The Ottawa University spring football practices were geared to getting players up to speed to the Braves way of doing things.
Ottawa lost a lot of talented players from last year’s conference championship team and needs those transfers and younger players to take a step forward.
The Braves ended the spring practices with a scrimmage Saturday at Peoples Bank Field. It showed the defense was ahead of the offense as the players get set to depart for the summer.
“This is basically the first time we had an opportunity to scrimmage,” Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said. “We know what to improve on. This gives us an opportunity to see what we have accomplished in 15 practices. What we need to build on for next fall.”
Senior receiver Travis Adamson said the spring is an important part of the growth process.
“We got a lot of done,” he said. “We had a lot of new guys come in. We got them in positions and up to speed with the offense.
That is extremely important. With the short amount of time we have in the fall, it is important for the new guys to learn the offense and defense so they are ready by time it is game time.”
Senior linebacker Jake Granitz said even though the faces and names change, the Braves expect the same results.
“The coaches did a great job of recruiting guys that are ready to come in and play right away,” Granitz said. “This class of transfers they brought in might be one of the smartest, athletic classes they have brought in so far.”
Another part of the spring is building team unity.
“This team will have to find their identity,” Kessinger said. “It is a building thing. They have meshed pretty good together as players.”
Adamson said the mindset of this team is to be tough.
“We have a lot of competitive attitude on this team,” he said.
Granitz said the players on both sides of the ball worked with different personnel throughout the spring, so they could get used to each other.
“Coach [Josh] Homolka has done a good job of teaching the defense to us,” Granitz said. “We have not been too complicated. We have gone back to the basics. That has helped us a lot. We don’t have a million checks like we have had in the past.”
The offense will be deep at running back and receiver. Kessinger liked how the running backs performed throughout the spring.
“We spent a lot of time this spring working on our running game,” he said. “I was really excited to see how Tanner Staats ran today. They were keying on Luke Lundy on the run. The defense got tired of him running through them in practice.
“We have three or four solid receivers. At tight end, Kodee Wood has really come on this spring. The offensive line continues to get used to working together.”
The one highly-contested spot is at quarterback.
“We need to solidify who our quarterback will be,” Kessinger said. “We will have a wide open quarterback competition. It will be similar to where we were in 2010 not knowing until we get to the first couple of weeks to know who our quarterback might be.”