrett (DL, Jr., Forsyth, Ga.). The six athletes all registered perfect scores in achieving their goals for the summer training period. The athletes ran all 16 110s in the allotted time, did all five leg circuits in the allotted time, increased a minimum of 15 pounds in the bench press, and also in the power clean.

TIDBITS: The Blue Raiders practiced in unseasonably cool temperatures today as a cold front came through Murfreesboro. The temperature at the start of practice was only 70 degrees and held steady throughout. The temperature at the conclusion of the day's only workout was 68 degrees. "It definitely makes it easier on the players, but we open at "The Swamp" and we know the temperature is not going to be anything like this there," junior linebacker Dennis Burke said of the unseasonable temperature at the outset of camp. "As nice is the weather is now, we need it to be hot and getting us ready for (Florida)." ... Today marked the last day of classes for the second summer session ... Strength coach Robb Rogers introduced weight lifting procedures and techniques to all the newcomers today. Rogers pairs two veterans with each newcomer so that the older guys can teach the young ones how to do things properly, plus it builds leadership skills.

FAN DAY: Middle Tennessee's annual fan day is set for August 21 at 1 PM in Floyd Stadium. Fans will be able to gain autographs from all the players and coaches, while also having the opportunity to take a picture with their favorite Blue Raider. There will be free cokes and hot dogs, free posters and schedule cards, and fans can purchase this year's media guides. Lightning's Locker Room will also be open. Fan day is free and open to the public.

NEW RADIO SHOW: Monte Hale of the Daily News Journal is preparing to delve into the radio world beginning on Monday, August 16. Hale will host a one-hour call-in talk show from 4:00 to 5:00 PM Monday-Friday on WGNS 1450 AM. The show, which has not been named yet but will next week through a contest, centers on Blue Raider athletics. The first guest on Monday will be track coach Dean Hayes, who will talk about the upcoming Olympics, while the second guest will be Athletic Director Boots Donnelly on Tuesday. The number to call into the show is 893-1450.

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