Just one month ago, Murray State football players woke from their winter slumber, dusted off helmets, re-acquainted themselves
with weights and brought out their pads in preparation for spring football.
After four weeks of grueling practice and intense repetitions, the Racers will showcase their improvement this Saturday in the annual Blue and Gold Scrimmage.
Held at 6 p.m. in Roy Stewart Stadium, the gates open at 4 p.m. with free admission to the game. Parents will be able to sign their children up for Head Coach Chris Hatcher’s Kids Camp, while fans will be able to participate in a punt, pass and kick contest, get autographs from players and coaches and purchase hot dogs and soft drinks.
Hatcher said he wants to use the opportunity to create a family atmosphere and have as many fans as possible to create excitement for next season.
“We’ll have offense on one side and defense on the other,” Hatcher said. “We’ll kind of keep score and we’ll play one half of football and give the guys an opportunity to play a game and really have a scrimmage with some referees and some fans watching to get as close of a game-type atmosphere as we can.”
In his third season at the helm, Hatcher said spring practice has benefited the team and gives the squad a head start leading into next season.
“I think we’ve had a good spring practice thus far,” he said. “We’ve put an emphasis of becoming a more physical team up front on both sides of the ball, and I think we’ve done that.”
Senior defensive back Darius Buck, just one of three safeties available for spring practice, said Hatcher has focused on stopping the run these past four weeks and the progress is starting to show.
“The way they’ve got us now, they’ve got both safeties coming down to stop the run,” Buck said. “We’re hitting this spring to stop the run because coach keeps talking about it.”
Buck, a transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College last season, said his game has improved tremendously since last year, citing his ability to recognize plays and his better understanding of the defensive playbook as high notes of spring training.
“It has been a positive experience,” he said. “I feel like a much better player. I can call things out that I didn’t know last year and help my team out.”
Buck’s improvements have not gone unnoticed as Hatcher was quick to praise all of the team for their hard work over the past month, but paid special homage to the improvements on defense so far this spring.
“We’re trying to be fast in our fundamentals and play at a very fast pace on both sides of the ball and be fundamentally sound,” Hatcher said. “I think we’ve improved on that, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
While the Racers granted only 201 yards per game through the air last year, the defense yielded nearly 200 yards on the ground per contest, allowing teams to control the clock and make clever use of play-action passing.
Buck said he is more than excited to get next season started.
“We’ve got a great team,” he said. “I think this is definitely going to be the year of the defense.”
Hatcher laughed when hearing Buck’s remarks.
“I hope it’s both sides of the ball, defensively and offensively,” he said. “But defensively, we’ve definitely improved.”
The Racers open next season on the road against the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 1 in Tallahassee, Fla., at Doak S. Campbell Stadium.