John Root is lacking his vacation season.
“August is like Christmas,” stated the Saint James head coach. “We get to school and you get to see what we got.”
That’s football in a nutshell for the Saints. The personal college simply south of Hagerstown boards a variety of its college students. Very few are round for something like an out-of-season program.
So, when the gates open every August for the beginning of every college 12 months, that’s just about when Root sees who’s on his roster and what depth the group may need.
He normally is aware of who’s returning and the way they’ve progressed throughout their particular person work whereas away. Any new gamers who present up give the sensation of ripping away bows and wrapping paper.
“That’s when we see the kids,” Root stated. “We find out who wants to play.”
But the beginning of this season is way totally different. COVID-19 shelved Saints Christmas and the autumn sports activities season. Each pupil is required to compete in athletics.
The college is providing boarding and digital choices for college, and the college 12 months was pushed again to a Labor Day begin. For those that select to come back to campus, they are going to be within the Saint James “bubble,” which is able to restrict off-campus publicity to assist attempt to maintain college students and academics protected from the virus.
The downside for coaches like Root is he works and lives off campus. He’s not allowed to go to the campus in the intervening time, which makes it troublesome to evaluate the group and put it by way of any coaching and preparation.
That can be left as much as the few coaches and former coaches who’re on campus.
So, Root is exterior trying in, solely certain of the muse of returning gamers that might be readily available.
That group confirmed expertise in 2019, however was very younger because the Saints performed by way of a rebuilding 12 months.
“We were looking forward to this season,” Root stated. “We had eight or nine freshmen starting for us last year. They were talented kids who were thrown into the game without getting a chance to stick a toe in the water first.”
Much of that youth was on protection, which led to immediate actuality and rising pains within the 2-Eight season. A number of the youth was wanted to bolster linebacker openings.
Linebacker Will Gisriel, who was third for the Saints in tackles, and cornerback Kyle Simon-Guerin, who was second in interceptions, had been two of these freshmen.
Root stated normally tough instances have a silver lining.
“With age comes wisdom and size,” he stated. “We felt constructive for the season. Last 12 months, all the youngsters stayed constructive and continued to work actually arduous. That says lots. It’s straightforward to maintain your heads up when you’re successful.
“The freshmen performed effectively, however with a younger participant, you attempt to sandwich them between two skilled gamers to lean on and study from. They didn’t get that. They got here out behind the Eight-ball. They grew a lot.”
Running again Isaiah Knight and quarterback Jacob Dugas — each seniors — had been scheduled to return.
Knight was one of many county’s prime rushers final season with seven 100-yard video games — together with considered one of greater than 200 and one other topping 300 — whereas Dugas was the engineer of the offense, throwing for 1,258 yards and 10 TDs.
In current years, the Saints have had appreciable measurement and expertise on their strains. It would have continued in 2020. Chris Weber, Miigwans Assance-Goulais, Daniel Peacher and Riley Bishop had been a part of the group within the trenches.
“Chris is a 6-foot-6, 325-
pound earth mover and Miigwans (6-5, 360) is a big bundle of football aggression,” Root stated. “Daniel is a two-year starter and Riley is now a sophomore.”
Lucas George was returning as a senior linebacker with a younger group stocked with expertise.
“We have a bevy of kids coming back,” Root stated.
One younger participant Root is fascinated with anticipating the long run is quarterback Rhys Staley, who noticed spot obligation as a freshman and confirmed some promise as Dugas’ backup.
All of it’s on maintain now. The gamers who keep on campus will work with weights and elementary drills to enhance and put together for when the Saints are capable of play, probably within the spring. Some have elected to remain dwelling for lessons and to work out.
Even in the event that they aren’t working in conventional football practices, the Saints might have a bonus over another groups.
“Saint James is different from most schools,” Root stated. “We are used to exhibiting up, hitting the bottom working and doing 100 various things on the identical time instantly. They normally get to highschool and begin practices. We have two weeks and one scrimmage earlier than our first recreation.
“They are used to a grueling way of life, and once we compete towards the general public colleges on the schedule, it is likely to be to our benefit. We are used to plugging in and enjoying.”