It has only been a few days, but the Sam Houston State football players are already noticing the difference of the new playing surface at Bowers Stadium.
Last month, Hellas Construction completed the installation of RealGrass Pro, an artificial playing surface designed to feel like natural grass. It hasn't taken long for the Bearkats to take notice.
"It feels so much better running around on this stuff," said linebacker Luke McCall. "You can make your cuts better. On Astroturf you had to plan your moves in advance and think more about your footwork. Now I can just react and go. I have more confidence in what I'm doing on the field."
When asked about the old Astroturf surface, offensive lineman Ryan Dretke said there is no comparison.
"It is night and day," Dretke said. "Night and day. The old stuff felt like
concrete. This gives and has a nice feel to it. We are still breaking it in
and I am sure it will be even better as the season goes on."
The heat also has not been as big of a problem during the first few days of practice. With the heat index the last few days reaching into the 100's, even in the morning, the old Astroturf would be nearly unbearable. However the RealGrass surface is giving players a much more tolerable practice environment.
"I'm not going to lie and say it's not hot, but this is a lot better,"
Dretke said. "As far as I'm concerned, if it gets above 85 (degrees) it is
too hot. But you can really tell the difference on this grass. It is
Tuesday the Kats put on shoulder pads for the first time and they will go
full pads on Wednesday. Once the players start hitting, they are really
going appreciate the new surface.
"We you fall, it doesn't feel as bad," McCall said. "It is softer and the
sting doesn't get to you as much."
The effect of the new surface isn't just limited to the time spent out on
the field, however. The players say they feel better later in the day when they are in meetings or just walking around the apartment.
"Your knees, hips and joints just don't seem to hurt as bad," McCall said.
"I mean I'm still sore at the end of the day, but it is nothing like it used
to be. On that old stuff, the pounding was so bad, it was hard to recover."
The defense was the unit talking the loudest during full squad practice at the end of the day on Tuesday. During 11-on-11 drills, the offense was having trouble moving the ball and missed on a few big plays down the field.
In addition to several knock downs, the Bearkat defense also came up with a pair of acrobatic interceptions by Shane Richburg and Jeff Sparks.