The first fall football camp on the Stetson University campus in more than 50 years will officially come to an end on Saturday evening when the Hatters hold their second scrimmage.
The intra-squad scrimmage will be held on the lower practice field at the new Athletics Training Center on the corner of Amelia and Minnesota. The practice will start at around 7 p.m.
Fans who plan to attend the scrimmage should plan to bring chairs to view the scrimmage. Parking near the facility is also very limited and will require some advanced planning.
The scrimmage will bring to a close almost four weeks of preseason work for the new Hatters. Head coach Roger Hughes said there was much to be learned from holding a preseason camp this year. Those lessons will pay off next summer, when the camp will lead to the first game for the Hatters since 1956.
“I am so glad that we had camp, for a couple of reasons,” Hughes said. “First, we have learned a lot about dealing with the weather here in Florida at this time of the year. If we only learned one thing, that is huge.
“The second thing is that now our players have a better sense of the kind of shape they need to be in, how hard it is going to be. I think that is going to be motivation for them to prepare better next summer so that we will be ready to prepare for our games.
“The third thing was that the people on campus now have a better sense about what it takes to deal with football – that includes housing, the cafeteria, the financial aid office, all of those kinds of things.”
Hughes said the one additional advantage of having his group of mostly freshmen on campus early was that they were able to lend a hand to the rest of Stetson University’s largest ever freshman class when they arrived on campus.
“This was a great opportunity for our football players to get to be known by the Stetson people while they were here,” Hughes said. “Our guys all participated in “Home Team”, which was an opportunity for them to go out and help other freshmen move in, and that reflected greatly on our program and athletics department in general. It also gave our guys a chance to interact with the rest of the student body.”
With camp behind them, the players will have a chance at the scrimmage to show the coaching staff what they have learned over the last four weeks. The coaches are looking to see the team play with more athleticism, having to think less about what they are supposed to do.
“The first thing we want is to come out of the scrimmage injury free,” Hughes said. “The second thing is that we want to evaluate our kids. We know that all freshmen are going to be up and down in their development, so we don’t want to make decisions too quickly, because each kid is going to be different in his development.
“We are to the point where the kids should have a good idea of what the scheme is and they shouldn’t have to think as much as they are reacting. It will give us a chance to see the athleticism in the players and to see if we might need to start moving some kids to different positions that might better fit their abilities.”
Following Saturday’s scrimmage, the Hatters will move into their regular fall routine. That routine will include practices three or four days each week along with an emphasis on getting stronger in the new weight room while also getting off a strong start academically.
“We have to make them look and play like juniors as fast as we can,” Hughes said. “To have that kind of effect in the weight room, you can’t be practicing seven days a week. We want to get maximum gains in the weight room but also continue to gain in the learning curve with the schemes. We want to give them maximum time for rest and recovery, to get on the weights and to get their academics off to the right start.”
The plan is for practice sessions to be held early in the morning, with time in the afternoon dedicated to improving conditioning and film study.
Those early morning practices will also allow the members of the coaching staff to hit the road on the weekend to recruit and to continue to raise the excitement level for the return of football in 2013.
“The excitement around the program has been tremendous,” Hughes said. “I have done more radio, TV and newspaper interviews than I did in a number of months at other places I have been. It is a good problem to have in that everyone is excited about it.
“I think that as the excitement continues to build we will be able to attract a higher caliber of athlete because we won’t we selling plans, we’ll have a physical place to show them. They can come in here and feel the excitement around the program.”