Typically, the beginning of two-a-days is associated with the unrelenting August heat that saps the life out of players as they adjust to working three to four hours each day in full gear. But for the Missouri State Bears, the first scheduled double-header practice of the 2012 fall camp provided a welcomed diversion, as a mid-afternoon thunderstorm offered a breath of fresh, cool air, while cutting short the squad’s second workout at Plaster Field Wednesday.
Much of the Bears’ 90-minute morning session focused on the implementation and fine-tuning of various offensive sets and 11-on-11 work in game-type situations. Additionally, positional work, followed by individual unit meetings early in the afternoon, took up much of the Bears’ attention.
While the weather may have slowed the pace down just a tad, the emphasis on getting the 2012 Bears up to game speed remained the same with the countdown to the team’s Sept. 1 season opener at Kansas State well underway. A seamless coordination of speed and execution will be essential to MSU’s success, particularly on the offensive side.
Occupying a prominent position in the Bears’ up-tempo offensive attack this fall will be the tight end spot. Senior All-America candidate Matt Thayer headlines a solid group of Bear tight ends that promises to complement MSU’s speedy wide receiver corps. Thayer was a preseason all-conference choice after starting all 11 games in 2011 and doubling his production to 20 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 242-pound Thayer represents the squad’s lone returning All-MVFC selection and the Bellevue, Neb., product possesses size, great hands and strong blocking skills, all of which combine make him an imposing all-around threat up front for the Bears.
“We look for Matt to keep coming along and step into a greater leadership role in a lot of aspects,” said tight ends coach Bob Montgomery. “He made a lot of progress this spring and has really worked on making plays in space.”
Backing up Thayer will be fourth-year junior Matt Swan. The Springfield Glendale product returned to action in week four after an injury sidelined the 6-foot-3, 237-pounder early in the year. Swan was one of the club’s top special teams players last fall and continues to develop his game, while adding size over the offseason as well.
Also returning are Richard Darden and Daniel Wood, each of whom redshirted a year ago as true freshmen before showing significant progress in spring practice. Darden posted a pair of key receptions in spring drills and accounted for 30 receiving yards altogether.
Additionally, Montgomery praised true freshman Ryan Boatright for his toughness and grasp of the game, indicating that the Tulsa native will have the opportunity to make an impact if he continues to display the abilities he has shown thus far in fall camp.
“I feel good about our group,” Montgomery said. “We have four players back from last year, including our primary starter in Matt Thayer. As long as Matt can stay healthy, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
The Bears are back at it Thursday at 3:30 p.m. for their eighth practice of fall camp. The team will also practice twice Friday (8:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.) before engaging in their first scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at 10 a.m.