On the way out to Cardinal Stadium for the dog and pony show a/k/a Football Media Day, I noted the sky was Grantland Rice blue-gray. Appropriately enough, even though it was a bit muggier than the day which caused college pigskin’s flowery bard of yesteryear to wax poetic about a quartet of Notre Damers in the ’20s.
When I exited, the sun was out.
Which is a good enough way to metamorphize the spin that is always attendant at such annual inaugural rites.
On the elevator up to the press level, a fellow who’d been at as many of these as me and I were riffing on what we’d hear.
“Great to be back.
“Really looking forward go hitting the field.
“Guys have been doing some great work in the weight room, and are bigger and stronger.”
Etc, etc. Or yada, yada, yada if you happen to be a Seinfeld acolyte.
Truth is, of course, there’s not much to learn here. Actual practice hasn’t started. Everybody’s undefeated at the beginning of August.
But the event does herald that the arrival of opening kickoff is not long off. That alone makes it a joyous, if tedious occasion.
* * * * *
Coach Satterfield’s first words: “Love this time of year. Love college football.”
Then after mentioning the devastation in Eastern Kentucky and the water collection drive in a couple of days in the Cardinal Stadium parking lot, he went on.
“It’s been a great summer.
“We love to watch them work.
“The team’s made great strides in the weight room. But we’re really looking forward to Xs and Os.”
The rest of his and DC Bryan Brown’s and new OC Lance Taylor’s comments were punctuated here and there with coachspeak. They and their ilk simply can’t help it.
But there was, my sense, some legitimate optimism that underscored their comments. All the coaches mentioned in one fashion or another how devastated the squad was because of last season’s disappointments. And how that has informed their work ethic the entire off season.
Satt: “We have a lot to prove, to get some respect.”
Satt on opening the campaign with two on the road, then Florida State at home. “Two league games in the first three. We need to be ready to rock and roll.”
* * * * *
The Cardinals did do something different to prepare for a bounceback season.
Satterfield called it “mental training.”
The players were broken down into small groups, each one with guys from different positions, meeting several times a week. There were twelve topics, but Satterfield was vague about them specifically.
The point was obviously to foster communication, connection, empathy, for players to learn things about their teammates — background, goals, feelings, etc — they might not know or understand. To develop trust, so they might perform better, especially during moments of adversity.
It wasn’t so long ago that a football coach would never consider such touchy feely stuff. Woody and Bear are restless in their graves.
* * * * *
Depth was mentioned several times.
By DC Brown on his whole unit: “This is the most depth we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
By OC Taylor when speaking of running backs. And for the OL: “I was really surprised by the offensive line depth.” (Also mentioned by center by Bryan Hudson.)
Taylor on the receiving corps: “The group is really going to surprise people.” He talked about how they set the standards for workouts, showing up early, staying late for more reps with the QBs, working out on Saturdays and Sundays.
* * * * *
Malik Cunningham was wearing a Sp5der Worldwide Red Angel Number 555 pullover hoodie. With an umlaut over the fourth of six fives on the fashion statement. (I tried to learn how to type that, but could not.) A new one is going for $328 on ebay.
So it was a bit ironic when he was asked about NIL. Yet he gave a modest response.
“Not a lot of people where I come from make it. I’m humble and blessed to receive what I receive.”
He gave a similarly unassuming answer when he was asked about being underrated: “That’s your guys’ job. I just go out and play.”
* * * * *
So, yes, hope springs.
The team and coaches seem well aware of the task before them, and the expectations. At this point, they seem to be facing it head on.
The faithful wait, expectantly, hoping that when October and beyond arrive, they peer down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.
— c d kaplan