Spring and football don’t often go together, but they did last weekend.
The Cougars finished their spring practice season with the annual spring game on April 16. The main goal is to know how returning players progressed after spring practices.
“Opportunities to learn is really what this is about,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “With limited time in pads, this is a viable opportunity to learn. All the workouts and conditioning are great, but you got to play football in order to become a better football player.”
Although the season is still months away, Santa Cruz believes that the team is in a good position right now as they are playing together as a team and as a family.
“I’m looking for the whole team to step up collectively and go for it, which I think we’ve done this spring. Our guys have got a real brought-in, family attitude, so I think we’re in a great place,” Santa Cruz said.
The spring game coincided with the program’s junior day, as the team welcomed current high school juniors who may become Cougars. It was an opportunity for the potential recruits to experience the program. The game was played in full pads, and went very similar to a fast-paced practice with numerous drills and one-on-one matchups before the game.
Even though the event was all about competition, the coaches also wanted to make it fun for the players and their loved ones. Friends and family of all players came out to watch the game, and were able to enjoy pizza and root beer floats with the players afterwards.
“I feel that the game went very well. It was good to have all our fans our here, and it’s good to see how our junior day improves every year,” linebackers coach Spencer Danielson said. “I think this spring, we’ve really answered the questions that we wanted to answer. We grew in the areas we needed to grow in, and now we’re really excited for fall.”
The game featured strong performances from junior quarterback Chad Jeffries, senior wide receiver Ethan Zeidler, senior cornerback C.J. Broussard, junior safety Taliuaki Suliafu, and running backs sophomore Kurt Scoby and junior Samuela Fanua—all of whom look ready to make a statement in 2016.
“We told our guys just to compete and play fast,” Danielson said. “Obviously, they’ve learned a ton and have changed some things in a good way. I told them to put it all out there, because after this game they have four months to recover and get ready for the season.”
Both coaches and players are excited to see what these players can bring to the table this coming season.
“Our defense is looking to come out, just play tough and get a bunch of turnovers,” junior defensive tackle Christian Caraveo said. “I think our running game is really going to step it up with [Kurt] Scoby and [Samuela] Fanua in the backfield. We also have a bunch of O-lineman that will be coming in, and they are massive.”
There will be more additions to the team when fall practices begin.
On national signing day in early February, 19 student-athletes signed with Cougar football, 10 of whom were offensive linemen. Many of these players are expected to have an immediate impact, and the addition of the offensive linemen will bolster a group that graduated five last year.
“As a whole, we’re in a great place,” Danielson said. “We’re bringing in a bunch of offensive linemen in the fall, and we’re really excited about them. So we feel that at every position, we not only have a great starter, but also a good backup that he’s competing with on every play. We have guys that push each other, and that’s what creates great teams.”