Quarterback Josh Johnson, a four-year NFL veteran, practices with the Mountain Lions on Monday night at Hughes Stadium.

Mountain Lions to open season tonight vs. Omaha

Published: Friday, Sep. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Football teams that have been together for months still can have plenty of problems in their season openers.

Try getting ready for the season in a week.

That's what the Mountain Lions have done entering their United Football League season opener tonight against the Omaha Nighthawks at Raley Field.

"From Day One, we've said this is what we're going to do for the opening game," Mountain Lions coach and general manager Turk Schonert said. "It wasn't like we had a training camp and then had to game-plan for someone. So they've had seven days to learn the same plays.

"As far as that goes, I'm comfortable with us knowing what to do. It's just a matter of on the big stage – on TV with the cameras, fans and all that – coming out and executing what they know."

It's been a quick turnaround for Schonert and the coaching staff.

When they were introduced last month, the team hadn't signed any players.

Schonert and his staff purchased the NFL's online access to preseason games to scout players who would become available and worked the phones to compile a 54-man roster for tonight's opener.

"With the fast pace, it seems like I've been here six months," Schonert said. "Starting with the owners, everybody has busted their butts to get this thing done. We've had a lot of hurdles to go through, all the teams (have), but everybody stayed patient, everybody stayed focused, and we got it done. I commend all the teams, owners and everybody that's been a part of getting us to where we are now."

Schonert, a former Stanford and NFL quarterback and a longtime NFL quarterbacks coach, needed a quarterback to run his offense, and he likes what he has seen in his starter, Josh Johnson.

"He's taken control of this offense, and that's why we liked him coming out," Schonert said of Johnson, who spent training camp with the 49ers after four seasons with Tampa Bay. "He's got the pro experience, knows how to be a pro, knows how to study. So I'm looking forward to seeing him play (tonight)."

Johnson's grasp of the offense is important with the hurried schedule.

"The defense is going to be ahead of the offense on all four teams with the short turnaround," Schonert said. "We've got to expect that, and you've got to game-plan."

Still, there's no way to know how players will respond to the pressure of a game until they play.

So tonight will be a learning experience for Schonert.

"We have an idea of what they (can) do, and that's been an evaluation process for all the coaches," Schonert said. "Now they've got to do it on game day. We don't know how they transition from practice and meeting rooms to the game day."

We'll all find out tonight.

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