HELENA — The dog days of spring practice have hit.
The Carroll College football team began workouts under first-year coach Troy Purcell full of energy back on March 29.
Excitement to be back on the field, with a first-year coach and learning a new way of doing things, brought out max effort from the players.
Nine practices into the allotted 15, and the energy is still coming from the players and coaches. Learning, however, has slowed and players are starting to get banged up.
“You always want to be ahead of where you are at, but you have to be careful you are not throwing too much in,” Purcell said. “We want to be good at what we are going to do.”
The Saints have five more practices leading into the April 27 spring game. Purcell wants improvement each time out so the Saints finish the spring strong.
At this point, the goal is to fine-tune their game while continuing to learn. There’s so much of the playbook being installed that it's become harder to comprehend.
Purcell asks each player to make sure one personal deficiency is addressed each practice, while learning new plays and approaches to the game.
“Some stuff more than others,” Purcell said of the retention rate of the team. “I thought we picked it up a lot earlier. It seems like the little things now, we have to keep repping it and getting better at the little things. Just pick one thing to get better (at) each day.”
Saturday morning’s practice that featured a scrimmage was a good example of where the Saints are in their development. There were some good plays on both sides of the ball with inconsistency.
You could tell the players thought about all aspects of their assignments before, during and after plays.
“When we get to the scrimmages, more than anything, I want them to play fast,” Purcell said. “I want them to tackle well and make plays.”
Special teams have come along, too. The Saints have the punt and field goal plays installed. The other special teams plays will come in the next two weeks.
More pass protection concepts must be introduced before the spring game, Purcell said. He’s also looking at four quarterbacks to be his starter.
Purcell wouldn’t say who has the edge yet, but expect him to have an idea who the starter will be before training camp begins in August.
“I’m getting a feel for these quarterbacks, and what they can do,” Purcell said. “With four of them, there’s too many to rotate. (They need) to start to separate themselves. There has been some separation, and we’ll need more.”
Purcell’s looking for a quarterback who not only can make the plays, but can also be a leader who connects with him, as he’ll be calling the plays in the fall.
“They are all giving an effort to do it,” Purcell said. “Some lead by example and some have vocal leadership. I need the quarterback to do both. I need him and me on the same page at the same time.”
Beyond coaching the players, Purcell’s biggest concern is keeping everyone healthy. He’s down to three running backs, one tight end, one fullback and seven offensive linemen.
Mix in sickness and the several players have been sitting out.
“The kids who are here, we’ll coach them up and get them better,” Purcell said. “When everyone else gets healed up, we’ll have them for the spring game.”
Whatever the situation, the Saints plan to make a strong final push to complete the spring as the program rebuild has begun.