Eau Claire (WQOW) — The UW-Eau Claire football team is eleven practices and one scrimmage into its preseason camp, as the Blugolds get ready to begin their third season under head coach Dan Larson. Monday, the team holds its media day, and one of the big themes for the year is "taking the next step."
Larson says players got started on that goal right after the end of last season, with their one-on-one meetings. It carried over into offseason workouts, and through the summer, when some fifty guys stayed in town to work out. That increased level of commitment has been evident in the preseason practices.
"Our guys have been better conditioned," says Larson, "we’ve been able to practice at a little bit of a faster tempo, we’ve been able to push a little bit more and they’ve responded. They’ve been able to turn around the next day, come back out and be equally competitive. I think all that comes back to how they prepared in the offseason throughout the course of the summer."
The Blugolds will have four captains for the 2018 season: senior quarterback Scott Procter, senior safety Drew Hurley, senior cornerback Cam Swanson, and senior tight end Tye McLaughlin. Procter and Hurley take part in media day, and both say that there’s a great level of familiarity with Larson’s systems and expectations.
"Just kind of getting his scheme year by year, just getting more aspects of it down," says Procter, "it just allows you to play faster, when you know mentally what’s going on. That allows your physical play to improve, and I think that’s been the biggest thing."
"We all understand what coach expects from us, both on and off the field," Hurley says, "and we’re able to pass that down to the younger classmen, continue to build this culture up from the ground up."
UWEC traveled to Macalester (MN) for a scrimmage, Friday, and while Larson liked how his team competed, he says there’s definitely room for improvement.
"I think we went out and played a physical-style of football," Larson says, "and I don’t think we played nearly to what we had probably shown in the previous six practices. I think there was a little bit of sloppiness at times, we got off the bus, we warmed up for 25 minutes, and we jumped in and played. but our guys’ energy was really good. We executed in a lot of different situations that we hadn’t been put in yet in those first six days. I thought our guys attention to detail for the most part was really high."
In order for the program to take the next step and start winning games, each player has to focus on his own role while seeking to improve. For Hurley, it means building on the positives from last year’s defense, while Procter is preparing to be the starter for the first time in his college career.
"Obviously I have a different role probably this season as I played in years past," says Procter, "but that doesn’t really change how I prepare during the week, and how I try to perform at practice."
"[The] Physicality really improved last season, you know we were flying to the football, eleven hats to the football is what Coach (Matt) Ebner preaches," Hurley says, "We had quite a few seniors on the defense last year that we did lose, but we still have a good solid group returning. That same kind of physicality is what we are looking to bring back and build upon."
UW-Eau Claire kicks off the 2018 season on the road, Saturday, September 1, when the Blugolds go to Loras (IA).