HELENA — On a brisk February morning in Montana, purple and gold jerseys lined up on the practice field adjacent to Nelson Stadium for something that has been a long time coming. Just shortly after 6 a.m., head coach Troy Purcell whistled in Carroll’s first official football practice since the fall.
“It feels really good to be back out here,” Purcell said. “I know the guys are juiced up, a lot of excitement, a lot of energy this morning. Just excited to get them back, it’s been a long time coming. It’s good to be back on this field.”
Lasting a little more than two hours, the Saints mainly worked in small position-oriented groups, but got together for some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 reps as well. During this period of helmets-only practice, the coaching staff is more focused on teaching the fundamentals and getting players back in the groove of full-speed practices.
“Well it’s just helmets, so a lot of detail work,” Purcell said. “Really teaching the eyes, really teaching the first step, assignment sound. More of a clap session or a one-step session, run the routes hard until we get padded up. Just getting some tempo and setting the tempo of practice and having some rhythm.”
For Purcell, the excitement level was right where he wanted it on Tuesday morning and he liked what he saw from the leaders at various positions. That included at the quarterback position where the Saints sported five signal-callers on Tuesday.
Redshirt sophomore Devan Bridgewater and senior Kolby Killoy worked mostly with the first and second teams during full team drills. Bridgewater showcased his arm strength with a handful of deep balls to his receivers while redshirt freshman Luke Jensen made a couple nifty catches against the defense.
“There’s some new guys in new areas and new positions, so getting a good feel of how they’re going to be able to respond and react from this first day,” Purcell said. “Really concentrating on one little detail of getting better each day is going to help us throughout the whole spring camp until we get to our first game.”
The promise of when a first game might happen and who it will be against is still up in the air. It was not long ago the Frontier Conference released plans for a four-game schedule, but that was impacted by Southern Oregon’s decision to opt out of the season last week and again by the news of Montana Tech and Montana Western following suit on Tuesday.
According to a league spokesperson, conference officials are planning to meet on Wednesday morning to discuss yet another round of changes to the spring football schedule. They are expected to hammer out a revised slate without Southern Oregon, Tech and Western in the mix.
Carroll will begin ramping up its practices beginning later this week. Helmet-only sessions will turn into shells and eventually fully padded practices. Saturday is slated to bring with it more game-type scenarios, according to Purcell, and he is hopeful his team can move things over to Nelson Stadium for something closer resembling a game or scrimmage.
As things stand right now, Carroll is scheduled to play four games this upcoming season, beginning on March 20. The Saints are guaranteed two home games under the revised scheduling model established last month.