The University of West Florida’s second annual spring football game is set for Saturday morning at Pen Air Field on campus.
This time it’s different. When drills began last month, the Argonauts were going through a spring session after a regular season, their inaugural, in 2016.
“I think it’s gone well, and we’ve put ourselves in a position where I feel like every day we’re learning something, every day we’re getting better,” said UWF Head Coach Pete Shinnick.
“What you bring [as a player] is a mentality that you know you can play with the people in our [Gulf South] conference, you know you can be in games,” Shinnick said. “But with that, there’s also a ton of hard work that went into that, and you can’t let up.”
And that’s pretty much the gist of what Shinnick has been telling his players throughout the spring session. He also says this time of year, when the team practices one day and then gets a day off, is not part of the schedule in the fall.
“And that’s where guys just got to get their minds right, get their mentality right,” says Shinnick. “Make sure that every day they’re showing up, feeling good about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and what’s happening. There can’t be a day where you’re off; there can’t be a day where you’re not getting everything done and there can’t be a day where we’re less than one hundred percent.”
Besides the regular drills, the Argos have held five live scrimmages, full speed and pads, at Pen Air Field. Last Saturday’s was extended from 60 plays to 90 with an officiating crew to help with the realism.
Spring football is also the time of year to fill holes in the lineup. One major vacancy is at quarterback, with last year’s starter Kaleb Nobles having graduated.
“We’ve got three new guys competing for that position; one of them played last year in Grey Jackson,” said Shinnick. “Mike Beaudry and Kalu Onumah – both those guys we redshirted last year.”
Another graduating senior is wide receiver Anas Hasic, who caught 46 passes for 719 yards last season. Many believe he could get a look in an NFL training camp this summer.
After Saturday’s game, on-field activity for the most part is shut down until fall camp in August. But Head Coach Pete Shinnick says calling it the “off-season” is something of a misnomer.
“They’re going to work extensively for four months leading up to the season,” Shinnick said. “We’ve got final [exams] coming up so there’s a two-week opportunity there for their bodies to recover a little bit. But after that, it’s pretty much straight through all summer.”
The UWF Spring Game gets underway at 11:00 a.m. The 2017 season kicks off September 2 in Rolla, Missouri, against Missouri S&T. The Argos’ home opener is a week later, September 9, against Midwestern State of Wichita Falls, Texas.