The Valdosta Daily Times
Perhaps it was the sunshine and beautiful weather Wednesday afternoon. Or maybe it was the opportunity to officially put 2013 behind them.
But whatever the reason, the Valdosta State football team was excited to be back on the practice field Wednesday as the Blazers opened up spring practice.
“It’s fun to be back out here and seeing everybody running around,” sophomore quarterback Kaleb Nobles said. “It’s fun to see everybody get going.
“It’s fun to get out here and see how much work we’ve been putting in, how much progress we’ve made.”
VSU coach David Dean agreed with his signalcaller, pleased with the enthusiasm the Blazers showed on the first day. However, Dean is also curious to see if the excitement level sticks around once the Blazers get further into the 14-practice spring period.
“It feels great,” he said. “It feels good. It’s been a long time since we’ve been out here on this practice field. I thought we had a lot of enthusiasm out here today, which I was glad to see.
“I think our players were excited to get back out here, and obviously the weather has a lot to do with that too. It was a nice sunny day. And I think our guys were excited about getting to practice and get started all over again.”
That will pick up quickly as VSU will be on the field the next five days before getting a day off Tuesday. The Blazers conclude the spring period with their spring game April 12.
Before they get their, though, Valdosta State has a lot of work to do, including installation. That will also be welcomed.
“There’s not a whole lot of thinking because everything you’re putting in is kind of base,” Dean said. “You’re putting in basically the foundation of everything you’re doing.
“By about day four or day five, when you basically have everything in and everybody is moving around, that’s when it gets a little different. The concentration level is what I’m interested to see and the retention level of our guys, being able to handle that over a four- or five-day period, that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing. If we can maintain this enthusiasm level through that period and be able to think and do all those things.”
While getting a fresh start, the Blazers are pushed by the disappointment of a year ago. There, the defending Division II national champions finished 6-4 and sitting at home during the postseason.
“Just not to settle for anything,” sophomore defensive back and former Lowndes standout Kenny Moore said about the motivation provided by last year. “Make every opportunity count.”
Added Nobles: “It was awfully disappointing last year. A lot of guys have that chip on their shoulder that we went under our standards last year.”
That is a welcomed sound to Dean’s ears too.
“Hopefully that does motivate them,” he said. “To experience what we got to experience in 2012 and then not making the playoffs, it’s a huge letdown.
“When we recruited these guys, that’s what we put in front of them that the expectation is to be good every year. We didn’t make those expectations, and we know that.”
Still winning a national championship wasn’t the objective on the first day of spring.
“We’re not trying to win the national championship right now, though,” Nobles said. “That’s the goal, that’s the ultimate goal. But we’re not going to win it right now. We’re going to win it in December.
“So we’re working on it every day, focusing on little tasks to make sure guys know their jobs. And if we do that and get better every day, everything will fall in line.”