More than 16 hours after it started, the first day of work for the 2013 Stetson football team came to an end Sunday night when a more than three hour practice session ended shortly after 10 p.m.
On a day that started with a wake-up call at 6 a.m. and included conditioning tests and plenty of meetings, then end came with the more than 50 first year players in the Hatters program getting in some extra work for 30 minutes after the rest of the players called it a day.
For those first year players, the pace of the day was understandably difficult.
“There is no question,” Hatters head coach Roger Hughes said with a smile. “They are thinking about home and mom and why they ever wanted to play college football about now.”
Hughes could smile at the end of the day, but things did not get off to the kind of start he had hoped for. For the most part, the Stetson players were on the own over the summer with a workout plan to follow. The results were not what the Hatters coaches had hoped for.
“The start of the day was not very good because we didn’t come into camp in the shape we needed to be in,” Hughes said. “That is a reflection of our summer program, and we obviously have to get that part fixed.”
Things picked up as the day progressed and the entire 120 member squad was ready when practice started.
“I liked the tempo at practice tonight,” Hughes said. “I think there was a lot of carry over from last year and I think the upper classmen are trying to get the freshmen acclimated and learning. They have really taken on a leadership role with the new guys. There was a lot of focus because there is the understanding that, this year, it counts.
“We have to get into better playing shape, but the attitude, the tempo and the focus were great. It was a day we can build on.”
Hughes said the fact that he and virtually his entire coaching staff have been together for a full year helped a lot with managing practice. Only running backs coach Atif Austin is new to the staff this year.
“We have worked together for a year and we have an understanding of each other, and everything was better,” Hughes said. “Everything was faster and everything had more of a game-like tempo to it. Last year, during our first warm-up drill, we threw 30 passes before we completed one against air. This year, everything was crisper.
“I think our kids have worked very hard on the mental side of things. From a physical standpoint, we are a little behind, but I’ll take responsibility for that because I should have had them better prepared for what we needed them to do.”
The Hatters will continue with practices in just helmets for the first few days as part of the NCAA acclimation period, but that does not mean the work will be any less.
“We just have to get them to understand our routine,” Hughes said. “We want to get as much work in during these first five days before we hit them with two-a-days.”
The Hatters will be back out early on Monday morning with another round of conditioning followed by morning meetings. The first-year players will attend orientation meetings in the late morning before special teams meetings after lunch. The team will return to the practice field on Monday night at 7 p.m. for their second full session.
All Stetson football practices are open and free to the public. 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.