POPLARVILLE – The David Saunders Era at Pearl River Community College is underway, as the Wildcat football team completed its second week of spring practice.
Saunders, the first-year Wildcat head coach, said he has 55 players participating in spring drills – the exact number limit for MACJC teams.
“We were all extremely excited to get out on the field,” said Saunders. “We’ve been going through our off-season program and doing some things with implementing our offense and defense.
“Once those things are in place, then the next phase is to get the kids on the practice field and see what the individual players have absorbed and retained.”
The Wildcats will hold 20 practice sessions in the spring, culminating in the spring scrimmage April 28 at Dobie Holden Stadium.
“We used the early part of the semester with off-season conditioning and agility drills to instill the discipline and organization with the way we run and the tempo we want to use,” said Saunders.
“We’ve got that in place, and now to be on the field, 20 days is exactly what we need.”
Saunders said he has been pleased with the way his new staff has brought the players along and the enthusiasm those players have shown in the early part of spring practice.
“Everything has been run really well and run smoothly,” Saunders said.
“(The enthusiasm) is something that is critical in all sports. The day-to-day parts of football – the practices, the meetings – sometimes it can be physically demanding and requires a lot of time, so you don’t want it to become drudgery. You have to remember, they are college students, and it can be exciting. I attribute that to our coaching staff and what they’re doing to energize our kids.”
PRCC is working to regain its status as one of the state’s elite junior college programs after a difficult 2-7 season in 2015.
However, the new regime signed what appears to be an excellent recruiting class in February, and Saunders said he is excited about getting those players into the fold.
“Hopefully, they need to fill some of those spots,” Saunders said. “That means we did a thorough and accurate job of recruiting
“That’s probably what’s caused some of the enthusiasm this spring. These guys that are on campus, they know about the talent and skill set of the freshmen we have coming in. So they know they have a whole group to compete with.”
The Wildcats will face another tough schedule, which opens with trips to Northeast Mississippi and defending NJCAA national champion Northwest in the first two weeks of the season. PRCC also plays its two biggest rivals, Jones County and Gulf Coast, on the road this fall.
“We haven’t looked much at the schedule,” Saunders said. “The good programs stay focused on what’s at hand, and right now what’s hand is the evaluation, and continuing to coach and teach our concepts to the guys on campus.
“We are teaching and coaching our freshman class, as well. We’re staying in contact with them several times a week, with letters and information that we’re sending them. It’s a comprehensive approach that will never end.”