ACU head football coach Chris Thomsen said late Wednesday night the first day of two-a-days for his squad was a rousing success. The Wildcats, he said, were fresh and playing at a quick pace, despite the heat and humidity in Abilene on Wednesday.
"I was really pleased with both workouts, especially the afternoon practice," Thomsen said. "The guys on both sides of the ball were really sharp, despite the heat. The offensive line really gelled together for the first time and had a good performance."
Most Wildcat fans, however, are more concerned with a defense that gave up an average of 42 points per game over the last six weeks of the 2007 season than an offense that was one of the top units in all of college football. On the defensive front, Thomsen said, the Wildcats have been strong this summer.
"Our defensive guys are really flying around and doing good things every day," Thomsen said. "We've got some older guys who have really stepped up and are rising to the challenge of what we've asked them to do this year. (Safety) Tony Harp had a tremendous winter and summer and he looks very sharp. He's the unquestioned leader of the secondary and one of the guys we'll look to for leadership on that side of the ball.
"(Inside linebacker) Mike Kern has been really sharp so far, and I've like what I've seen out of him," he said. "(Redshirt freshmen) Nick Jones and Aston Whiteside bring a different tempo, athleticism and attitude than what we've had in the past."
The biggest change for the Wildcats on defense is a scheme change from a 4-3 base to a 3-4. That required moving last year's defensive ends, freshmen Bryson Lewis and Fred Thompson, to outside linebacker where they, along with Tulsa transfer Eliot Allen, have been impressive through the first week of summer practice.
"Bryson and Fred are doing a nice job with the transition," Thomsen said. "Then you throw Eliot in there and we've got some good athletes at the outside linebacker position. The things we'll ask them to do at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme are similar to what a defensive end in a 4-3 would be doing. They'll just have more coverage responsibility in the passing game."
With Lewis and Thompson moving to linebacker, the Wildcats are counting on several transfers to make an immediate impact on the defensive line. In a 3-4, the defense needs space-eaters in the middle, and the Wildcats have a pair in Thomas Locust (320 pounds) and Brian Haywood (310 pounds), who, along with Rutgers transfer Vantrise Studivant at defensive end, have a chance to make a big impact on the defense.
"I feel good about where we are defensively," Thomsen said. "This is a more athletic group all over the board than what we had last year. If we can get a couple of those defensive linemen to come and continue to get good play from our linebakcers and secondary, I believe we're going to have a good bunch."