Before the sun emerged behind heavy cloud cover and coffee finished brewing at homes across Portland, boisterous screams reverberated around the Stott Community Field Monday morning. The Vikings football squad was on the field bright and early at 7 a.m. to officially begin its first preseason practice.
The first practice
Before the sun emerged behind heavy cloud cover and coffee finished brewing at homes across Portland, boisterous screams reverberated around the Stott Community Field Monday morning. The Vikings football squad was on the field bright and early at 7 a.m. to officially begin its first preseason practice. Starting practice prior to the crack of dawn is a concept head coach Jerry Glanville devised at the University of Hawaii, where it was too humid and warm for workouts during the afternoon hours. Previously, the Vikings alternated between midday and afternoon practices, but Glanville believes early start times will prove effective. “A 7 a.m. start is really the only way to go,” Glanville said. “It really helps the players maintain their weight and allows them to get practice out of the way so they can attend classes. It just gives them a nice start to the day.” While the drastic changes to the practice schedule will require an acclimation period, players seemed upbeat and enthusiastic about finishing workouts sooner rather than later. “The advantage to having practice in the morning is now we have all day,” said linebacker Jordan Senn. “Once you wake up, it’s a bit tiring at first. But, once you come out here and start running, it might as well be noon.” Regardless of when practice began, both players and coaches relished the opportunity to step back on the turf for the first time since spring. As the Vikings flew around the field without contact (full-pad practices will begin August 14), smiles were frequent and laughs came in bunches. Aside from the occasional joke, the often-comedic Glanville orchestrated a strict, straightforward practice session. Players were separated by position for the majority of practice, as position coaches closely instructed and educated players on the team’s new offensive and defensive schemes. Offensive coordinator Mouse Davis focused his attention exclusively on his offensive unit to gauge its competency in the newly installed run-and-shoot offense. As the offensive scheme’s creator, Davis’ keen eye can recognize when a team has potential for running the fast-paced system. “It really looked like the first day of practice out there,” Davis said. “There is more speed than in the spring, which is exciting. And the quarterbacks have improved. We’re not ready to play, but I think we have the right pieces here of the run-and-shoot.” The alignment’s success hinges on a quarterback’s pinpoint accuracy, quick receivers and a powerful one-back running set. A product of a relentless passing attack, the run-and-shoot is notorious for amassing gobs of passing yardage and giving fans reason to cheer as touchdowns are scored early and often. Davis is confident the Vikings will eventually execute the run-and-shoot effectively, but he has yet to determine which quarterback will direct the offense. The frontrunners are senior Brian White and sophomore Tygue Howland. Both threw well at practice, hitting receivers in stride and illustrating an understanding of the offense. However, Davis is uncertain when a starter will be announced. On the defensive side, Glanville took a hands-on approach to teaching his patented 3-4 scheme. Senn, named as an All-Big Sky Conference linebacker, said he is motivated by Glanville’s willingness to interact with players on an individual level and his attention to detail, because most head coaches act as managers rather than invested teachers. Glanville said the Vikings have improved immensely since spring practices, where players seemed confused. With improvements, Portland State could be a step closer to being “the hardest hitting team on the West Coast” as Glanville predicted when he arrived in the South Park Blocks. “Defensively, we have picked it up probably quicker than anywhere I have been,” Glanville, a former NFL head coach, said. “We are so much better, and we still have to get a whole lot better.” Practice concluded with a loud air horn blast that called for the players to line up along the field’s west end zone. Coaches then ordered players to sprint the entire 120 yards of the field, six times. Players ran in heats of about 15 yards and were noticeably tired. The sheer exhaustion was evident as wide receiver Tremayne Kirkland shouted, “runnin’ until the wheels fall off, baby,” after finishing his final full-length sprint. “Playing football under coach Glanville and coach Davis is a blessing,” Kirkland said. “Conditioning is usually looked at as punishment, but I figure I could be working a real job right now. So, I’m fortunate to be here.” Quarterback Comparison: Tygue Howland Brian White Year: Sophomore Year: Senior Height: 6’3″ Height: 6’5″ Weight: 220 Weight: 225 Vanguard’s analysis: Velocity (Howland) Accuracy (push) Long ball (White) Short ball (Howland) Offensive understanding (Howland) Spiral (Howland) Agility (White) Toughness (push) Physical measurables (White) Experience (push) Arm strength (White)