Day 3 of 2012 fall camp for the Missouri State Bears was the team’s first in pads. Coach Terry Allen’s squad spent more than two hours on the turf at Plaster Field working on installing plays and getting their first feel of real contact in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
The team also went through some basic post-practice conditioning that closed out a hot morning on an intense note.
One of the key areas of focus in the early portions of practice is the Missouri State defense. Last fall was a particularly painful for the Bears’ defensive corps, which entered the 2011 campaign with a number of question marks and just four returning starters. Four freshmen drew starting assignments on the defensive side of the ball in MSU’s season opener at Arkansas, and the growing pains associated with an inexperienced cast were evident as the Bears gave up more yards (444.7) and points (37.1) than any other Valley unit.
But fast forward to 2012 with a vast majority of the starters back in the fold and an impressive cast of transfers pushing for playing time, this year’s Bears suddenly have depth, the benefit of significant playing experience by most of the returners, and high expectations from the coaching staff.
“One of the biggest things we took from last year is that we gained a lot of experience, associate head coach/defensive coordinator D.J. Vokolek said. “Guys like Andrew Beisel, Mike Crutcher, Caleb Schaffitzel, Sybhrian Berry, Martin Montgomery and Nate Davis all played huge roles for us last year, and most of those guys were freshmen or sophomores.”
Vokolek said today was a good indicator of what lies ahead for the fall.
“The first day with pads is always a little sloppy, but all in all we worked really hard and got a lot done,” Vokolek explained. “I saw good effort out there, and there is a lot of potential for us.”
The frustrations of the 2011 season have yielded to newfound optimism for the MSU defense. With nine true starters and 17 lettermen back on the defensive side, Vokolek says the strength of his unit will be depth and increased competition at key spots.
“Our hope on defense is to play more people and use a deep rotation,” he commented. “We have to stop the run and pressure the passer. The big thing we worked on this spring is creating turnovers. That’s something we have to do better.”
The Bears will have Sunday off from the practice field before returning Monday morning. For complete camp coverage and Bears news throughout the season, go to www.MissouriStateBears.com.