The early portion of the Chadron State College spring football practices have gone well, coach Jay Long said this week.
“I’m excited about how things went during the first week,” said Long, the Eagles’ new head mentor. “We had some contact on Saturday and the ones (players on the first team) looked like they belonged there, but a lot of the twos looked like they could play on the first team, too.”
The coach also said that the younger players on the other units have a lot to learn, but seem to be picking up the system quickly.
“Our goal for the younger guys is for them to get better every day and to push for some playing time this fall,” Long said. “We want to find roles for them so they can get on the field, too.”
Overall, Long said he’s been impressed with the Eagles’ talent at the skill positions and the team’s speed.
“We’ve also got a good work ethic. I expected that because that was the way it was when I played here,” he added.
Besides getting acquainted with all the players and taking care of the duties that head coaches have to handle, Long has another big task this spring. As the offensive line coach, he’s got to fill the spots that were vacated last fall when center Sean McGowan, left guard Tim Hiett and right tackle Jake Blackburn played their final games.
The remaining starters, left tackle Garrett Gilkey (Sandwich, Ill.) and right guard Brandon Ratliff (Chillicothe, Ill.), are back.
“I can tell that both of them are good players,” Long said. “I know that Sam Parker (Harrison) and Jake McCrary (Valentine) also started early last season when Gilkey and Blackburn couldn’t play. Both have shown that they’ve have some experience. That’s helping them.”
Parker played center and McCrary was at tackle last fall.
Other offensive linemen who earned letters in 2011 are Tony Hartman (North Bend), Mike Lorenzo (Oak Park, Calif.), Lance Pickett (Yuma, Colo.) and Nathan Strieby (Soldonta, Alaska), although none of them saw extensive action since a bulk of the Eagles’ games were close and the first-team played most of the time.
Five redshirt freshmen, several of whom were highly regarded recruits, also are bidding for playing time. They are Seth Beck (Longmont, Colo.), Kaige Lawrence (Victorville, Calif.), Jake Murphy (Harrison), Derrick Walton (Hot Springs) and Conner Weingart (Alliance).
“We’re trying to teach them a lot,” Long said. “I just want them to get better every day.”
Long noted that spring was big in his career with the Eagles. He played linebacker on the service team in the fall of 1995 as a true freshman, moved to center the next spring and was the backup for All-American Dan Maciejczak in the fall. After Maciejczak graduated, Long started at center his final three seasons beginning in 1997.
Long said the Eagles will not practice Friday or Saturday prior to Easter, but will return for more work on Monday, when no classes are scheduled.
—CSC Sports Information