Redhawks open with conditioning test

Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Southeast Missouri State tight ends Matt Boyack, left, and Seth McDowell turned after running a 25-yard leg of the 300-yard shuttle conditioning drill Monday at Houck Stadium. (Fred Lynch)

Samuel wastes no time in putting his team on the clock.

Tony Samuel doesn't quite know how well-conditioned his Southeast Missouri State football team is right now.

But Samuel's first glance at the Redhawks during Monday afternoon's official start of preseason workouts was mostly positive.

"Physically, they look better not only from when we got here but from when they left [following last semester]," said Samuel, Southeast's first-year head coach. "Some guys changed their bodies for the better."

The Redhawks didn't actually practice Monday. Under a baking sun on the artificial surface at Houck Stadium, Samuel and his assistants put the Redhawks through a conditioning test designed to gauge the fitness level of the entire squad.

Nearly 90 players performed two 300-yard shuttles, with about a five-minute break between each. The shuttles were broken into 25-yard intervals, with players having to stop, touch cones and head back the other way after each interval.

Players were required to perform the shuttles in various times, based on their position. Not meeting those times will no doubt result in some type of minor discipline, perhaps in the form of extra running.

"If they don't hit it, we'll do something," said a smiling Samuel. "Most of them looked all right, but we'll meet later to get the results and see how everybody did.

"I think this is a good test for them, not only of conditioning but of recovery time. A lot of stopping and starting, changing directions. This is just a starting point, to see where we have to go."

The Redhawks said they expected most players to come through the fitness test fine, partly because of a commitment that saw much of the team remain in Cape Girardeau over the summer for voluntary strength and conditioning.

"I think the majority will make it," linebacker Seth Harrell said. "We had a lot more people stay around this summer than in other years. We've definitely improved physically.

"These are still tough, especially when it's so hot and humid like this. And on this kind of surface it gets a lot hotter. But I think everybody is doing fine."

Said cornerback Monroe Hicks, "We had like 60-some people here this summer. A lot of dedication. We're in good shape."

Coming off a 2-9 season, the Redhawks sense genuine excitement and enthusiasm -- along with a needed dose of discipline -- under Samuel and his assistants, who are all also in their first year at Southeast.

"Everybody is very excited. You can tell. Guys are at meetings 15, 20 minutes early," Harrell said. "Coach Samuel has really stressed discipline.

"Last year we had so many games where we beat ourselves. We know we have to be disciplined to have success."

Added All-American punter David Simonhoff, "There is a lot of excitement and a lot of nervous anticipation from the players because nobody really knows what's going to happen.

"But the coaches have worked so hard. They've given us everything they have and we hope to give them all that we have."

The Redhawks will perform their first football-related activities today when they practice in helmets only, as mandated by NCAA guidelines.

The opening five days of practice -- Monday included -- are designated "heat acclimation" days, with the first two in helmets only, the next two in helmets and shoulder pads and the fifth in full gear but with no contact.

Teams can practice only once per day during those first five days. Also, after that initial five-day period, squads are prohibited from holding two-a-day workouts on consecutive days. The Redhawks' first full-pad, full-contact practices will be Saturday, when they work out twice.

"We're ready to get going. We're hungry," Hicks said. "We were picked last in the conference. That's a lot of motivation."

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