By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Quincy University football coach Tom Pajic sees one distinct change in his players as spring practice winds down.
"There's a little more confidence," he said.
Familiarity with the system, the coaches and the expectations are a big reason for that.
"The veterans know what to do and how to do things," said Pajic, now in his second year running the QU program. "The urgency, the tempo, the way we want to do things ... that's all in place."
What the Hawks need now is depth.
That has been a central theme of the spring workouts, which wrap up Saturday with the annual spring game beginning at 11 a.m. at Flinn Stadium.
Pajic's first recruiting class included 29 players, a majority of whom redshirted last fall. Those redshirts are gone and those players are expected to compete for starting jobs in some circumstances and to be on the two-deep depth chart at all other positions.
"They are thrust upon an opportunity to fight for a spot," Pajic said. "We're seeing how they react. They are going to be forced to be ready to go. We need them."
On defense, the need is much more pronounced.
New defensive coordinator Gary Bettasso takes over a unit that graduated half of its rotation at defensive back, including three-year starter Todd Jordan. The three returnees -- Jeffrey Daverne, Todd Shorter and Mason Brooks -- are all seniors, making the development of the underclassmen imperative.
Pajic likes what he has seen. Jasus Harkins and Jaylen Wilson -- two of those redshirt freshmen -- are showing signs of being playmakers and will head into the fall battling for playing time at cornerback.
"The buy-in is there," Pajic said. "Guys are committed."
And they are improving.
The offense returns a wealth of experience and talent in the backfield, especially at tailback and fullback. Yet, the maturity and consistency of sophomore quarterback Nick Lonergan could be what sets the offense apart in the fall.
"He's upped it," Pajic said of Lonergan. "He's upped his game."
Pajic feels the entire team has.
"We've worked well," he said. "We've practiced well."
That's despite a lot of late-night practices and fighting a late March snowstorm that caused several practices to be postponed.
"We've seen the carryover from the good things we accomplished in the fall," Pajic said. "And we've seen the progress."