After just one week of work on their new practice fields, the Stetson football coaching staff is looking forward to putting the young Hatters squad through its first scrimmage on Wednesday.
The first week of Stetson football has certainly not been without challenges, but Hatters coach Roger Hughes said he likes the way his teams works.
“The thing I like is the attitude of the kids and their work ethic,” Hughes said. “I like how they are approaching things. We have to learn to practice faster and harder and we are not in good football shape yet but, overall, I am pleased with where we are.”
The Hatters spent their first week of practice moving in and out of a facility that is still under construction, dealing with the afternoon thunderstorms that are common in Florida, and working around all of the new that comes with a first-year program.
“A big part of all this is the jelling of the football staff because we have never worked together,” Hughes said. “We are working to understand the logistics of practices, how to get things set up with very little wasted time. We have trainers and equipment managers, a lot of moving parts that have to get into sync with what we are doing.
“When you are dealing with 130 people, there are going to be some glitches in the road. That is exactly why we are having a fall camp this year, regardless of whether we are playing games or not, to work the kinks out when it is not quite so urgent.”
One of the kinks has been in getting the players the equipment they need for practice. The gear for the team was all ordered in the spring when there were no sizes on hand. The result is that some players have been without helmets and other needed gear.
“We have had some equipment issues because you never know what you are going to need,” Hughes said. “We have had to hold some kids out because they don’t have the right sized helmet, but we are approaching things slowly. We haven’t done a lot of tackling yet.”
The members of the team that have been fully outfitted were out in full gear on Sunday morning for the first two-a-day practice. Monday brought another two-a-day, with the first a makeup for one of two sessions lost to weather last week. Tuesday’s schedule also calls for two practice sessions before Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“We are trying to maintain a good level of play because we want to maintain a good level of conditioning so we will be ready to go with our scrimmages,” Hughes said. “We want to get a good baseline to see where we need to work. The first few days have been a lot of teaching and learning, so guys may not be moving as quickly as they can because they are thinking too much.
“We are hoping to knock out all of the thinking and get familiar with the schemes so that, on Wednesday, we can see how they play and how fast we can play. We are going to limit what we do in the scrimmage in order to get a sense of our football athleticism. We will look to build on that after we analyze the scrimmage.”
While the players are working to get familiar to the schemes, and to life on a college campus, the coaching staff is also working to get comfortable with each other, both on and off the field.
“The first thing is the other coaches have to get used to me,” Hughes said. “I may seem pretty mild mannered off the field, on the field I am pretty intense. I think they already have a better understanding of how competitive I am.
“More importantly, we need to know how we are all going to work together. I am coaching the coaches, and Brian Young on the defensive side is coaching his coaches, on the schemes we are going to use.”
Because there is no need to do so right away, Hughes said the coaching staff is not going to try to evaluate individual players too harshly early on.
“You never know what you are going to have before they show up and you never want to pass judgement too early,” Hughes said. “They are going through two of the most stressful situations you can have. First they have a change in their family life and then they have a change in what their job has been because, as athletes.
“I am really pleased with the effort and I am pleased that they are into football and it is important to them. I wasn’t quite as pleased with their conditioning level when then came in, but they are freshmen, and they don’t know.”
And that is why the Hatters are going through a fall camp 13 months before their play their first game, because there are so many unknowns. That is why the scrimmages this fall, the first of which is set for Wednesday at 2 p.m., will be so important, because they will begin to answer some of those many questions.