Spring football underway

April 17, 2013

Head coach Stacy Hairston coaches during a recent spring practice. (Wilmington photo/Randy Sarvis)

Head coach Stacy Hairston coaches during a recent spring practice. (Wilmington photo/Randy Sarvis)

For the first time since arriving on campus in January, head football coach Stacy Hairston has been able to run his team through the paces on the field.

Wilmington started its non-padded spring practices on April 2, and has had seven on-field sessions to learn the new WC playbooks. Combining the strides made in the weight room with the progress he is seeing on the field, Hairston is feeling good.

“The overall improvement, I guess I will use the word, amazing,” he said. “Our initial evaluation of the team wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. Over the last three, almost four months, it’s been some incredible improvement across the board. I think what we are doing is working; we are headed in the right direction and the guys are buying into it. Right now, based on what we are doing in the weight room and conditioning, we are definitely on the right track.

“As a coaching staff, one of our challenges is to re-program their minds,” he continued. “Over the past couple of years, they have been programmed to do things a certain way. It’s different than what we do. I am not saying its bad, but its different and the results are the results. We have to program them to think from a different prospective.”

Obviously, the numbers aren’t where any football coach would want. However, several players are making early impressions.

Freshman linebacker Nick Williams, who is moving from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, is transitioning well. Hairston added he is “doing an excellent job of adapting and adjusting.” Staying on the defensive side of the ball, junior Trevor Hooker’s football IQ is really showing up well as the team works through a new defense.

The new coach added that the defense has only installed 25 percent of their total package.

Receivers Justin Lee, Antonio Turner and Kyle Akers are making great strides in the offense. But, it’s the work of a receiver currently not working out with the team that has caught the attention of the offensive staff. Receiver Jeremy Duncan, a 6-5 sprinter, has put up the top times in the 100 and 200 for the Wilmington track team. His size and speed could be difference maker for the offense.

Hairston knows the development from the Wilmington football team doesn’t fall solely in his lap. In addition, the improvements are all football related.

“I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to put together the staff we did,” he said. “When I look at them and evaluate all of our full-time coaches, I really can’t imagine another college at this level having this kind of experience and expertise at each one of their positions. We were fortunate to be able to assemble such an experience staff in such a short period of time that believes the way I do.

“When people see us take the field, they will notice improvements right away,” Improvements on how we compete, how we battle. No matter what the score is, we are going to play at one certain level. You don’t measure your success on just wins or losses. Obviously, it’s a big part of it, but what these guys are doing in the classroom matters to me. What they are doing across campus; we have less guys getting in trouble. We have gotten rid of some of the deadweight. The guys still around have bought in.”

With that being said, all of the improvements and developments made over the course of the past four months can easily be derailed. What happens when the players leave campus to work out on their own over the summer break is as important as the work going on in the weight room, classroom and field right now.

“With the 43 players on the roster, they have bought in to what we are trying to do,” said Hairston. “They have made tremendous gains physically and tremendous gains mentally. They don’t want to fall off. They already know coming into camp in August they will be tested. And they know we are bringing in competition because competition makes us better. I told them they have the advantage of spring practice because we are bring guys in, and I used the words to – “Take their position”. We have to get better; we have to have better players. That means the players we have here now has to get better. Anybody that makes the mistakes to not get better in the summer has wasted the last three and a half months.”