Old Is New Again: Louisiana Tech starts spring 2021 football practice
RUSTON, La. – At long last, it’s the same old thing again.
It was 2:51 Friday afternoon when Louisiana Tech second team all-league deep snapper Reeves Blankenship took the few steps from the field house to the end zone, placed his helmet and a couple of footballs on the Joe Aillet Stadium turf, stretched, then jogged under a gray sky in the cool of mid-afternoon to the Tech logo at midfield and back.
Then a punter walked out. A couple of kickers. A few more specialists. More stretches. More sprints.
An ordinary start to another football practice.
Except this wasn’t Ordinary. Because in the unrushed rituals of kickers loosening up and managers setting up blocking dummies and water coolers, it was spring of 2019 again.
The players weren’t the only ones in face masks and there were some distancing rules regarding media, but it was as close to a normal spring practice as the Bulldogs had seen in two years.
Unlike last year, when a virus wiped out camp two days before it was to start and continued through a start-and-stop-and-start 2020 season last fall, the Bulldogs began Spring 2021 practice Friday just as they used to do during all those pre-pandemic years.
The same old thing. The glorious, non-chaotic, semi-normal same old thing.
“I was so excited to be out there,” said senior wide receiver Isaiah Graham, who caught 20 passes, three for touchdowns, in last year’s abbreviated season. “Last year at this time I was sitting at home, wondering when I could ever go to practice again.
“We (seniors) wanted to set the standard for the spring from Day 1,” he said about the heightened energy throughout the two-and-a-half hours practice. “If we get to Day 5 and start sagging, that’s when we start telling everybody to get back to Day 1. Keep working as hard as we can; good is never good enough.”
“Incredible to be on the grass again,” said Skip Holtz, heading into his ninth season as Tech’s head coach. “This is my favorite time of year. We’re all ready to have a bonfire and burn all these face masks and get rid of COVID, but it’s still here,” he said, explaining the precautions the program was taking as it moved from phase to phase.
One reason the Bulldogs were anxious to get to Friday’s spirited practice was because of the way 2020 ended. Tech finished 5-5 and saw its bowl game win streak of six in consecutive seasons snapped by Georgia Southern, 38-3, in the New Orleans Bowl.
“That left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth; everybody was anxious to get back to work,” Holtz said. “This spring will tell us a lot about how far this team can go.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be out here,” he said, “to see what his team can become.”
For some, it was their first practice as Bulldogs. Tech will work in three new assistant coaches, five transfers, and two of its nine signees this spring.
Tech’s Spring Game is scheduled for Saturday, April 24, time to be determined.
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