For Aaron Best, spring practice offers another chance to get creative – even with some players on the mend and an icy wind pulling at hamstrings Wednesday afternoon at Roos Field.
“In spring it’s not about meshing,” said Best, as his offensive line began the second day of spring drills on a field that a few hours earlier was covered in snow.
“In spring it’s about working with different combinations of players,” said Best, who is also the offensive coordinator. “So it’s probably the best time for this, whereas fall is your two- to three-week time to get used to the guy playing next to you.”
Best certainly had to get creative last fall as the offensive line was hit hard by injuries, some of them still healing. Guards Steven Forget, Ashton Miller and Jase Butorac “will participate as much as they can,” Best said.
“We don’t want to push the envelope too much given the recovery time for a couple of these guys, so we want them to be as close to 100 percent as we can and hit the ground running in the fall.”
In the meantime, the Eagles must replace left tackle Gabriel Jackson and center Chris Powers.
The Eagles are also getting creative in coaching assignments this spring, with assistant coach Brian Strandley working with tight ends and tackles.
“I’m not sure how that’s going to work, to be honest with you, but it will probably be no different than with any of the other tight-ends coaches I’ve worked with,” Best said.
“We’re both basically team teachers, bouncing ideas off each other – it’s never a dull moment.”
Coming on strongly
The same goes for strength and conditioning coach Nate Brookreson, who said the Eagles spent much of the winter doing what we could to make the players more injury-resistant.”
Brookreson cited a “general improvement” during winter conditioning, with more than 40 players exceeding a 30-inch vertical jump and the majority topping 300 pounds in the bench press and 400 in the squat.
“We’re more explosive,” Brookreson added.
Brookreson said the team takes pride in having few soft-tissue injuries, “but at the same time, you can’t do anything in training to prevent a guy from tearing an ACL if he gets rolled on.”
Brookreson’s role changes with the advent of spring, with just two to three weight sessions per week, depending on position.
“But I’ll be doing more with guys who have practice … and I’m making sure that when they’re healthy they can perform at a high level.
“It’s up to me to bridge that gap.”
The Eagles, still not in pads, spent much of the bone-chilling day focusing on basics, including special team drills and handoffs from quarterbacks to running backs. Several players were getting reps at the long-snapper position … Head coach Beau Baldwin said he was generally pleased with the first day of practice, but added there are “a lot of corrections on film” for the quarterbacks … After a day off today, the team will don pads for Friday drills. The first scrimmage of the season is at 11 a.m. Saturday.