Twenty-three days before its first-ever game, the University of West Florida football team opened fall camp on Thursday.
More than 120 players, along with coaches, went through their paces in a driving rain, on University Field’s artificial turf.
“I feel good about our pace, our tempo, guys were eager to get out here, they were excited about what we were doing,” said Argos Head Coach Pete Shinnick. “And that’s what you’re looking for.”
It’s a different ballgame compared to the 2015 practice season. Instead of five scrimmages, 11 actual games are on the horizon, the first in Naples against Ave Maria University on September 3.
Shinnick told the squad at the end of practice that the depth chart, who starts and who are reserves, is up in the air with no promises. Afterward he said with an inaugural season such as this, that’s pretty much a given.
“We don’t have anybody who’s done anything for UWF,” Shinnick said. “We have guys who have played for other programs, we have guys who have done other things. So, until we get to that place, then it’s ‘Hey, we’ve got a starter and you’ve got to try to beat him out.’”
While the rain pelted down on the practice session, it could have been worse. The National Weather Service on Monday predicted up to 15 inches of rain in some parts of northwest Florida, then later walked that back. But the weather did lead to some minor tweaks in the practice schedule.
“Throwing a heavy football is not fun, so we came out with a rubber football the first part of practice just to save [the quarterbacks’] arms,” said Shinnick. “For what was predicted five days ago, this was a great practice.”
For Thursday’s practice the players were dressed in compliance with the acclimation period mandated by the NCAA. Helmets, jerseys and shorts today and Friday; shoulder pads on Saturday and Sunday, and then full pads on Monday.
When the players reported earlier this week, they were issued, along with their gear and playbooks, a copy of the book "The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy" by Jon Gordon -- a business consultant and author on the topics of leadership, culture, sales, and teamwork.
“It’s a great reminder of, if you’re not looking at things positively, here’s how to do it,” Shinnick said. “We’re actually going to teach it every night; there’s [sic] ten rules to go through. Our players actually teach our other players on it.”
And the Argonauts aren’t alone. Gordon’s books have also been used by other teams, including the Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta Falcons.
The UWF Argonauts have scheduled two scrimmages during fall camp, on August 19 and 25, both kicking off at 7:00 p.m. at University Field on campus.