The excitement of Georgia Southern football players strapping on the helmets this spring is compounded this season by all of the Eagles’ success in their first Football Bowl Subdivision season in 2014.
However, the Eagles are trying to ease into the new campaign.
The flashy plays and big hits are sure to come soon, but GSU is content to get all of the small things in order early on in the spring.
“A lot of the early part of spring is getting back into the rhythm of things,” Eagles coach Willie Fritz said. “Guys who are familiar with the system might have some limited reps, while others who are adjusting get some more reps.”
Fritz added that much of the first few weeks of spring are about balancing out the team’s focus.
Much of the offseason was spent in the weight room, as linemen and skill positions alike built up strength and stamina. More than a few returning starters seem to have gone up a jersey size and are inviting plenty of contact — even in drills with just helmets and shoulder pads.
The physicality is flowing freely, but conditioning now is the focus.
“Part of the offseason plan is less running,” Fritz said. “We have our guys stronger, but not necessarily ready to play in a game. A lot of the spring is about building up that speed and tempo that we want to operate at in games.”
The gradual buildup of speed by easing everyone into the deep end also is beneficial for building depth. As veterans take their time working into familiar roles, it paves the way for former reserves — and when the fall comes, for incoming freshmen — to prove their worth.
So far this spring, full-speed 11-on-11 drills at the end of practices not only are brief, but also feature constant changes between the first, second and third teams on both sides of the ball.
“One of the best things about spring practice is that you get to use everyone,” Fritz said. “That means more reps for guys who might not have seen a lot of action last season.
“There’s always a lot of up-and-down on the depth chart during the spring. I tell our guys that this is a job interview. This is where everyone grows and improves and proves themselves.”