ThunderWolves football is back.
Granted it’s not the 23-year layoff the program experienced from 1985 to 2008, but after more than a four month offseason, the team is anxious to get back on the field. Spring football practice begins Tuesday for Colorado State University-Pueblo.
“This spring we know everybody’s name and they know how to go about their work,” ThunderWolves coach John Wristen said. “I’m real anxious to get started working with the guys and to get into the nitty-gritty things for us to make the next step.”
The team will conduct 14 practices with 11 of them coming in full pads. All practices will be at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl and are open to the public.
This will be a stark contrast to last spring when the ThunderWolves had to practice at Dutch Clark Stadium because the ThunderBowl was still under construction.
“It was fun going to Dutch Clark, but it’s going to help us to have our meeting time so I’m’ really looking forward to having spring ball on campus,” Wristen said.
CSU-Pueblo had an encouraging 4-6 season under first-year coach Wristen.
The ThunderWolves came out of the gates hot, winning their first two games, but struggled mightily against traditional RMAC powers Chadron State College, Mesa State College and the University of Nebraska-Kearney. CSU-Pueblo was outscored 99-13 in the three contests.
But the Pack rebounded with a homecoming victory over New Mexico Highlands University and a hard-fought road win against Western State College to turn its fortunes around.
Despite the strong finish the team is not satisfied with a 4-6 season. Last month, the ThunderWolves released offensive coordinator Wayne McGinn. The offense was unable to sustain drives, converting only 23 percent of its third down attempts and averaged 68.1 rushing yards per game.
Wristen recently hired Chris Symington as the offensive line coach.
“I’m really excited about Chris taking over our offensive line,” Wristen said.
Symington had been the University of Eastern Michigan’s offensive line coach from 2004-2008.
CSU-Pueblo will be returning all of its starters from last season, including Chase Vaughn. The defensive end was a first-team all-RMAC selection in 2008 and led the ThunderWolves with 10.5 sacks.
But Wristen cautions that every position will be open for competition during the spring practices.
“We’ve set the standard of how hard we have to go to work,” Wristen said. “Now we’ve got to get to the detail part of it, both offensive and defensive units anticipating what is going to take place the next play, how to read different things and how to audible. We don’t have to spend as much time on fundamentals so we can get to the detail parts of the offensive and defensive system.”
Spring practice will be capped by the Spring Football Game on Sunday, April 19, at the ThunderBowl. The game will begin at 2 p.m., but Wristen said he isn’t sure yet how the scrimmage will be conducted.