Rolled up to La Cage and saw four of the FIU hardcores tailgating. Tailgating a Saturday morning training camp practice. That's dedication. Or an implied referral to therapy. They provided a fan's commentary soundtrack to practice that amused even some of the defensive players standing on the south sideline.
(One fan noticed I was once again wearing a Brazil national team jersey, as I was at a practice earlier this week. To clear up quickly: I have Brazil national team jerseys from the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, four or five thin gray A/X-type t-shirts and four or five pairs of black pants/slacks. So while you might see me wearing the same color shirt, pants or whole outfit as perhaps two days previous, they aren't the same clothes.)
The football highlight of practice would be the relatively clean quality. Another observer saw one fumble that I somehow missed. That included, still, it was good enough for head coach Ron Turner to call it the best offensive day as far as execution.
That didn't always translate into final success. Two third and short runs by Shane Coleman got devoured by the right side of the defense. The first and second string defense generally had the better of it on third downs, although Jake Medlock did manage to drop a deep throw in to redshirt sophomore T.J. Lowder behind the corner and in front of the safety. The first string offense got running back Lemarq Caldwell around the side and up the sideline on its best running play of the day.
Senior wide receiver Glenn Coleman came down with a nice leaping grab of a slightly underthrown ball from sophomore E.J. Hilliard. Coleman got open on a play action pass, which Hilliard sells well. Such ball-handling is underrated these days as the running game loses prominence at all levels of football.
For the third consecutive day, senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane blocked a pass. And, on one run of plays, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leonard Washington devastated the second-team offensive line. FIU's got depth there.
The first pair of wide receivers to line up with the first team the last few practices: redshirt sophomores T.J. Lowder and 6-4 Dominique Rhymes. Speed and height, respectively.
In the kicking and punting battles, redshirt freshman punter Chris Ayers continued to pull away from his competition, nailing a 51-yard punt and a 40-yarder. Redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka had his best day on field goals, hitting from 26 yards in the middle of the field; 30 yards off the left hash mark; 36 off the right hash; and 42 off the left hash. Freshman Cody Hodgens missed from 26 in the middle of the field and hit from 30 off the right hash. Freshman Austin Taylor was wide right from 36 off the left hash and hit from 42 off the right hash.
The moment that jumped out at observers, however, was cornerback Richard Leonard dough-popping wide receiver Richard Burrows on a play over the middle after Burrows missed a pass. Burrows mouthpiece shot into the air and didn't land until after the penalty flags thrown by the officials present did. Kind of reminded me of the moment at 10:05.
Turner marched toward Leonard, who must have said something because Turner told him to shut up but used a few more words to do it. Turner then pointed out to the team a point he reiterated after practice -- that hit would've gotten Leonard penalized and ejected.
"I wasn't as mad about the hit -- I was mad about the hit because it's our own teammate and we don't do that to our own team -- but he was breaking on the ball and that stuff happens. It's football," Turner said. "I wasn't as mad about that as his reaction. They call it, they call it.
"I don't agree with the call. I don't agree with the rule," he continued. "I understand the purposes of it. I don't agree with all the concepts of it. I agree with what they're trying to do. But it's very difficult to play defense right now. You've got to change how you're teaching some things."
Turner said he had a "You've got to be kidding me" reaction to some -- not all, some -- of the hits Conference USA officials showed coaches that would get a player flagged and gone.
Burrows sat out for while then returned to practice. He later hung onto a short pass over the middle as Leonard also wrapped his arms around it in an attempt to just rip the ball away.
Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said the offensive line is "completely different" from where it was in the spring. Just having enough bodies for work and competition makes a difference.
"Whenever your job is on the line, you tend to take coaching a little bit better," Shankweiler said.
He noted that freshman guard Jordan Budwig is getting second team snaps because of injuries on the line and thinks Budwig and fellow freshman James Cruise will be good players down the line. He also pointed out that junior college transfer Byron Pinkston hasn't had a bad snap yet while working at center.
Sophomore middle linebacker Patrick Jean's been out for a few practices dealing with a family issue. Freshman offensive lineman Tim Thomas went back to Crowley, Texas for the same reason. Jean's expected back Sunday. Thomas will be back later.
Get one, lose one: walk-on freshman running back Eric Moate quit the team. Joining practice was junior college transfer Talir Satterfield-Rowe (5-10, 195). In 11 games for Los Angeles Pierce College last year, Rowe ran for 300 yards and a touchdown on 75 carries. He caught 30 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.