MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Ask any athlete when their season ends what they want to do and most of them will answer with wanting to get back out on the field.
It’s the way athletes work. The dedicated players want to put the work in, and winning is usually the end result. Sunday, more than 100 St. Thomas football players will be back on the field as the Tommies open their 2014 spring practice session. After missing out on the postseason in 2013, you can bet they’ll be as hungry as ever to get back to work.
It’s hard to believe, but Glenn Caruso is now six years into making St. Thomas a Division III powerhouse. Last year was the first time since his first season leading the program that the Tommies were not in the playoffs. After winning three straight MIAC titles, St. Thomas finished 8-2 last season with league losses to rivals St. John’s and Bethel.
The loss to the Johnnies was tough since it was the first conference game of the season, and the Bethel loss made it extremely tough to get an at-large bid to the playoffs. St. Thomas finished the season ranked No. 16 in the nation.
In six full seasons, Caruso has compiled a 65-10 record and eased fears among St. Thomas alumni and football fans that he would leave the school for a bigger coaching opportunity. His name has come up for openings the last couple of years, and this year he was in the mix for the opening at North Dakota State. But Caruso has never hinted that he would leave and remains committed to trying to win a national championship at St. Thomas.
The Tommies are expected to return 18 of their 25 starters from 2013. Among them will be quarterback Matt O’Connell, whose season ended with a gruesome leg injury in a win at Gustavus. O’Connell received Division III’s version of a medical redshirt and still has two years of eligibility left with the program. There are also many players at other skill positions who will be back next season.
As far as the immediate future is concerned, it’s hard to get too excited about spring practice. There’s a lot of drills, position work and some scrimmaging. It’s Caruso’s best opportunity before the fall starts to get a look at his younger players with less experience and see what they can do in certain situations. It’s also where some players might be moved around to different positions to bolster depth where it’s needed.
Spring drills will start Sunday and practices will take place over the course of four weeks. The Tommies will have a fall camp in August before hosting UW-Eau Claire in their season opener on Sept. 6. The first MIAC game for St. Thomas will be hosting rival St. John’s on Sept. 27. Those are two of six home games for St. Thomas this year.