Improved Team Chemistry Leading to More Productive Camp

Improved Team Chemistry Leading to More Productive Camp

KINGSTON, R.I. – Rhode Island reached the midpoint of training camp Saturday, completing the second week of practices.

Typically, this is when the dog days of camp set in. Tensions increase and the lining up across from the same faces day in and day out starts to get on everyone's nerves.

But this camp has been different for the Rams. There is a noticeably better energy on a daily basis. Teammates on either side of the ball are picking each other up, eliminating the us versus them mentality that has been evident in previous years. Practices have been more productive and efficient.

Fifth-year senior defensive back Abdul Rahman Ibrahim and senior defensive tackle Jose Duncan have both seen bad chemistry in the locker room and on the practice field in previous years. Asked what the difference is, they both pointed to fifth-year senior Mike Ezirike (pictured).

"Every day, Mike Ezirike nails into everyone's head, 'We have to be positive, we have to be positive,'" Ibrahim said. "If somebody gets on you, don't look at it from a negative perspective. If somebody tells you that you are messing up or doing the wrong thing, look at it like, 'Okay, they are getting on me because they care. This is a teaching moment.'"

"Mike Ezirike has been preaching positivity from the start of training camp," Duncan said. "He has been teaching us how negative thoughts, negative actions and negative words won't just impact a couple people. It will impact the entire team. Negative talk in the locker room will trickle down to every player on the team and create a divided locker room."

The message Ezirike delivers has shown on the practice field thus far. While players may have moments of frustration, the moments are not lingering. Players have shown the ability to move on from mistakes and continue working hard.

"We have guys understanding that plays are going to be made on both sides of the ball," Duncan said. "Some days the offense is going to have things going on. Some days it'll be the defense. We see that, and guys are congratulating each other when they make plays. There is more of a family atmosphere and we are staying positive and encouraging, rather than discouraging each other."

The Rams have 14 players who are entering at least their fourth season with the program. Ibrahim and Ezirike are both in their fifth camps with Rhode Island.

"This team here has a lot of older guys who have been through a lot of stuff here," Duncan said. "Guys who understand that negativity and divisiveness is never going to help you win games."

In previous seasons, the defense has typically dominated scrimmages and practices. While the defense has certainly made a number of big plays, there is much less of a gap between the two units thus far. The offense is hitting plays with more consistency, leading to better work for players on both sides.

"There is a more lively energy in practices and meetings," Ibrahim said. "You are seeing more guys make plays on both sides of the ball. It's not just one or two guys, but many different guys. The difference is, everyone is thinking positive. It is for the benefit of the team, and it is helping both sides of the ball a lot.

"We all have the same goal. Everybody wants to win. Nobody is getting on you to make you look bad. They are getting on you so that we are all on the same page and ready to get it right on game day."