Even head football coach Jim Knowles ’87 was sweating, wet stains seeping through his gray Teagles as he paced behind the offense during the tail end of yesterday’s football practice. At 5:45, the sun was still high and the temperature hot, but Knowles and his players loved every minute of it. And they know that their hard work in the pre-season will pay off this fall when the team begins its first year under Knowles’ leadership.
“We’ve been working them real hard but trying to make it fun and rewarding,” Knowles said following practice. “We start every practice with a pep talk now, and we don’t take any of these practices for granted. We’re working hard to instill a winning attitude, confidence in the players, work ethic, and enthusiasm for the game. We teach first and try to motivate, and that’s how we do it.”
Watching from the sideline, Knowles’ philosophy is apparent, and the sense of urgency and desire among the players is as well. First, second, and third stringers run to the huddle. Plays run full contact, and the crack of pads and helmets can be heard a field away, as can shouts from coaches and supportive teammates alike.
“I think the guys believe in us, and they want the best coaches coaching them,” Knowles said. “And I think they enjoy that someone respects them and treats them like Division One athletes.”
Entering August camp, however, Knowles and his staff of new assistants weren’t sure that reversing the negative mindset of the players wrought by three years of losing would be easy, or if they could do it at all. In the two weeks since practices began, they have learned otherwise.
“Everything seems to be coming together right on schedule. The players and coaches have a good relationship,” Knowles said. “We’ve raised our expectations of them, and they’ve responded. They have a flicker still.”
While attitude and desire will play a significant role in the team’s success or failure this season, coach Knowles knows that skill and mental and physical preparation will influence equally the outcome of the team’s games. How well the team can execute basic fundamentals, Knowles believes, will be the major determinant of those results.
“We need to work on defense, making sure we prevent the long ball and eliminating little mistakes. We need to need to work on our passing efficiency and accuracy on offense,” he said. “We need to do the little things.”
But just as the little things can make or break a game, Knowles feels that his big people can as well. This year, the Red returns five seniors on its offensive line — a line Knowles feels makes the heart of his team.
“We’re really solid up front,” he said. “In the past two weeks, those guys have really started to pop off the ball.”
That pop — or the flicker to which Knowles referred — are just the things the Red has begun to show in the past two weeks of training and just the things it will continue to build as it prepares for its first game against Bucknell on September 18th.
And, according to Knowles, “The guys are tired now, but I think we’ll be ready.”
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor