Ah, spring. The birds singing, the forsythia blooming, the Bradford Pears stinking to high heaven. And the football players getting back onto the field and in front of the cameras. They're bigger! They're stronger! They're faster and have better attitudes! They'll be better this year! Yes, spring. You know it's coming, and it's arrival always brings smiles.
Derek Dooley warned the media on Sunday that he wouldn't be happy on Monday, and he wasn't, not really, but he didn't seem to have the sass of prior years either:
"It was a typical first day," Dooley said. "Effort was good, and I expect it to be that way. But we have a long way to go from a discipline standpoint of knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, knowing why it's important to do it that way and then going out there and doing it the right way.
"It was sloppy from that standpoint. But the key, of course, is how we learn from it and and how we don't go out there the next day and make the same mistakes. No matter how hard you train, without real practice you can't prepare for football without playing football."
Some of the most promising news of the day is that Tyler Bray seems to realize that his main challenge this year will be keeping his head screwed on tight:
"Last year," Bray said in his first media setting since the season-ending loss at Kentucky, "I wasn't the smartest guy. Kind of dumb. "This year I'm trying to get my act together and trying to get this team where it needs to be."
"Where it needs to be," according to Bray, is "back where it was in the 90's," which would of course make us all ecstatic and insufferable to others. It wouldn't hurt to cut Bray a bit of slack, but just think about the possibilities if his mind and thumb catch up with his world-class arm.
In other spring-blooming news, Justin Hunter not only got back onto the field, he stiff-armed the trainers and did more than what everyone expected. Best of all, he moved quickly past the safe go routes and right into the same plays that resulted in his injury in the first place. Way to get back on that horse, Mr. Hunter.
And spot the pretty in this quote from Tyler Bray:
"I mean, it's the same team we pretty much had last year. Just mentally we're a lot better this year. I mean, guys are more as a team whereas last year we kind of had some guys separate or kind of wanted to do their own thing. This year, we're a unit."
We're all going to read that as a positive commentary on the the progress of Da'Rick Rogers' attitude, right? It's a hopeful statement, but one that should come packaged with a decent dose of caution. Regardless, think about the first part of the quote. "It's the same team we pretty much had last year." The winterists among us will say, "But I don't want to go 5-7 again," while those of us enjoying the sun and pretending there's no pollen in the air will say, "Yeah. Same team, but without the injuries and with more experience. I'll take that."
And the linebackers are all about the extreme makeover they're getting. Brent Brewer is digging his move from safety to 'backer (partly because he can gain weight now), Curt Maggitt is positively excited about moving inside where he'll be tasked with the mental challenges associated with the Mike, and Channing Fugate, moving from fullback to weakside LB is hoping to become Austin Johnson. And that's to say nothing of Herman Lathers, who's been waiting an entire year just to hit someone.
So yeah, the sun is shining and hope is rising. And the fact that it happens this way every single spring doesn't mean it doesn't make me want to go skipping through the fields.