August 14, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 14, 2012

Preseason Practice Update #8:

In addition to Media Day on Monday, the Monarchs had a two-a-day including an evening scrimmage with 90 plays in full pads at the stadium.

While the veterans were excited to be back at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium for 29 newcomers, it was their first time stepping onto the field in uniform.

"I was very impressed in what I saw," said head coach Bobby Wilder, "There was tremendous effort on both sides of the ball. There were a lot of positives on both sides. Defensively, I thought our defensive line played really well. They had eight sacks in 90 plays and then offensively, we had some really big plays out of Taylor Heinicke and the wide receivers."

There won't be time to rest on their laurels as the Monarchs have another scrimmage coming up on Friday.

Tuesday's practice was probably the hottest of the Monarch practices thus far. It was also the Monarchs' first time at drills in mid-afternoon through 10 on the field workouts as much of the preseason has been taking place in the mornings. "I thought the players handled it well," said Wilder who was quick to note that the 90 degree weather the team was facing on Tuesday was still probably about 20 degrees cooler than it was July when they were training.

104 IS BACK:
Monday evening's scrimmage and Tuesday's practice also saw the return of the 104 jersey.

Assistant Defensive Coordinator and secondary coach Keita Malloy came up with the idea as a reminder to the team and the defensive backs during spring drills that the Monarchs ranked 104th in pass defense out of the 125 teams in FCS football.

"That was unacceptable and the players want to improve drastically in that area," said Wilder back in the spring when the jersey made its debut. "We allowed 242 yards a game passing. The goal of this team is to improve dramatically in a lot of areas, but 104th in the nation needs to change and it will."

"It's a motivation," said cornerback T.J. Cowart of the jersey.

"It keeps reminding them of what the goal is," said Wilder "I'm really proud of the way those guys are working. I see our secondary as much improved right now. There's a lot of pride in that unit to have a much better season this year and I'm confident they will."

Even though there has been much praise for the secondary this preseason, Malloy noted that the jersey will be continued to be used until the pass defense number improves.

The Monarchs welcome back T.J. Cowart to the defensive backs. Cowart only played in two games in the 2011 season after suffering a broken wrist in game two at Georgia State, a game which saw the current redshirt junior register six tackles. As a sophomore in 2010, Cowart was fourth on the defense with 58 stops, including a team-leading 40 solo stops, and led the team with 11 pass break-ups.

"In the second quarter I was trying to break-up the ball and actually hit one my teammate's helmets," Cowart said recalling the injury. "It was kind of a bummer, but since then I've been trying to work hard."

Returning from the injury, Cowart worked on getting back into shape. In addition to rehabbing the wrist, because "you know you gotta use your hands playing defensive back," said Cowart, it was lots of running and working on his feet.

Cowart, who has been causing trouble for the Monarch receivers this preseason, noted that from Monday's scrimmage that the backs played well in playing man-to-man defense, but mentioned that when the offense managed to break through that it's "all about focus and staying with our man."

The two-minute drill made its first appearance of the 2012 preseason at the end of Tuesday's drills where the offense shined. Starting at their own 35, down six, and with no timeouts, Heinicke orchestrated the 65-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Nick Mayers. Mayers caught the ball heading towards the right sideline and then quickly reversed direction and evaded two on coming defenders to run through the middle of the end zone.

Also getting into the mix during the drill were Angus Harper, Antonio Vaughan, Chris Lovitt, Marquel Thomas, and Mitch Castleberry with completions.

While 2011 CAA Defensive Player of the Year Ronnie Cameron was waived by the Chicago Bears on Sunday, he didn't have to wait long before he was picked up by the Cleveland Browns officially on Tuesday. Originally signed by Chicago as an undrafted free agent back on April 29th, Cameron appeared in the Bears' preseason opener on August 9th.

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The Monarchs return to morning practices, but not quite as early as the 6:45 a.m. practices held last week. ODU hits the field at 9:30 a.m. for a single session.