First practice always memorable for Wittenberg football players

A new season arrived for the Wittenberg football team on Thursday. If you lived anywhere within a few block radius of Edwards-Maurer Field, you probably heard it arrive in the shouts of dozens of pumped-up players and coaches.

“Lay the foundation,” new defensive coordinator Sean Ross told his group at the first practice. “Right here! Right now!”

For the 36 seniors, the largest senior class in coach Joe Fincham’s tenure, the first practice of 2013 brought back memories of their first practice as freshmen three years ago.

“I remember everybody was stronger than me,” said senior Josh Montgomery, the only returning starter on the defensive line. “My weight program in high school was kind of iffy. Everybody’s throwing all that weight off the bench. I’m kind of average. Then I get out there, and everybody’s bigger than me. I just thought I’d never play.”

Montgomery did end up playing a lot as a freshman, no small feat because the defense was stocked that season with seniors like Eddie Vallery and Brad McKinley.

There’s no doubt, even with an experienced team coming off a 10-2 season and ranked 10th in the nation in the preseason poll, Wittenberg will need a few freshmen to contribute this fall.

In August of 2010, offensive lineman Matt Widemon was already one of the biggest players on the team as a freshman. That didn’t matter much, of course. He said the seniors treated him well, but like any other freshman.

Widemon’s definitely the biggest player now at 6-foot-8, 295 pounds. Last year, he was one of the four captains, and now that he’s a senior, his leadership is even more important.

“Being a freshman in camp, you’re just trying to hang on, trying to survive,” Widemon said. “You don’t really know the demands of camp until you’re here. All the seniors my freshman year helped me out a lot, and I’m trying to help them out this year.”

Senior linebacker Spencer Leno knows what it takes to make your mark as a freshman. He played in all 11 games in 2010.

“I definitely remember my first (practice),” he said. “The speed of the college game is a lot faster. The tempo of practice is a lot faster. (Freshmen) just have to work their way up on the depth chart. Our coaches say the fastest way to get on the field for them is to know your assignments and give great effort.

“Everyone can come in on the first day in shorts and T-shirts and be hyped up, but the big thing with camp is being consistent day in and day out.”

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