August 9, 2011

Ward is maintaining focus

Wideout Eric Ward has made an early push for playing time during the first four fall camp practices but it wasn't a great day for many of his offensive colleagues.

Shortly after some extra conditioning with the rest of the offense, it seemed Ward's mind was on the team rather than himself.

Ward has looked good early, really good.

"It's going pretty well," Ward said. "You just gotta maintain focus because it wears and coaches and players as camp prolongs. It's all about maintaining focus."

Ward stood out on a Tuesday where many of the other receivers struggled with their catches. Quarterbacks seemed to struggle as well except for Seth Doege.

The probable starting quarterback was able to drop the ball into some very small holes during seven-on-seven and team drills.

Ward didn't seem to have any problems reeling the ball in and he made a couple of pads crackle when he bumped into the corners and safeties on him. It felt like real football out there.

"Overall I think I'm a real physical guy," Ward said. "I would say my greatest asset would be being physical. I can surge off the line. Physical would be a great way to explain my abilities. It's not necessarily just jamming but physicality is getting off the jam, good strength blocking, a good job throwing blocks, stuff like that."

At 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds exiting the spring football practice sessions, Ward didn't need to hit the weight room for muscle purposes like safeties D.J. Johnson and Terrance Bullitt did. Ward is right where he should be to be that physical receiver.

Instead, Ward spent the summer working on conditioning and speed and the results are clear on the field.

"This summer was the best I ever had," Ward said. "Working out and everything, you feel the improvement. You can see yourself improving like 'dang I didn't know I improved that much.' Joe Walker is the best strength coach I've ever seen, the best in the nation. He knows what he's talking about.

"I feel totally in shape just because of all the things we did in the offseason this summer. Even when he came here from before last season he had a good regiment. Stonger, quicker, faster. Everyone."

That's good news because there have been concerns that there isn't a big play receiver on the roster like last year's starting wideouts Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis.

After several days of good practices, Ward is now in the running along with Darrin Moore and Marcus Kennard and some of the inside guys in Ales Torres and Austin Zouzalik.

"I think everyone is going to pick up the slack," Ward said. "It's not just one individual that makes the offense a unit. It's everybody contributing to the offensive unit, not an inside receiver or an outside receiver but everybody as a whole has to contribute to be great."

But despite the recent success Ward has had on the field he wanted to make it clear he doesn't consider himself separated from the pack as of yet.

He turned two questions about how much playing time he expects to see this season toward the bigger picture.

"It's going good but life has a lot of ups and downs," Ward said. "You could have a good practice and bounce back and have a bad practice. It's not about the bad practice it's about bouncing back. Just keep maintaining. You can't just focus on the good because there's going to be bad too so you've got to learn from that and keep on moving."

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