IUP FOOTBALL: Ailing Hawks staying positive through spring drills
With so many players limping around with one kind of injury or another, the IUP Crimson Hawks don’t look much like a college football team these days.
Nonetheless, head coach Curt Cignetti is accentuating the positives of spring ball, when his players continue to develop with an eye on the 2013 season.
“We’ve had a really good spring up to this point,” he said Wednesday evening after the team practiced for about an hour at Miller Stadium. “We’ve had six really good practices in a row. I’m really pleased that all the guys know how we practice — we practice fast and get a lot of work done.”
The Crimson Hawks began spring ball April 5 with 54 players on the roster. But right now, the number of players who are capable of practicing isn’t anywhere near that.
Among the key players who have missed time with injuries are: wide receiver Salath Williams, quarterback Logan Weaver, running backs De’Antwan “Rocket” Williams and Montay Green and defensive lineman Larry Gooden. Several other backups are also nursing injuries.
Things have gotten so dire at quarterback that without Weaver (groin), starter Mike Box has had to take almost every snap of every drill because he is the only true quarterback left on the roster. Wide receiver Joe Scott has spent some time at quarterback to help with passing drills, but that hasn’t changed the situation.
“We have had a lot of injuries,” Cignetti said. “We have some guys at some positions taking every single snap. But we’ve cut down on the number of reps so they can manage the workload.”
Having so many players unavailable means some others have stepped up and shown what they are capable of. Among the many who have stood out, Cignetti said offensive linemen Bruce Atkins and Matt Sasson, wide receiver Rashard Hendricks and tight end Khaliq Coleman have done especially well.
With Williams and Green on the sideline Wednesday, fullback Dom Maggio, a 5-foot-6, 200-pound junior who has played in 22 games but never carried the ball, took over at the position.
“Dom Maggio is playing tailback right now because Rocket’s got a sprained ankle and Montay hurt his hand today,” Cignetti said. “And you know what? He showed some good running ability today.”
Defensively, the Crimson Hawks seem to be in better shape physically, but there are still questions about the lineup. Thanks to the loss of several key seniors from last year’s No. 1-ranked defense, there are openings at tackle, end, cornerback and safety. But there’s still a pretty good core there, led by linebackers Alexander Berdahl, Carl Fleming and Terrell Holloway, cornerback Jerrell McFadden and linemen Shane Meisner and Akeem Smith.
Unlike other teams that put on the fanfare of a spring game, Cignetti said the Crimson Hawks likely won’t have any kind of major scrimmage to end the monthlong series of drills. But he’s OK with that because he’s pleased with the results so far, even if the team is missing so many injured players.
“We get a lot of fast work in anyhow,” Cignetti said. “The only thing we don’t get to work on is the tackling, but we’ll have plenty of opportunities for that in the fall. We might scrimmage one time before spring is over, but I want to make sure we get all of our situations in … because those are all learning situations for the players. (But) you can always improve. We’ve come out here with six practices where we had high intensity. That’s become part of the culture. That’s how we do things. There’s always room for improvement, but I think they’ve learned what’s expected and they’ve met the bar.”