HATTIESBURG — The Southern Miss football team conducted its initial spring practice under first-year head coach Todd Monken on Tuesday, and it was apparent from the outset that the new regime is a big change from the old one.
Monken was very energetic from the outset and was hands-on while instructing the players throughout the session.
Here are some notes and observations from today's practice:
* Redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Sloter is the lone healthy scholarship quarterback taking part in all of practice at this point. He's filled out thanks to some hard work in the weight room and know checks in at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds.
* Monken simply wants better body language out of Sloter. He has to understand that other players are looking to him for leadership.
* Sloter said he worked hard on building strength in his right shoulder in the offseason to improve his arm strength.
* Redshirt sophomore Ricky Lloyd is wearing a brace as he continues to work his way back from a season-ending knee injury. He is able to take part in all drills, except for team ones. (In other words, no 11-on-11 work for him).
* Monken said he was pleased with Lloyd. The coach just wants the quarterback to do a better job of "playing within himself."
* Monken believes that the running backs are by far the most talented and deep group on offense.
* Sophomore running back Jalen Richard did not practice on Tuesday with an unspecified injury.
* I said it was an unspecified injury because Monken revealed today that he does not talk about injuries.
* Of his first practice as a head coach, Monken described it as...
"I thought it was great, I really did," he said. "There was always going to be mistakes, but I thought the defense flew around. I saw smiles on faces. I saw guys bringing other guys with them."
* Senior running back Jeremy Hester likely had the best description of Tuesday's practice:
"The first day was amazing," Hester said. "It was real fast like back in the day. I won't mention any names, but it's almost faster. But it was a great practice. I feel like we competed a lot and got a lot done. There were a lot of missed assignments, but there were also a lot of great things individually to make us look good as a team. I think it was a good, productive practice."
* Monken is obviously spending a great deal of time with the quarterbacks in the film room, making sure they understand his "air raid" system.
"We spent probably three days just repping out this practice right here," Sloter said. "We've been working real hard off the field."
* Senior cornerback Deron Wilson seems determined not to repeat a 2012 season that disappointing for himself and the entire team.
"Failure is the best teacher," he said. "You learn more from failure than success. I learned more from last year than I did my sophomore year. When you fail at something, you really find out your true character, who you really are. I tried my best not to repeat what happened last year. So I try my best to take care of guys, be a great teammate. I've got to help young guys and do things. If I'm not helping younger guys, I'm not doing my job."
* Lytrell Pollard is in his second stint at USM as a cornerbacks coach, and it was apparent during Tuesday's practice that the former Golden Eagle player is enjoying being back in Hattiesburg.
"It seemed like he was a player," Wilson exclaimed. "When did he play, like '99? It was like he wanted to get back in the black and gold."