April 5, 2012

Thursday practice report

After 15 spring practices and a limited number of major injuries, head coach Gary Patterson said he saw his team make positive strides and said as much on the Frogs' final day practice day Thursday.

"I think we grew a team up. Obviously we had some new guys come in and everybody here, I think we moved forward," Patterson said. "We still have a long ways to go to be what we want to be, but we're not where we were."

The Frogs practiced in shorts on Thursday, working on things for games against Grambling State, Kansas State, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the kicking game. By spreading the practices out over a long five week stretch, Patterson said the team stayed healthy and got smarter.

"We had a couple major injuries, but we really didn't have a long list. We got a lot more teaching and a lot more film watching done, and I think it helped us academically," he said. "(It's easier) getting to class when you're not having to go two days in a row and you're tired, you don't want to get up and do those kind of things."

Patterson said the defense still needed to improve, but that cornerback Jason Verrett may have had the best spring on that side of the ball after his move to field-side corner. On offense, injuries to some offensive linemen opened the door for Eric Tausch.

"Tausch on the offensive line being able to give us a tackle and a center is invaluable," Patterson said of the 6-foot-3, 295 pound junior. "When we get everybody else back, instead of having six players it's like having seven."

One of the other key storylines this spring has been the search for leadership on a still young team. Patterson said senior linebacker Kenny Cain is the "closest thing" the team has on defense and that this spring Cain played as physically has he's played since he arrived on campus.

When asked about junior defensive end Stansly Maponga taking the next step in his maturation, Patterson expressed disappointment.

"(His spring was) not as good as you'd want him to be. He's now a junior. We need him to be more. We need him more in leadership, we need him being physical, we need him in every area."

On offense, junior quarterback Casey Pachall improved, but still lacks the experience needed to be at an Andy Dalton-like leadership level.

"Younger quarterbacks ask and older players demand and he's somewhere in between that," Patterson said.

On the other side of the coin, the January newcomers to campus all improved.

"I think they did OK, deep in alligators. The last two or three practices (running back) B.J. Catalon and (quarterback) Tyler (Matthews) probably came the farthest. (Receiver) Kolby Listenbee has great speed and (cornerback) Keivon (Gamble) really started to come along as one of our corners. If he can come along and be our fifth corner and push to be our fourth corner then we'll be a better football team in the fall."

Patterson said the team will spend last month of the spring semester focusing on studying for finals, as well as trying add more strength in the weight room.

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