HELENA — The Carroll College football team gathered on the practice field behind Nelson Stadium on Saturday morning.

It wasn’t anything new. The team was already a week into its spring practices.

But instead of practicing in the brisk, spring wind wearing practice shorts, the players finally got to put on full pads.

“We wanted to come out and play fast and see how we tackled,” coach Troy Purcell said. “It was putting the basics up and then go out there and play football.”

Practice included group tackling drills, the first and second teams simulating game-like situations much like a scrimmage and of course, one-on-one takedowns.

“We were in gym shorts the whole winter, but you don’t really get those live takedowns,” Purcell said. “You (watch) one guy say, ‘I had him,’ and then the other guy says, ‘No, I had him.’ You are in more of a game-like mentality (in full pads).”

Just because there are some tackles doesn’t mean the Saints are season ready. There is still some rust for the players to shake off.

“We are only in our fifth practice, so there is still a lot of learning,” Purcell said. “These kids are learning how to practice, the coaches are learning how to practice. We want to keep getting better and just keep improving.”

Purcell isn’t the only new coach on the sidelines. He hired former Rocky Mountain defensive coordinator Jared Petrino to coach the defense.

“You always are worried that first time you go live how well you are going to tackle,” Petrino said. “You don’t get to do it much in practice.”

Petrino watched on and said he saw some good things, but there were still some missed tackles.

Being that it was his first practice watching his defense in full pads, he said he was looking for more speed and effort than anything.

“I wanted to keep things simple for them (the first day),” Petrino said. “I want to see guys flying around, and fast.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

“Did we make some mistakes? Yeah of course,” Petrino said. “But we played fast, and that can create some good things too.”

Carroll has 10 more spring practices scheduled that will conclude with a spring game scheduled for April 27.

Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

Carroll College sports reporter

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