Texas State football made its return to the gridiron this week for the first time since December as spring practices are officially underway. The team wrapped up its first week of padded practice Saturday and will have a total of 15 practice sessions leading up to the spring game on April 22.
When he took the podium at his weekly press conference, head coach G.J. Kinne had one word to sum up the practices: physical.
“I thought today was a really good day, probably one of the more physical practices I’ve ever been a part of,” Kinne said. “We were tackling today. The pads are popping. I wanted to see the guys get out there. I wanted to see defense tackle, I wanted to see running backs run through the arm tackles.”
Kinne said he likes what he has witnessed from his team so far in the early stages of spring practice.
“The energy is really good. Guys are communicating really well, the effort is there, the energy’s there and that’s what we can control right now,” Kinne said. “We’ve got new schemes on both sides of the ball. There are going to be some things that we correct in the film room, but I think the energy and effort is really good.”
According to Kinne, the position group that has stood out the most to him through the first week of practice is the cornerbacks.
“The cornerbacks have really stood out to me,” Kinne said. “We’ve got a bunch of really talented guys in that group. They're practicing hard, they're competing with each other. There's real competition in that room which is good to see.”
Kinne had high praise for senior cornerback Kaleb Ford-Dement who transferred to Texas State in January from Washington State.
“Kaleb Ford-Dement [is] a really, really good player,” Kinne said. “Really smart. The speed part is there. Coach Gregg had a prior relationship with him at Kilgore Junior College and he went off to a couple different spots and we were able to get him back here... he has great leadership qualities, the speed, the physicality. You can just tell the game slows down for him.”
Like Kinne, Ford-Dement also enjoyed the energy and level of physicality of the team’s practice and said it felt invigorating to finally be able to put on the pads again.
“We were really only supposed to go one live period today and we ended up going live the rest of practice so that shows the kind of mentality our coaches have and the kind of mentality that our team has,” Ford-Dement said. “The energy — you could just feel like it from the defense. It wasn’t just one person. Everyone on the defense was giving it so that energy was going throughout the whole group and we just fed off each other.”
Despite the cornerbacks impressing the most early on, it’s the quarterbacks who have drawn the most attention. There is currently a three-man competition for starting quarterback between junior Malik Hornsby, sophomore C.J. Rogers and junior Ty Evans.
While a starter most likely will not be named until fall practices, Kinne likes what he has seen from all three quarterbacks.
“I think all three are doing really well,” Kinne said. “It’s early in the scheme so it’s one of those situations that they’re still learning how we want to do things and the footwork and where their eyes are supposed to be. I think C.J. had a really good day today. I thought Malik did some good things and the same with Ty. All three guys are progressing the way you want to.”
Offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich said that there have been growing pains with the new coaching staff, but he's liked what he's seen from the quarterbacks' room.
“All three of those guys and our fourth guy in the room, Derek Mata, have all been great,” Leftwich said. “We’re going through some bumps in the road. Anytime you install a new offense that’s new for the quarterback, new for the receivers there’s a lot of growing pains that go with that but all those guys have been super willing. Their attitude and mindset to attack every day and get better has been great.”
One of the most important tasks Kinne wants to accomplish during spring practice is to have his offensive players adjust to the various different types of tempos that are a part of his fast-paced offense. So far, it’s been a bit of a work in progress according to Kinne.
“It’s going okay. We got to do a better job of substituting and picking up the signals and understanding the different paces and different tempos that we run on offense,” Kinne said. “But I think for the most part, the guys are buying in and that part has been really good to me.”
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