There was a new head coach directing traffic, but other than that Southern Oregon looked very much like the team fans have grown accustomed to watching over the last several seasons during the Raiders’ first full-team practice for the 2017 season Thursday at Raider Stadium.
Newcomers reported to camp for orientation Tuesday and practiced Wednesday, too, but Thursday marked the first all-hands-on-deck gathering under new head coach Charlie Hall. Afterward, the former Ashland High School coach praised the team’s energy and focus — crucial attributes, he said, since the team’s season opener against seventh-ranked Eastern Oregon is only three weeks away.
“It’s very positive and very exciting and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm, as there should be,” Hall said.
The Raiders, ranked No. 25 in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, practiced with helmets only Thursday and the 11-on-11 scrimmage near the end of practice featured only thud contact, though there were a few light takedowns. SOU will suit up in full pads for the first time Monday, the first day of daily doubles, and will scrimmage College of the Siskiyous next Thursday.
Position battles abound, but at least one starting position is already locked up, and it’s a big one. Hall confirmed that senior Tanner Trosin, who missed most of last season with a broken foot and was granted a medical redshirt, will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback.
“Well, Tanner’s the guy that took (SOU) to the national championship in 2015,” Hall said. “I think he has a great resume. He’s a winner, a competitor, he understands the offense. He’s a coach on the field — he and (offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht) think very similar. It’s about as good a situation as you might find in the nation when it comes to a quarterback returning. He has those 14, 15 games of 2015 that gave him that good experience and confidence to be the guy he is right now.”
Former South Medford Panther Craig Contreras, who transferred from Butte College, is battling fellow quarterbacks Wyatt Hutchinson and Sean Smith for the primary backup role.
Trosin, who injured his foot during the second game of the 2016 season at UC Davis, looked as elusive as ever during practice. The dual-threat’s ability to scramble for yards was a big part of SOU’s offense during its run to the 2015 national championship game, and he passed for 428 yards and rushed for 42 more against UC Davis before finding out the bad news upon returning to Ashland.
Now, he’s excited to be back and says the team was pumped for Thursday’s practice.
“There was some high energy today,” he said. “There were a lot of people out there flying around with excitement. Everybody’s excited to be out there.”
Trosin added that the chemistry between the quarterbacks and the receivers was enhanced during the team’s non-mandatory but well attended summer gatherings and estimated that 40 to 50 players took part in those seven-on-seven scrimmages.
“There’s a huge group of us that came over this summer,” he said. “We’re just running our offense, just doing our stuff that we kind of know from last year and the years before.”
The practice started at 10 a.m. and wrapped up at about 12:30 p.m. as the temperature approached 90 degrees. Most of the day was spent on positional drills, but the Raiders’ offense and defense squared off in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11, too.
The early edge seemed to go to the defense, which won the team’s friendly turnover competition by picking off a few passes and recovering at least one botched snap.
“They got that good ‘W’ today but we’re going t come back,” SOU running back Rey Vega said. “We’re just out here trying to get better and better every day. For a first day, I’d give it a C-plus.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.