Reinhardt has nearly 100.
The Eagles, who will be playing their first season of football in the fall, are currently in the midst of spring football practice.
Coach Danny Cronic said the players are learning a lot, but there are still plenty of lessons to be learned — and not just on the field.
Reinhardt has put in a couple weeks of practice, but Cronic said it’s too early to see anyone emerging in specific roles. Not only that, but the coach knows — the team that returns in the fall will be a lot different than the one on campus now.
“When they finish fall camp, they will look a lot different,” said Cronic, a coaching veteran of more than 40 years. “They change their nature a little bit, and sometimes you lose some and gain some. I can see some things beginning to come about.”
Cronic said the biggest thing he’s looking for are leaders.
“They are all freshmen, but they are all seniors, too,” he said. “They will always be the oldest class here, so their leadership is multiplied by four.”
Reinhardt practices on its new field in pads or shells every other day, working on film on other occasions.
While snow flurries and cold weather has disrupted the practice schedule a bit, Cronic said the team is right on schedule. It’s his goal to have all of the players secure in their positions by the end of spring practice.
“We want them to know the fundamentals of their position, and that would include schemes and concepts that are involved,” he said. “We are looking for speed of execution. As you go up in level, it gets faster. Our level is a lot faster than the high school level and they have to get used to that. They have to get used to the physicalness of college football, the sound of the helmets and pads coming together. It is a lot louder. There is more impact. They are bigger and better athletes. Getting used to that is what we are trying to do now.”
Reinhardt knows that, no matter who takes the field in the fall, they will be going up against juniors and seniors in most cases, save for their season-opening game against another start-up program, Mercer.
“All I’ve got right now is freshmen and just a few red-shirt freshmen,” Cronic said, “so, next year, we’re going to be playing against guys at are much more mature.”
Cronic said it’s unique working with all underclassmen, and it’s presented some challenges.
For one thing, there aren’t any older players to teach newcomers the ropes or encourage discipline. All of the players are at the same point as far as learning the Eagles’ system.
All of them are also learning what it’s like to not just be college football players, but students in the classroom. Learning how to manage time, get to class promptly and get a good night’s rest are among the lessons they are learning off the field.
“It’s all of that,” Cronic said. “It’s how they mature.”
The players — some of whom have been practicing together for a year — are eager to hit players from another team. Tempers occasionally boil over.
“I’m enjoying it, but we are working on some things at the same time,” Cronic said. “I haven’t ever seen a team that didn’t have some discipline involved, and that is what we are taking care of.”
Reinhardt won’t play another team in a spring game, instead choosing to play a series of intrasquad scrimmages. Cronic feels this will allow him to see more of the players.
“If I’m playing against someone else, I’m playing 11,” he said. “If I’m playing against myself, I’m playing 22, so more practice takes place when we go up against ourselves. And no one else gets a tape of it. Those are the two things that come out of it.”
Reinhardt has already signed about 45 players and expects to have 60 on scholarship in the fall, with interest in the program remaining high. Cronic said he is continually in contact with coaches and conducted tryouts as recently as last week.
Several players are returning from injuries that required surgery, while others need to improve their physical fitness in order to perform at the college level.
“Some players didn’t realize the intensity that they would find here,” Cronic said. “Some of them thought that they were coming up to little ol’ Reinhardt here, and they didn’t understand that the level of ball here is college ball, and it’s scholarship ball. We are going to be playing against some good teams.”