QUINCY — The easiest part of orientation for the Quincy University football players is over. The difficult task begins Monday.
The Hawks moved into their dorm rooms Saturday and sat through the first team meetings. Sunday is scheduled to be much of the same as the largest roster in program history — roughly 140 players are on campus — adjusts to new surroundings and a new routine.
Come Monday, football becomes the primary order of business.
So they better be ready to hit the ground running.
"We need to see if those freshmen can physically do what they need to do first," QU coach Gary Bass said. "It doesn't matter if they can mentally learn everything if they physically can't get the job done. We have to see relatively quickly that first week when the pads come on who physically is going to help us. Then we have to be able to teach them at a proper speed and adjust our game plans to allow them to play to that caliber."
The high number of fresh faces makes that more of a challenge.
Of the 140 players who reported, nearly 115 of them are true sophomores or younger. The incoming freshman class alone is 60 strong.
"It is the youngest football team I have ever been associated with," Bass said.
To combat that, the QU coaching staff is going to put the youngsters in as many game situations as possible. That means practicing at a faster pace to allow for more plays during team sessions.
Bass expects the Hawks to get 140 to 150 reps in practice daily.
"That's going to be a lot," Bass said. "But we have to in order to get those young guys up to speed and be able to get them with some upperclassmen. We also have to make sure our upperclassmen don't get rusty and get them used to playing football again.
"We're going to force the issue with more reps in a controlled amount of time."
Defensively, that shouldn't be much of an issue.
The Hawks return seven starters, including All-Great Lakes Valley Conference linebacker Cody Leonard and senior safety Shane Barrett, who has made 22 consecutive starts. The depth at linebacker and in the secondary, coupled with some solid additions at defensive end, allows the coaching staff to focus more on rebuilding the offense.
Quincy returns two starters along the offensive line and must replace nearly every starter at a skill position.
"There is so much stuff we have to get done from a chemistry standpoint," Bass said.
It means teaching will be as important as coaching.
"We have to have consistent communication with how we're going to approach things and how we're going to talk to guys," Bass said. "We have to be pretty precise and concise with what we say, be done and move on to the next thing. We can't sit here and have a dissertation.
"Our guys have to be ready for that during a game, They're going to come to the sideline and ask questions. We have to be able to give them answers in a concise manner."
By doing so, the hope is the Hawks get into a consistent flow.
Quincy opens its season Aug. 30 at Indiana State, an FCS school picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. That leaves just three weeks to get everyone on the same page before focusing in on game week.
"The quicker we can get our guys to understand how to practice is critical," Bass said. "If they can pick up one thing a day, they're going to be OK."
Bass hopes such a challenge elevates the level of play.
"Competition brings out the winner in everybody," Bass said. "We have a lot of guys who want to compete."