HELENA — The Carroll College football team started fall camp this week just like every other year.
But as soon as the first whistle rang out, some of the returning players and coaches began to realize something was different.
It has been 10 months since former Carroll College football coach Mike Van Diest announced his retirement.
New coach Troy Purcell was hired in early December and didn’t waste much time running practices his way.
But as some of the players expressed, a new approach has not necessarily been a bad thing.
“There is a lot more excitement, at least I know I felt it the night before we started up again,” senior running back Major Ali said. “You can see that excitement beaming off everyone.”
Ali said Purcell’s practices are more uptempo than in years prior with more structure, such as moving from station to station during each five minute period.
“When the clock goes off, you are running to the next station, regardless if you have finished the last one or not,” Ali said.
Junior quarterback Kolby Killoy has also noticed a difference in the speeds that the two head coaches run practices.
“I like the quicker tempo,” Killoy said. “It helps keep you moving, keep you active and keeps you on your toes. With extended down time, you can get distracted.”
But no matter how quick or how different a football practice can be, there are always some things that can never be replaced.
“Yes, we are learning a new offense, but each fall, coaches try to go back (and teach us) the basics,” Killoy said.
While players have had to adjust to Purrcell’s new uptempo practice style, so have the coaches.
Alex Pfannenstiel joined the Carroll coaching staff in 2016 and works with tight ends and wide receivers. He also was a member of the 2005 and 2007 national championship teams and said every year is new, but the game of football does not change.
“The order of the events might be a little different, how we organize our stretch lines are a little different, our plays are different, but there are certain things you still have to do,” Pfannenstiel said. “We still have individual drills, we still have team drills and we still have (7-on-7 offense versus defense).”
That’s not to say they can’t enjoy themselves while working. Some players even practiced their air guitar when Def Leppard started playing.
“It’s still Carroll College, no matter what,” Pfannenstiel said with a smile. “It’s a great football team with a great head coach. Nothing has changed there.”