For most college football players, the season is really never over. Such is the case for the Stetson Hatters, who returned to campus following the winter break and immediately went to work.
The offseason is all about conditioning and, after going through their first year of competition in the Pioneer Football League, the Hatters have a much better understanding of the level of conditioning needed to be competitive on the field.
Head coach Roger Hughes said he found the Hatters to have two types of players during the fall’s 2-9 season. The focus this off-season is to get all of them on the same page.
“I told every kid when we went through exit interviews that we have two kinds of kids on this team,” Hughes said. We have the group of kids that is really committed, and we have another group that is not as committed, or is not sure they are ready to commit.”
Hughes said he has encouraged the group of committed players to make life uncomfortable for players in the other group. The objective, he said, is to have those players make a choice – commit or leave.
“Football is the wrong game to play if you aren’t passionate about it,” Hughes said.
The results have already been seen. The Stetson roster has been thinned some since the end of the season. Players who have left the program have done so for a variety of reasons. Many will remain as students at Stetson, but others left because of the costs involved with attending the University.
“I hate the fact that any of these kids choose to leave but, because they are so blessed with talent, they sometimes find that they have bigger fish to fry, and playing football is a significant commitment.”
The returning players, along with seven newcomers who joined the program in January, have been hard at work in the weight room in addition to working to improve speed and agility. That work will be put to the test beginning February 15 when the Hatters open spring practice.
Hughes said there are a number of things the squad will look to accomplish during those 15 spring practices.
“The first thing we want to do is weed out schemes that don’t make sense,” Hughes said. “Basically, if we aren’t running things that we can run against our best opponents, then we are wasting our time.
“Second, we have to become a better situational football team. We have to be able to get off the field on third down on defense, and keep drives alive on third down on offense. We have to run the ball more efficiently and effectively.”
Spring practice for the Hatters will continue through March 19, meaning the team will take a breather in the middle for spring break. The spring game is scheduled for Friday, March 14, at 6 p.m. at Spec Martin Stadium.
In addition to preparing for the start of spring practice, the Stetson coaching staff, which to date has remained intact from last year, has been working hard to recruit the next batch of Hatters players.
Hughes said that there is a different feel on the recruiting trail this year.
“The interesting thing that I am finding is that there is a little bit of a buzz out there about Stetson Football,” Hughes said. “There are kids out there who would like to return home, or kids who want to stay home, and a lot of other kids who want to have the opportunity to play in Florida.”
The coaches are also focusing their efforts on recruiting to fill specific need areas this year. The focus is more on quality over quantity.
“We can be more selective now,” Hughes said. “We have a better measure of what kind of players we need at various positions in order to be competitive in this league. Now that we have been exposed to the league, we have a better idea of the type of help we need.”
Spring Practice Schedule
Feb. 15 – 7 a.m.
Feb. 16 – 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 – 7 a.m.
Feb. 19 – 7 a.m.
Feb. 21 – TBA
Feb. 22 – 8 a.m.
Feb. 23 – TBA
Feb. 26 – 7 a.m.
Feb. 28 – TBA
March 1 – 9 a.m.
March 11 – 7 a.m.
March 12 – 7 a.m.
March 14 – 6 p.m. (Spring Game)
March 18 – 7 a.m.
March 19 – 7 a.m.