CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern held its final spring football practice on Thursday afternoon as Head Coach Mark Tucker and the Charleston Southern football team wrapped up the spring season at Buccaneer Field.
The Bucs worked out in helmets and shorts as they closed out the first spring practice schedule in the Tucker era at the helm of the CSU football program.
CSU went about its normal practice slate working with the individual position groups focusing on isolated teaching and drill work. The coaches focused instruction on drills and structure for each group to work on throughout the summer when the team breaks for the semester before turning the guys loose to have fun for the final 30 minutes of the practice period.
Spring practices overall were good for Tucker as the Bucs' players and coaching staff continued to gel and work on developing their relationships throughout the practice schedule.
"I feel very good through the 15 practices we've had," Tucker said. "We have a temperament and mindset defensively that matches what I knew Coach (Zane) Vance was going to bring to the table on that side of the ball. Watching the defense respond and gravitate toward him on the field was good to see."
He continued, "More highlights for me have included seeing Coach (Josh) Cooper and Coach (Kevin McKeethan) get established with their groups. We have good people on our staff and great football players both on and off the field. Everyone on our staff and on our sidelines has worked on getting more comfortable with each other to continue the success we've had with the program."
The continued success on the defensive side of the ball led to growth and development on the offensive front as the Bucs' offensive line earned praise from the head coach.
"Offensively, we got pushed around a little bit this spring," Tucker commented. "We've been lining up against a very good defensive front and we haven't been at full strength this spring on the line with some injuries. Watching our linemen grow and our efforts improve against our defense has been encouraging. We put the ball down on Tuesday for 34 minutes and did some situation work and our guys got after it. We need them to keep carrying on with that mindset throughout the summer."
Tucker was not shy about his praise around the field for the team and spotlighted the growth of several players and position groups that developed over the spring.
"We dealt with several injuries in our backfield early in the spring that limited us to two backs, but Noah Shuler and Ellijah Henry fought through and didn't miss a day to help us get our repetitions in this spring," Tucker said. "Our tight end group is athletic and strong; stronger than it's ever been at the position and they continued to work hard this spring. We have a really good receiving corps and our quarterbacks continued to showcase what they can do throughout the spring.
He continued, "Defensively, Shadarius (Hopkins) came back from an injury early in the spring and took things to another level for us. I think he's going to take off and have a good year. The same thing with Brandon Rowland at safety, I think he has a chance to take off. Our defensive front is solid and experienced, and those guys continued to develop and learn the language in working with our staff."
The Bucs' specialists also received plenty of attention from Tucker. CSU graduated punter Truett Burns and long snapper Joseph Smith, but the kicking trio of Tyler Tekac, Kyle Reighard, and David Kennedy, as well as long snapper Ethan Ray, improved and impressed as spring wrapped up.
"We challenged our three primary specialists this spring; we want competition and we wanted the guys to compete," Tucker said. "We created that competition this spring and I've been pleased with how all of them have stepped up, especially Tekac. We've got a young freshman kicker we invested in this spring, but nothing is set in stone. They are all set to compete and that will only make us better."
The transition to head coach was a welcome adjustment for Tucker as he acclimated himself back to the sidelines this spring.
"It's a lot of fun for me personally and a welcome task," Tucker said. "I've had to get used to calling the game from the boundary again. As a staff we've worked on the adjustments of calling things offensively and defensively from the box and continued our primary goal of establishing relationships and learning new communication on the defensive side."
As the team broke the huddle for the final time in the spring, the Bucs will still have their individual meetings next week prior to final exams.
Tucker looks forward to the one-on-one time with the players.
"The more one-on-one time you get with the players, the better you will be as a team and as staff," Tucker said. "The personal time I get with them; that's the time I get to talk with, challenge, reaffirm, and confirm with them their goals for the summer and the year. I have a genuine love for our young men, and I'm looking forward to these meetings."