The 2014 edition of the Eagles won’t look all that different from the team that debuted last season, but coach Danny Cronic expects the few changes that have occurred to pay off.
Reinhardt held its first spring practice Friday, and Cronic said it was good to be back on the field.
“We just kind of start over in the spring,” he said. “You kind of start with the fundamentals. We have added some new coaches, and I like them. I feel pretty good about practice.”
Most noticeably, the coach said, is the impact new defensive coordinator Adam Carter has made in less than two months. Carter, the former head coach at Bradwell Institute, a high school program in southeast Georgia, has Reinhardt players working at a higher tempo. Tommy Scott, formerly the defensive coordinator at Mill Creek High School, has also joined the staff as the linebackers coach.
“This is the most we have changed on the defensive side,” Cronic said. “We changed our scheme up, and the tempo and intensity and repetition have been really good. The kids are getting to know (the coaches) right now, and the kids have responded to them very well.”
In addition to the new coaches, the Eagles have added a few players through mid-year transfers, including former Etowah High School standout Braden Nolan, who signed with Carson-Newman College out of high school. Nolan is expected to battle for the Eagles’ quarterback job.
Though injuries continue to plague Reinhardt, Cronic is pleased to see some players who missed the 2013 season returning to the field healthy. Among those now able to practice are Caleb Faulkner, Chris Byrd, Nate Holden, Nathan Lingo and Tyler Marin.
“It’s kind of hit-and-miss,” Cronic said. “With the understanding and intensity, we look more like a football team. We have come a long way. I’m proud of them. I like my players.”
Cronic said has set two goals for spring practice.
The first is for the coaches to gain a better understanding of what the players are capable of executing. The second is to practice the fundamentals on a higher level and at a greater speed.
Cronic said it is hard to gauge how the Eagles will play in the fall based on what he sees in the spring. Not only will player development and injuries effect the product on the field come Aug. 28, when the season opens at Mercer, but so will recruitment. Unlike NCAA Division I programs that have largely wrapped up their 2014 recruiting classes, Reinhardt will continue signing players into May.
“We don’t get closure until about May,” Cronic said. “We will are looking at it. We have signed probably 25 and we have offers out right now that guys are studying. We probably have another 30 that stuff is out there. It’s a little bit muddy right now.”
Because Reinhardt, like many NAIA programs, only offers partial scholarships, football players often have to see the sport can fit into their family’s budget, or they plan for a way to make up the difference between the money they receive and the cost of tuition and other expenses.
“Often, they have to figure out if they can make it all work,” Cronic said. “We are pretty good-looking, but it’s up in the air a little bit.”
Reinhardt is allowed to hold five days of practices in shells and 10 days in full pads — all within 30 calendar days, according to Mid-South Conference rules. After that, the staff will resume recruiting, and most of the 2014 signing class will arrive on campus for orientation and physicals in June.
Reinhardt will officially open preseason practice in July, although the exact date has not yet been determined.