The Steve Fairchild era officially began to limited fanfare Tuesday, as the football team held its first of 15 spring practices on the fields south of Moby.
A handful of curious onlookers wandered around the open-to-the-public practice facility, trying to avoid collisions with players as they ran non-contact drills in shorts, mesh practice jerseys and helmets.
As per NCAA rules, the team is only allowed to hold full contact practices eight times in the spring.
Coach Fairchild, in his first year with the program after leaving the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, said that everything ran fairly smoothly for the first day, with players hustling to earn spots on next season’s starting roster.
“I think all the players and all the coaches were excited to get started,” Fairchild said. “It was a decent first day like any other first day. Some things looked pretty ugly out there at times, but we’ll work through the kinks.”
Fairchild emphasized the program’s new up-tempo approach to practices, bouncing from position drill to position drill waving his arms in encouragement and occasionally yelling out instructions.
“We’ve had walkthroughs, we’ve had little things, where if you messed up the coaches weren’t too much,” senior tight end Kory Sperry said, “but today was the first time I’ve heard coach Fairchild yell.
“It’s one of those things where he’s just breaking in. They said that they haven’t watched films, so he doesn’t know who can play. That’s what we like. They’ve got to get to know us and we’re trying to get to know them.”
With the position coaches saying that every spot on the roster is up for grabs, players are fighting on every whistle to impress the new staff. Tight ends coach Marc Lubick, the only member of last year’s staff making a return to CSU this season, said that the spring practices carry significant weight in earning or losing a position come September.
“Everyone is going in there with an open mind, and that’s how it should be,” Lubick said. “No one can rest on their accolades they did last year, they have to prove themselves everyday.”
With a record of 3-9 last season, the coaching staff will be looking this spring to find the perfect combination of chemistry, talent and tempo to turn the once-proud program around.
The risk-taking, ready-to-go attitude found it’s way onto the field in flashes on Tuesday. With the first play of the 11-on-11 light scrimmage, senior quarterback Billy Farris dropped back in the pocket and fired a bomb up the right sideline to a streaking Dion Morton (younger brother of last season’s star Damon Morton) for a touchdown.
The defense got its due several plays later when senior safety Klint Kubiack picked off a tipped pass over the middle and returned it up the sidelines. Contact-deprived players on both sides pulled up just short of a full-scale block or tackle, but the energy of an entire winter of cooped up weightlifting was infinitely evident.
Farris, who finds himself the de facto starter heading into camp, reiterated his teammates feelings that the practice was difficult at times, but fun.
“It was a little rough today, but I’m sure they expected that. But it was fun, it was good to be back on the field,” Farris said.
Sperry, in his own energetic style, ushered in the start of the new season with a to-the-point statement full of eagerness for the future.
“It’s a new era. Let’s go. Let’s get to business,” Sperry said.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.