"Today the tempo increased a bit, the coaching picked up a little bit. It's getting closer to that time," said first-year coach Jay Thomas, beginning his seventh season as a head collegiate coach. "Obviously it's always important but at this point, every minute, every second is very crucial.
"We try not to spend any more time than necessary on the field, because we want fresh legs. We have 21 jam-packed periods with something going, and the guys are getting really good at making that transition from period to period with good hustle. We're getting our conditioning in practice and don't have to do a bunch after practice," he said.
While the Demons' day was done shortly after 5:30, the coaching staff was reconvening Tuesday night to hone in on setting the depth chart and the 67-man travel squad from the 95 players whose final practice of preseason camp will be Wednesday afternoon at 3:30.
"We'll take a long look at all of our guys who we think can help us in a ballgame, who are ready mentally and physically, and that means a lot of our young ones. Some are on the bubble who have really improved, a bunch of them, and they've made our decisions a lot more difficult," said Thomas. "More often than not, experience tends to make the difference."
Those not on the travel squad or on the bubble will see their roles change, especially after the team stages a mock game Thursday evening at 6 in Turpin Stadium.
"We'll have guys who will be on a developmental squad and they'll begin to simulate Missouri State as we get into the weekend and into next week," said Thomas, who will give the players Friday off before beginning game-week work on Saturday.
Tuesday's session included a concentration on special teams.
"Punt protection was very good today, the technique of punt returns is coming around nicely, and so is our work on kickoff returns is getting a lot sharper. Our kick coverage team is rounding into form. Our hands team for onside kicks is settling in," said Thomas. "We're spending quality time on special teams."
With the last preseason camp practice looming, the new coach couldn't contain his pride at the progress his team has shown.
"It's been a great two-and-a-half weeks of camp. They've pushed through the grind, and now it's getting to time to play games," said Thomas.