The towering Boston College defensive end, who at 6-foot-7 and 297 pounds might have new hoops coach Jim Christian wondering if he’s got any ups, was raring to go for the start of training camp. Abdesmad was especially geeked to run around in helmets and shorts (no pads ‘til Friday) under a blazing blue sky Monday, because he tore his ACL in the Eagles’ loss to Florida State in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season.
“Yeah, I mean I just couldn’t wait,” the big man said after practice on Shea Field. “Since I’ve been hurt, I saw [the rest of the season and] spring camp come and go. I’ve been watching the whole time, just on the bike. So now that I’m here I’m really happy.”
That seemed to be the general sentiment around the team after practice No. 1, with coach Steve Addazio raving about the talented youngsters he’s added to the program, running back Myles Willis talking excitedly about competing with fellow back Tyler Rouse to replace Andre Williams and new signal-caller Tyler Murphy meeting with the media briefly and talking about building a rapport with his new teammates.
“It’s Day 1, you just get out there and you’re watching guys move around, get a sense of ability to follow directions and kinda take instruction,” Addazio said. “There’s not a ton I take out of this for a few days. ... Good group of [young] guys. They’re working hard. The older guys have a good crew. It’s just enjoyable to be out here with these players.”
The first fully padded practice will be Friday, Addazio said, with the first “real” scrimmage following the next day.
Monday was a bit of a feeling-out day, to knock some of the rust off and try to implement some of the new material the coaches have installed. In the portion open to the media, Murphy connected on a few nice throws to Charlie Callinan and Dan Crimmins, Willis and Rouse got their hands on the ball a bit and the defense was flying to the ball (with coordinator Don Brown letting them hear it if they weren’t going fast enough for his liking).
“It was nice to get out here with the guys, finally,” Murphy, a graduate student transfer from Florida, said afterward. “We’ve been working hard all offseason, lifting, running and trying to get timing down on routes. So it felt good to finally get out here and just get things going, get that first practice under our belt.”
The QB, who brings some limited starting experience with him from Gainesville, said right now the focus is on finding an offensive identity and building camaraderie.
“I spent a lot of time in the offseason with the guys, just hanging out,” he said. “Trying to get to know them, trying to allow them to get to know me. Just so when we’re out here we’re comfortable with each other, so we’re not second-guessing each other. Because if we want to be successful we really have to trust each other and have that bond.
“It’s still growing, but I think in the offseason I really made some strides.”
The puffed-up Willis, who packed on nearly 20 pounds (going from 185 to 203) between the end of his freshman season and the beginning of his sophomore season, said he loves having Murphy in Chestnut Hill. And the competition’s already started between the back and the QB -- the two racing through post-stretch sprints and making sure to check to see who beat who to the line.
As for the weight gain, Willis isn’t trying to become the departed Andre Williams -- at 5-foot-9, he doesn’t have the frame the Doak Walker winner and new New York Giant does (6-foot, 227) -- but he wouldn’t mind mimicking him more this season.
“I’ll go back and watch film and there’s a couple plays where a guy might’ve got me and clipped me and knocked me off balance,” Willis said. “So that was my motivation in the offseason to put on that weight, so the more I [can] just keep hitting, hitting, hitting and then be able to burst through.”
It was just one practice, and they left the shoulder pads indoors. But so far, so good.
“I really think that the freshmen that we have in here, I think we’ve got a bunch of really, really good football players,” Addazio said. “When do we see the proof in that pudding? I don’t know that. Is it a year, is it two, is it three? I don’t know that. But there’ll be a time here, hopefully this year, but there’ll be a time where everybody will say say you’ve got some talented guys on that football team.”
For now, they’re just enjoying trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.