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THE FINAL 49: 

During the final 49 weeks until Kickoff 2013, we will take a moment each week to look at various aspects of the football program.

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A Familiar Thrill

Mar. 24, 2013

By Tom Whitestone

"Period one.  Period one."

The horn sounds.  The voice carries across the practice fields.

And practice is underway.

Sure was good to be out at the first week of Spring Practice.

It was good to hear Offensive Line coach Phil Ratliff encourage players as he weaved in and out of the conditioning lines.  It was fun to watch Napolean Sykes serve as a sort of tackling dummy and to listen to defensive coordinator Bruce Tall demand excellence.  And it was good to hear the horn blow, signalling the end of one practice period and the start of the next.

It had been four months since the team had practiced.  It has been a year and almost four months since many of these players last played in a regulation football game.

So getting the ankles taped back up, getting the pads back on and lacing up the cleats all brings back a familiar thrill.

Let's get ready to play. 

Even during a week that included a lot more rain, wind and 40s than sun and 60's, the excitement of spring practice was obvious. 

From the coaches, to the players -- even to the fans who tried to sneak peeks through the fence at the practice field, there was a certain combination of anticipation and urgency -- mixed with a taste of fun.

Each drill, though familiar, seems to have a heightened intensity - QB's hit receivers on short cuts while coaches wield pads after the catch is made.  Linemen power through blocking sleds.  Linebackers stay low as they cut and chase an imaginary ballcarrier.

As you watch, you picture the players on game day.  You imagine the holes they will create, the cuts they will make, the tackles they'll record.

The players, no doubt, imagine some of the same.  You can tell by the way they push themselves through drills and sprints.  There's some big games coming in the not too distant future.

The coaches, meanwhile, try to to stay grounded in the day at hand.

They spur enthusiasm, urge attention to detail and exhort hustle.

"Let's go baby."

"Finish strong."

"Get after it."

Game day may seem close enough to touch for so many of us.  But, for the coaches, it's not the time to look ahead.  It's time to drain ever drop of out of today.

"Period two.  Period two."

#KICKOFF2013!


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