BIRMINGHAM – Technically, position battles and work toward depth chart placement began on Monday when the UAB football team began its first spring under Trent Dilfer and his coaching staff.

However, that wasn’t the focus during the nearly three-hour practice in shorts and helmets at Legacy Pavilion.

“What we’ve talked about is we want to find out the soul of this team, more importantly than position battles or how they handle the install,” Dilfer said. “We want to know the soul of this team. How are they going to be when things are bad? How are they going to pick each other up? Do they encourage each other? Can they communicate at a high level when it’s hard to communicate? What’s their work capacity? Can they reset and refocus? Those are the types of things. Football takes cares of itself, position battles take care of itself.”

Dilfer also paid close attention to how his players handled their first day of full practice under this staff.

“I was pleased,” Dilfer said. “Obviously, first day, there’s is a lot of anticipation going into this. Guys have worked really hard, coaches and players, in the weight room and kind of prepared to handle a new type of practice. I’m not saying it’s better or worse than what’s been done here before, but different. I thought they handled the ebb and flows of practice well. I thought they maintained their energy, their focus. Overall, I’m really pleased with how the first day went.”

Defensive lineman Fish McWilliams said the practice was different than under the previous staff.

“We were moving faster,” McWilliams said. “Like I just told (defensive coordinator Sione Ta’ofu’ou), it was just a different speed. In the second half, we just had to communicate more. In the first half, we were trying to figure out what it was. Then we got reps, we were like, this is how it’s going to be. Overall, a great day.”

Dilfer described his preferred practice style as “controlled chaos”.

“We want to replicate a game as much as possible,” Dilfer said. “We want them to understand the ebbs and flows of game and replicate that in practice. We want extreme highs, highly active, highly physical and then we want those down periods, where you’re on the sideline gathering your thoughts and make corrections. We want them to handle a ton of stimulus at one time. You know, we’re going to Athens in week four and you’re not going to hear yourself think. We’re looking for a player-driven team. When things are crazy, players can fix problems, coaches can’t always fix them.”

Dilfer said he also welcomes mistakes during practice.

“We’re not a bunch of butt chewers when they make a mistake,” Dilfer said. “We actually celebrate mistakes. We try to teach them that mistakes are great. They’re actually part of the process of becoming great, if you correct them after the first mistake. We’re really excited how they are coachable. Sometimes, young players really aren’t coachable. They’re stuck in their ways or they’re insecure and they don’t want to change. That’s not this group. They want to reach their potential, individually and collectively.”

UAB returns to the practice field on Wednesday and Friday this week before taking off for Spring Break.  

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