Speed was the focus from the start for Wesley Beschorner in his first spring practice as the head coach of UW-Eau Claire football.
As soon as the team finished warm-ups, Beschorner took the offensive unit to one side of the Carson Park field and began running through plays, spurring them on all the while.
“We’re not walking,” the new Blugold coach exclaimed as he paced behind the line of scrimmage.
The following 30 minutes, the chunk of practice open to the media, were filled with plenty of variations of “you’ve got to get there faster.” The intensity matched what Beschorner laid out in his media availability earlier Monday afternoon.
“Practice really hard, as hard as we can,” Beschorner said of his plan for the early spring. “Finish, compete, and when you’re competing you’re competing to win. ... We are going to practice really hard and really fast. We’re not going to be wasting time. That’s the key. There’s not much standing around.”
But of course, there is a limit to how high the team can turn up the juice.
“Too bad we can’t tackle,” Beschorner said with a laugh.
Beschorner, a head man for the first time in his career, is now over a month out from his introduction. He’s moved into his new home and gotten comfortable in his office in the McPhee Center.
But until Monday, his time working with players had been limited to meetings. There’s only so far you can progress without getting on the field and building muscle memory.
“We’re going to get plays going,” Beschorner said. “We’re going to be rolling, fast. They’re going to hear words that they’ve only heard once or twice. They’re going to need to process it and I expect them to be going full speed.”
While Beschorner learns his players’ tendencies, they’re learning his too. Outside senior linebacker Sam Romanski said the team has already gotten to know Beschorner well, and the positive vibe is noticeable.
“Definitely a positive energy kind of guy,” Romanski said. “Definitely X’s and O’s-wise, smarter than any coach I know.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Drew Schrader echoed his sentiment, noticing what Beschorner brings from his time with Rice, Pittsburgh and Maryland.
“I like the big school energy that he brings to a smaller DIII school,” Schrader said. “The work ethic he had with DI athletes, it’s an expectation for us to meet those, even though we’re two divisions lower.”
Beschorner said the plan is to run practice three days per week, maybe four depending on the weather. While it was a beautiful 70 degrees on Monday, a midweek snow storm will create a bit different environment starting on Wednesday. He wasn’t ready to call off practice yet, though.
“It’ll snow in the playoffs, so let’s go,” Beschorner said.
Some additional notes from the first day of practice:
The QB question
The quarterback position is the biggest question mark Beschorner and crew face entering spring ball. The Blugolds are looking for a replacement for Scott Procter, who threw for 1,412 yards and six touchdowns as a senior in the fall.
Jonathan Malueg played minimally as a freshman, completing two of his nine attempts for 44 yards. He took the first snap as quarterbacks were cycled through in drills, but Beschorner said the competition is completely open.
“I have no idea,” Beschorner said of the battle. “I haven’t seen them really throw. I’ve seen them on film in high school.”
Time on the field over the next few months should be enlightening.
“The dust settles pretty quick at that spot,” Beschorner said. “That’s one thing we can do. We can throw and catch the football at these practices, so that will happen pretty fast.”
Eau Claire athletic director Dan Schumacher stressed the importance of keeping a majority of Dan Larson’s staff both at Larson’s departure press conference and during Beschorner’s introduction. So far, Matt Tomsho is the only new face Beschorner has brought in, but he said others are coming. Beschorner, Schrader and Romanski all said that’s helped with the transition.
One of the returning figures is defensive coordinator Matt Ebner, who was running the defensive plays while Beschorner focused on offense. Ebner commanded a defense that led the WIAC in sacks and finished third in passing and total defense last year.
Romanski, an All-American last season, said he was excited Ebner remained on the Blugolds staff. So far he’s seen some minor tweaks, but expects the unit to mostly stay the course after the positive signs in 2018.
“It’s huge,” Romanski said of Ebner’s return. “Coach Ebs and I have had these past four years to grow. He’s really helped me turn into somewhat of an athlete. I can’t wait to keep working with him and for our team to keep working with him.”