JONESBORO (AStateRedWolves.com) – The Arkansas State football team strayed from its normal schedule Monday, holding its first night practice since opening fall camp. The team also invited university faculty and staff to join the squad inside Liberty Bank Stadium as another way to show appreciation for everything they do for the coaching staff and players on a daily basis.
"There are a lot of people at the University that don't get to see the players in this type of environment, but they work with them on a daily basis," said head coach Bryan Harsin. "We wanted to send them a special invitation to watch our guys go to work on the field, so it was good to see and interact with the professors and other staff outside of the classroom."
The Red Wolves suited out in shorts and shoulder pads for the second straight practice, which featured a "Monday Night Football" theme and energized the team with the change in routine according to Harsin.
"This was a very solid and competitive practice tonight, which we needed," said Harsin. "Now we need to continue to have the same type of competitive spirit and mentality that we saw tonight."
The practice featured individual and position drills, special teams work and team sessions, but also included for the first time a scrimmage aspect the coaching staff has termed "play-it" periods. Although the play-it periods weren't full contact, they allowed the offense and defense to adjust to various unscripted situations that may arise in the course of a real game.
"This was an opportunity to see how we operate in unscripted scenarios where we call plays based off the situation and just go play," Harsin said. "From this point forward we'll do more of that. It will become a part of our practices and we may not do it every day, but we'll hold those type of periods the majority of our practices.
"The offense performed well early and the defense finished strong," continued Harsin. "The offense was able to put together some big plays, and the defense swelled up in the red zone to change the mentality some."
While he was pleased with the team effort, Harsin also noted that senior quarterback Adam Kennedy and freshman quarterback Cameron Birse were both throwing the ball really well today. Harsin commended Darion Griswold for the way he continues to practice, actually referring to the sophomore tight end as the team's practice player of the day. He also pointed out the play of sophomore wide receivers J.D. McKissic and Tres Houston and senior wideout Julian Jones.
The offensive line did well with protection at practice, and the defensive effort was highlighted by the play of the secondary as Harsin stated.
"Across the board, our safeties and corners stood out tonight," said Harsin. "The corners played well because they made it difficult on the quarterbacks and wide receivers with their coverage. The safeties were coming up and getting in good position to make plays. We weren't going live, but they were in position to make some hits. The defensive line was good in some of the early team periods where there was more of a run emphasis."