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Minicamp notebook: The first day of (QB) school sees near perfect attendance, and attention on details

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CHARLOTTE--The first day back on the football field can feel a bit like the first day of school. Everyone is back in the building, excitement is high and there are a whole world of possibilities ahead. For Bryce Young, Dave Canales and the Carolina Panthers, it literally was the first day of school.

"There's a process, there's a QB school that he's going through," Canales said Tuesday of Young's first day of voluntary veteran mini-camp under this new staff. "And as we do it, the things that he needs specifically to improve on, that's the lens that we look at stuff with."

The QB school is not specific to former No. 1 overall picks going into their second year with a new head coach. Canales stood back on Tuesday, getting a kick out of watching his quarterback coach Will Harriger, put veteran quarterback Andy Dalton (going into his 14th year) through the process as well.

"It tickles me to watch (Will) teach Andy Dalton how to get into a stance to take a ball from under center," Canales laughed, while recapping his first mini-camp practice as a head coach. "But I love it because it's just like, even Andy, even you and Bryce, and Baker (Mayfield) and Geno (Smith) and Russ (Wilson), first things first. Let's get a nice stance, feet underneath your shoulders, stagger the left foot to your instep. Now let's crouch down, get your shoulders up so you can see both sides of the field. And I think there's something cool about that.

"I never want to lose that part of it for the guys so that it never becomes boring, never get bored with the basics…trust the QB school, the process that we've taken all the guys through. We know that's a lot, but we know it leads to great results."

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To Canales' point, taking those other guys through a quarterback school led to multiple career best years, five Pro-Bowls, a Comeback Player of the Year win and another nomination. That's not to say Young is on the same trajectory. He has significantly less accrued experience than the passer's Canales has tutored in the past. But with a syllabus of proven success, the head coach is simply asking Young to take the lessons as they come for now.

And like everything Canales does, he has a detailed plan for Young to follow, with no room for ambiguity.

"We just kind of add different layers of concepts, protections, runs, tool belt answers, things like that," Canales explained. "We will continue to add, we'll do that twice, the whole thing through the spring, we'll hit it again twice through training camp and preseason. So that's four times totally going through the whole system by the time we get to playing, games in the season."

The first time Canales made an impact on his future quarterback was at last year's NFL Combine. At the time, the Buccaneers were days away from signing Baker Mayfield as their quarterback and held pick No. 19 overall in the upcoming draft. There was little chance Young would still be on the board then (he wasn't). Essentially, there was no reason for Dave Canales, offensive coordinator for the Bucs, to spend a ton of time watching Bryce Young tape.

Yet when Young arrived for his meeting with Tampa Bay coaches, Canales asked Young about a mechanical adjustment Young made in his final year of college.

"It was the most attentive question I got throughout the whole (process), it was very specific," Young recalled Tuesday.

"He was just kind of doing that research to do it at the time, and he still had that attention to detail, which meant a lot and obviously it makes a lot of sense being able to work with him now."

Both coach and player have thought back to that conversation a lot this week. And as Young prepares to step back on the field again tomorrow, for the next day of class, it's with the belief that every facet of the lesson, no matter how minute, is part of making him better.

"(That detail), it's just another thing that makes me even more excited," Young said.

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Near perfect attendance, including new faces

The Panthers boasted a near full roster on the first day of voluntary minicamp, with all but three players in attendance. Those present included new wide receiver Diontae Johnson and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

The latter was already posted up for outside linebacker drills at the bottom of the path leading to the practice field, when general manager Dan Morgan made his way down. Morgan has a busy week ahead, with seven picks in the upcoming draft, but he took time Tuesday to check in on his current team. As Morgan hit the bottom of the path, Clowney—arguably the biggest offseason free agent acquisition—made his way over to his new GM and fellow linebacker fraternity brother, for a quick hello.

In just shorts and helmets, with no pads, it's hard to gauge what Clowney can do in process blue just yet. But his mere presence on the field spoke volumes, as he brought years of experience, expectations, good weather and knowledge to his hometown team.

Johnson was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and spent his first practice with Bryce Young conducting little football, only around five throws between the two, …but that's ok. It will come.

"He's accurate, he's smart. That's what I've seen from watching his tape," Johnson said Tuesday of his new quarterback. "Great player, can make any throw on the field. And I'm here to make him better as a player, and as a quarterback, help him grow."

Johnson also got an up close look at what it's like to play for his new head coach…and yes, now he knows it's his head coach.

"Coach Dave, he's cool, to be honest," Johnson started. "At first I didn't know he was the head coach when I went out to dinner with him, because he was just talking; like this energy he brings. And then, after the dinner, somebody told me he was the head coach. I'm like, oh, I was so surprised.

"But other than that like, I love his energy, so I said I'm excited to play for him."

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One voice leads practice

Since arriving in Charlotte, Canales has preached the importance of everyone speaking the same language. It starts with the coaches themselves, making sure everyone is on board with whatever language is going to be presented to the players, and not allowing any references to vernacular from former teams.

Now that players are on the field with coaches, the staff is purposely starting with the most basic of ideas on offense (the defensive staff stayed the same and therefore carried over their playbook) as a way to be a Rosetta Stone for each unit.

"We always start with the basics," Canales began. "Here's my stance, here's the footwork inventory. So, these are how we talk about the language. We have five types of reads. Here are those reads. So, it's really just about the basics, you know, just giving them the language.

"Because what we can't have is double coaching, you know, because then it's just, we're stealing bandwidth from our players, if we're double coaching. We all got to be saying the same thing and then you're just reinforcing instead of like stealing attention away. So, that's been a really critical part, especially for me, especially with Bryce, especially on the offensive side as we're starting something new, that we work through it."

Young spent his rookie season with multiple play callers and head coaches. Outside noise amplified the cacophony, creating an echo chamber that would take a toll on anybody. As he becomes comfortable in not only this offense, but who he can be in the NFL, having one consistent message, one voice, from coach to coach and meeting to meeting, has been a respite.

"That's super important, for me definitely, just learning the system," Young explained. "Just to have one consistent voice and for us an offense, obviously this is new for everyone, so us being on the same page, us being able to ask anyone a question and there be, everyone have an answer and there be the same vision, that's huge for our offense."

While the Panthers are afforded an expanded offseason program due to having a new head coach, the amount of times on the field between now and when the season starts are too few for comfort for most involved. Eliminating double and contradictory coaching is the first step to making up some of that time. And that starts this week.

Said Canales, "I think that if we can get all on the same page with the language--again, new offense, new terms, so it all starts there. And if we can communicate, we speak the same language, we can build anything pretty fast."

View photos of the Panthers' voluntary offseason workouts on Tuesday.

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