The weather is getting warmer, and spring football is in the air.
The Cardinals are preparing for the annual Red/White Spring Football Game on Saturday, a competitive scrimmage that serves as the culmination of spring practices that began in early March.
“We’re excited,” said second-team All-GLIAC quarterback Jonathon Jennings. “We’ve had a couple of scrimmages so far, but everyone is ready to show what they have for the fans.”
Head coach Jim Collins said the team has made good progress in the offseason.
“Spring practices have been going great,” said head coach Jim Collins. “We have a lot of work still to do between now and the fall, but we have accomplished a lot this past winter and with our spring workouts.”
Jennings said that the team has picked up where it left off after the season ended in November.
“We’re just really trying to focus on getting better at certain aspects of the game,” he said. “The goal is to get better all around and just step up our game.”
The team has been preparing for spring practices with workouts throughout the winter as well. During basketball season, a group of players was seen helping Ryder Center staffers clean up the O’Neill Arena after a triple overtime thriller against Northwood ran over into their scheduled workout time.
“I really like our leadership and our work ethic right now,” Collins said. “This team is really determined to be a competitor for the GLIAC and National Championships.”
During the winter, the Cardinals worked with strength and conditioning coach Anthony Delli-Pizzi up to four times per week.
“He had us working hard, running hard, lifting hard,” said Jennings, who threw 29 touchdowns last season. “He put us through some good workouts, and it made us stronger.”
The Cardinals qualified for the playoffs this season for the first time since 2009, finishing 7-4 and ending their playoff run on a controversial call in an overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth.
SVSU will return several core players for next season, including Jennings, running backs Ronnie Lark and Tim Hogue, wide receiver Jeff Janis and linebacker Grant Caserta.
The Cardinals will also lose key contributors such as wide receiver Nick Gallina, defensive end Brandon Williams and offensive lineman Frank Toarmina, a first team All-GLIAC selection now playing semiprofessional ball in Pennsylvania.
Jennings said that the team will work together to pick up the slack for the graduating leaders.
“We’re focusing on having everyone become a leader on the team,” Jennings said. “We have a lot of people that have been around for a while. I’ve been around for a while now, and we have Caserta on defense.
“We take pride on having everyone become leaders and having everyone contribute to the team.”
Even though there are five months until next year’s season begins, competition for roster spots has already begun.
“It’s good to see our players picking up where they left off in the fall,” Collins said. “The big question mark is who is going to replace the outgoing seniors, and the competition for those spots has been intense.”
Collins and his coaching staff may look to this year’s class of freshmen to help fill some of those spots.
“We targeted specific positions and individuals, looking to build talent and depth,” Collins said about the class. “We are extremely excited about the talent we are bringing in.”
SVSU recruited one quarterback, one running back, three wide receivers, three offensive lineman, five defensive linemen, two linebackers, four defensive backs, one punter and a tight end in this year’s class.
Collins said that these practices are important to prepare for a successful upcoming season.
“I look forward to each practice, as it is the ultimate opportunity to improve in every area and set the tone for what we want as a team,” he said. “The key at this point is to keep making progress.”
The Red/White Spring Game will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at Wickes Stadium. Students and fans are welcome to attend.