Photo courtesy of ecupirates.com
The Pirates fall preseason camp took another step forward on Monday, as they had their first practice in pads. It’s also another step forward toward preparing for the season opener on Aug. 31.
Head coach Mike Houston said it makes practices feel more realistic and game-like. The first two practices were heavy on conditioning, but now the practices will be much more physical.
Houston said players will wear pads for the rest of camp, saying it’s something they’ll need to get used to. The Pirates will either be thud tackling or live in practice every day up until the week of the opener.
Houston complimented the offensive line group, saying they continue to improve now that they have incorporated contact. He pointed to the team area as the part where the offensive line impressed.
Houston talked about the differences in the quarterback’s once the pads are on, saying Ahlers is a natural dual-threat quarterback because of his size but that Herring is actually a faster runner. Darius Pinnix also shines in pads because of his size at 234 pounds as a runner. Houston said the Pirates would definitely be able to run the ball this year, citing Pinnix.
Houston pointed to Kendall Futrell as a bright spot on defense making plays with his athleticism. Houston has said he plays hard each and every snap and has provided senior leadership. Futrell, a defensive end from South Central in Winterville, North Carolina, missed spring practices due to injury.
The site ecupirates.com noted how the wide receivers have performed well in camp so far, and how the offense is bringing back similar formations it used under former offensive coordinator and current Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. The formation has two receivers on the outside and two on the inside at the slots. Offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said it’s an evolution of the popular Air Raid offense.
Houston has raved about his wide receivers, saying they have a lot of veteran returners at that position so success should be expected. The Pirates can run out Deondr Farrior, Blake Proehl, Leroy Henley, and others as capable pass catchers.
Houston once again referenced past culture and habits, saying a lot of players played at practice speed. Now that isn’t a thing anymore under Houston, and he has the Pirates aiming to create game habits in practice.
The Pirates’ first day off on Sunday was spent with a worship service and a bowling event at night. Houston joked that some of the players shouldn’t quit the day job, but said it was important that things like that continue to help improve off-the-field chemistry.