Wave picks up tempo as camp hits day 11

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NEW ORLEANS – The scene early Monday morning at the Westfield Practice Facility was one of peace and serenity. Following a light rain in the New Orleans area, the scene was almost something out of Thoreau’s Walden as the sun crept across the turf and the sounds of birds chirping and dogs barking echoed from the distance.

 At 9 a.m., however, there was a very different sound erupting from the facility as the Green Wave football team opened day 11 of preseason camp. Gone were the birds and pets. In their place was the sounds of grunts, popping of shoulder pads and clashing of helmets and facemasks as gridiron gladiators took the field in full pads. And the sun went from gentle to a sweltering menace.

 While the temperature crept higher and higher in uptown New Orleans, so did the intensity of practice as head coach Bob Toledo and his staff continued to introduce new plays and new formations to a team. And when the final horn sounded following the Green Wave’s last conditioning run, Toledo was once again all smiles as his team continues preparation for the season opener at Alabama on Sept. 6.

“I think we did some good thing,” Toledo said. “We woke them up a little bit, calling a ‘sudden change’ right after PAT/field goal. That’s a scrimmage situation, and then we had an inside run drill where we didn’t huddle. We just went on the line, called plays, lined up the No. 1 defense and said ‘Here are the plays.’ We just ran the plays and that was part of a conditioning thing.”

The “sudden change” drill is something Toledo has thrown at his team in the past, and has often come at all different times during practice. With a blast of his whistle, the offense lines up against the defense and the two sides battle for supremacy. On this particular occasion, the defense held the upper hand by holding on fourth down.

That really set the tone for the rest of the day as members of the Green Wave defense were flying to the ball throughout practice. Junior linebacker David Kirksey was all over the field on Monday, making big hits, knocking down passes and even recording a sack. In seven-on-sevens, junior safety Corey Sonnier had an interception. Later in the drill, junior defensive back Chinonso Echebelem broke up a pass down the middle intended for linebacker-turned-tight end Cody Sparks.

“I thought, for the most part, they did a nice job,” Toledo said. “We’ve got a ways to go because No. 1, we’re putting in a lot of things, and No. 2, we’ve got a lot of young guys – including freshmen – that really don’t know everything. It’s hard. It’s not a game-plan week where we limit the number of things you do and you rep those things. This is about learning the playbook. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do out here.”

One of the players that has really caught the attention of the coaching staff so far in camp is true freshman fullback Kasey Stelly. A native of Lafayette, La., and 2008 graduate of St. Thomas More, Stelly has been a one-man wrecking machine out of the backfield. On Monday, he delivered several crushing blocks that drew rave reviews from the coaches and his teammates, and he has shown solid hands coming out of the backfield on pass patterns.

“He’s lighting people up,” Toledo said of Stelly. “He’s given three concussions to guys. He’s broken some helmets and several face masks. He is really doing an outstanding job. He’s learning pretty fast. He can block like heck. He can catch the football. He’s going to play a lot of football here.”

That kind of play, Toledo said, is beginning to rub off on some of Stelly’s fellow freshmen and upperclassmen alike.

“I think they see (what Stelly has done so far),” Toledo said. “It’s like I was telling the guys out there (after practice), show us. And he’s showing us. There are a lot of freshmen that are going to play for us this year. I think majority of them are going to play.”

The Green Wave return to action on Tuesday, Aug. 19, when they hold their third two-a-day practice of preseason drills. The Tulane team will take the field at 9:30 a.m. before coming back out at 3:35 p.m. Following the Sept. 6 season-opener, the Green Wave open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, Sept. 13, when Tulane plays host to Conference USA opponent East Carolina in the Louisiana Superdome.

Season tickets for the 2008 Tulane football season are now on sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. For more information on 2008 Tulane football tickets or tickets to any future Green Wave home athletic event, contact the Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE.