By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
This wasn’t the “Simon Says” game you played in elementary school.
Unfortunately for the Missouri Southern Lions football team, coach Daryl Daye has his own version of the game.
Missouri Southern’s players gathered in a semicircle near the 50-yard line. The players started in a squat position with their eyes locked on their coach.
Barking out orders in a military-style voice, Daye quickly changed his commands from “to the sky,” to “hit it,” to “hit it again,” to “step left” or “step right.”
The grueling process lasted for “four quarters” with Daye not allowing the team to advance to the next quarter until everyone met his standards.
Daye used the drill he learned from former LSU coach Bill Arnsparger to end Missouri Southern’s first day of practice.
“It’s a team-builder,” Daye said. “And they get to let out a lot of emotion with it. So that’s all good.”
The Lions opened the 2013 campaign with a two-and-a-half hour practice in helmets on Monday afternoon at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
All NCAA teams go through a five-day acclimation before players wear full pads and use full contact.
“One of my favorite quotes that my dad used to say was ‘They all look good dancing in their shorts,’” Daye said. “But until the pads get on and people start flying around and people start hitting, you don’t know. Until the courage enters the game, you really don’t know what you got.”
Missouri Southern returns six starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 6-5 last season. But the Lions graduated several key starters and entered Monday’s camp with about 60 new players.
The Lions are expecting competition at a lot of positions, including quarterback. Sophomore Jay McDowell enters camp with the lead, but he could be pushed by junior college transfers Detavius Buggs and Ty’Quan Hayes, as well as redshirt freshman Ricky Nichols. Corey Moss, of Thomaston, Ga., and Gabe Sachetta, of Joplin High School, enter as true freshmen.
Day one of camp, however, was less about competition and more about getting players up to speed.
“I think we’re out of shape without a doubt,” Daye said. “We had a lot of guys in the summer and they trained hard, but it’s difficult to mimic game-type play and game-type emotions. I thought we started off real good. If we could have ended about the third quarter of practice, we would have been all right. The fourth quarter kind of fizzled, so that’s why we had the additional work there.”
Missouri Southern senior running back Travis Hurd said Monday was a good start as the Lions prepare for their season opener Sept. 5 at home against Central Oklahoma.
“I think the first day went good,” Hurd said. “We got some things to work on, but it’s the first day. I think the speed was fast and people really wanted to work. I’m looking out here and everyone looks a little tired, so it had to be a good practice.”
Hurd didn’t even mind Daye’s drill to end practice.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Hurd said. “I don’t know if I should say this, but I really didn’t want to run gassers. So I was happy we were doing that. But Coach Daye runs it, and he really gets everyone hyped up.”