Approximately 160 players were dressed out for media day and team photos Saturday morning at Ken White Field, but coach Danny Cronic said only about one-third will take the field for the season opener at Mercer in two weeks.
NAIA rules limit how many players the Eagles are able to put on their roster and the tricky part for Cronic will be selecting which players will make the team that travels to Macon on Aug. 31.
In order to even be considered for the team, a player must reach certain eligibility markers set by the NAIA clearinghouse, among which are high school grade-point averages, ACT scores and their class ranks. A player must have at least a 2.0 GPA and either an ACT score of 18 or have graduated in the top half of their class.
The water becomes a bit murkier for students transferring from another college. At that point, the number of credits taken in the previous two semesters also factors into the equation.
For Cronic, it all adds up to too much paperwork and too little time on the field.
“Paperwork is not what I enjoy doing,” he said. “I think the process of getting a team on the field right now is about all we can handle.”
Eligibility issues only have to be encountered for a player during his first year, so there will be less paperwork for future seasons.
Another thing that gets Cronic excited about the future is that, for each freshman on the roster this season, there will be a sophomore next season and a junior the year after.
“We just have to wait our turn,” he said. “We will get there.”
The players, seen laughing in between photo sessions during the media day festivities, are in many ways still settling into campus. Many had freshman orientation to attend later Saturday afternoon.
Cronic said he, too, has been learning lessons along the way, much like the players. One thing he was surprised to learn was how much the redshirt freshmen had benefited from the weight-training program at Reinhardt.
“I was surprised how much stronger they were from being a part of our strength program,” Cronic said. “I thought a lot of the state (high) schools have real good weight-lifting programs. That is something I believe in, so it makes me happy.”
As for making roster selections, Cronic hopes to put that off as long as possible. The way he feels, the longer he waits, the better he can assess the players and put the best product on the field.
“Sometimes, having a guy out here for 10 practices just isn’t enough to really assess him,” Cronic said. “Other guys may burn out when some are just coming on. There is a lot you have to think about.”
Reinhardt hasn’t been exempt from injuries. One player suffered a broken foot while training during the summer, while another broke his arm during practice.
“Those things happen,” Cronic said. “It’s just part of it all. I don’t know if we are having more injuries because they are freshmen and not used to this, but they’ll recover and we’ll be fine.”
Cronic knows that no matter who makes the final roster, there will be no shortage of enthusiasm.
“Some of these guys who have been here haven’t been in a game, haven’t played a team, in, now, two years,” Cronic said. “Yeah, they are ready to play. They really are.”