BOWLING GREEN -- The Bowling Green State University football team completed its fifth practice Tuesday morning, and already the differences between this year and last year are obvious.
The return of 20 starters and 42 letterwinners from last year's team, which posted a 5-7 record and was 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play, has resulted in practices that have been generally pleasing to coach Dave Clawson and his staff.
One reason for the excitement is the veteran presence that allows for more productive practices, especially early in training camp.
"Everyone pretty much knows what they're doing, or at least gets the gist of it," sophomore safety Ryland Ward said. "Last year everyone was learning on the fly.
"A lot of people have grown up [since then]. When you have been in the system a few years, people start to pick things up."
Clawson said having more experienced players helps the team install its offense and defense faster, so it can begin working on involved aspects of the game plan earlier.
"The base installation goes so much quicker," he said. "We can get into situations more, we can teach more football in terms of formations, field position, and clock.
"Last year we were trying to get 11 guys lined up in the right spot. This year we can really do some teaching. It has really been fun."
Junior offensive lineman Dominic Flewellyn said having a number of veteran players also helps the tempo and work rate of the practices.
"This year we're bigger and stronger, so it's a lot more physical out there," he said. "And there's a lot of competition, and that brings out the best in everyone.
"We're a lot deeper, so everyone is competing for their job every day. So you have to keep pushing, or someone will pass you."
Ward said he has noticed the veteran presence policing the squad, helping teach the right way to do drills and correct mistakes.
"They have a lot of energy, a lot of good vibes," Ward said of the coaches. "We have a good group here, so I think they don't have to get on us too much. We knew what to do and the right thing to say to get everybody going."
The Falcons will hold morning and evening practices today and Friday as well as a Thursday afternoon practice to prepare for the first of two Saturday scrimmages.
"The goal for the first scrimmage is to give everybody a lot of plays," Clawson said. "The scheme is pretty basic, so we'll see who can execute our base stuff. … This will be especially for the second and third-teamers, especially those who have never played. We want to give those who have worked their way into the depth chart a lot of work.
"We will give the first team their work, but we don't want to overdo the reps with them."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.