There were plenty of things to like for first-year coach Nathan Brown in the first two days of fall camp at the University of Central Arkansas.
The Bears wrapped up Day 2 of practice on "The Stripes" Saturday morning and went in shells Sunday afternoon.
"All in all it was a productive day,” Brown said, who has moved over from his offensive coordinator position to lead the program in 2018. "They practiced hard, which is what you want to see this time of year. We'll clean up any issues as far as Xs and Os go as we move forward.”
Specifically, Brown was pleased with the way the defense is playing under new coordinator Max Thurmond.
"I thought the defense really had a good day,” he said. "Created a lot of turnovers. I think they are really running to the football and attacking the football in the air. When they ball carriers are running the ball, they are stripping and grabbing. So, I'm very pleased with the way the defense practiced today. They are practicing really fast.”
"Which you would expect, Day 2, for them to be a little ahead of the offense the way install goes.”
Brown singled out the cornerbacks and defensive line as two groups on the defensive side of the ball that stood out.
"Position group wise, the corners are really playing at a high level right now,” Brown said. "I'm really pleased with the way coach Reggie Howard has those guys playing. And I'm very pleased with the defensive line. We can rotate a lot of really quality bodies in there, and that's good.”
The defensive line includes All-Southland Conference players Eric Jackson and Chris Terrell, along with the return of All-SLC end Cardell Best, who missed the 2017 season with injury.
Offensively, the Bears got good production from its top two quarterbacks, as well as the receiving corps and a deep group of running backs.
"I thought (sophomore) Breylin (Smith) showed some good things,” Brown said, "And (junior) Kirk Baugh continues to show some good things. I'm excited about those two as they progress each day. And you keep seeing good things out of guys like Joe Hampton, Lujuan Winningham, Lester Wells, Dwayne Smith... all four of those guys really had a good day at receiver. I think we have a chance to have something special in the wide receiver room.”
The Bears may feature the deepest crew of running back in all of FCS, led by junior Carlos Blackman, senior Cedric Battle and sophomore Kierre Crossley, all three of which earned preseason All-SLC honors.
"We're trying to get as many of them on the field as we can,” Brown said. "When you have a running back room like we do, with that amount of quality players, when you go Carlos, Kierre, Cedric... And that's not even including the freshman Cameron Myers. (Redshirt freshman) Vincent Butler had a big run today. Just a really good group of guys at that position and we're doing some different things formationally so we can get them in as much as possible.”
Brown said he was pleased where the Bears are after two days of drills.
"I think the big thing Day 2 is, you're not going to be there yet, where you want to be as far as the Xs and Os and all the schemes,” he said. "And we have a limited amount of installation in right now. The key is to continue to execute what we do have in, and I think our guys had good retention from Day 1 to Day 2.
"A lot of that will be emphasized tomorrow when we put the pads (shells) on, like I told them after practice. You'll be able to tell when you miss a step because you'll be exposed. A lot of little things will be emphasized this afternoon in meetings and walk throughs and we'll be ready to go tomorrow afternoon and hear some pads popping."
The Bears, coming off an SLC championship and second straight FCS Playoff appearance, open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 at FBS Tulsa.