After a week of work in the sweltering central Florida sun, the Stetson Hatters football team will holds its first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday night.
The scrimmage is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start from the practice fields at the Athletics Training Center on the Stetson campus and is open to the public.
The scrimmage will give the Stetson coaching staff a chance to evaluate their young team, made up almost entirely of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Those evaluations will go a long way towards determining who will play when the Hatters open their first season in 57 years on August 31.
“This first week has gone by fast,” head coach Roger Hughes said between two-a-day practices on Friday. “You get a sense that you are running out of time.”
The biggest concern facing the coaching staff from the very start of camp last weekend was conditioning. The players did not report to camp in the kind of shape Hughes had hoped to see, so they have spent extra time during the first week on conditioning.
“We were not in very good shape and we have been trying to catch up with that, and that is hampering our ability to put things in,” Hughes said. “When you come in out of shape you are more susceptible to the nicks and bumps and bruises that we are dealing with right now. That has been a concern.”
Hughes said the team has worked hard during its first week, but not as hard as they need to work.
“It is not that they aren’t working hard, it is the fact that they think they are working hard and they don’t fully understand what is coming,” Hughes said. “What we are trying to get them to do is think differently, to think at a higher level to push themselves through. We are at that point in camp where we have some bumps and bruises, but the kids have to fight through that and understand the difference between pain and injury. Right now, some of the kids understand that, and some of them don’t.”
The Hatters coach said that those players who understand that difference are going to have a leg up on others who have not practiced because of small, nagging, injuries. Saturday’s scrimmage will go a long way toward determining who will play, and who won’t, when the Hatters face Warner in the season opener.
“I think the first thing we want to do is get those evaluations done,” Hughes said. “We have to start setting the depth chart and some of those guys who are not participating because of a nagging injury or whatever have to realize that they are going to miss the boat if they don’t get on board.”
The Hatters held their first two practices in full gear on Thursday and Friday morning, but the team has not focused on a lot of contact yet. Much of the work has been on installation and getting the more than 50 first-year players up to speed.
Plus, after a week of drills in practice that have been centered on conditioning, in addition to extra conditioning in the morning for those who did not meet expectations, the players legs have been a little heavy when the opportunity for contact has been available.
“We really haven’t hit each other yet,” Hughes said. “We have hit, but I really wouldn’t call what we have been doing hitting. I think that is combination of being tired, being a little nervous and just not knowing what to expect. As you are learning, you can’t just react. I think that, as we get more comfortable with the schemes, that some of our true freshmen are going to have some impact.
“We are almost back to where we were last year because all of those kids are learning new stuff. The older kids have done a great job of helping the younger kids acclimate and getting them taught so that, hopefully sooner rather than later, they can begin to react rather than thinking when they are doing things.”
The scrimmage on Saturday will focus a great deal of attention on special teams play as well as a number of specific situations. Hughes said he will be especially interested in watching how the offense operates in game-like situations.
Season tickets for the return of Stetson football are still on-sale, but good seats are going fast. Visit www.gohatters.com/tix to order tickets or call 386-738-HATS to order by phone.
Fans can also follow the Hatters online via social media on the official Stetson Athletics Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/stetsonhatters ) and through the Stetson Football Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/stetsonfootball ). On Twitter, follow the Hatters @StetsonHatters @StetsonFootball and @JohnB_Stetson.
Fans should also remember to signup for Hat-Alerts, the official Stetson Athletics Text Messaging service at www.gohatters.com/text .
As the countdown clock continues to wind, also visit the Stetson Football A-to-Z Gameday Guide ( www.gohatters.com/gameday ) to get all the information you will need for making the 2013 Stetson football season successful.