Nowhere but up: Williams football returns to practice ready to forget winless mark from last season
"Coming into the second year, it's nice having everything established," Williams senior wide receiver Adam Regensburg said. "Last year, [the coaches] were learning like we were. Coming into the NESCAC, they had to learn what other teams were going to do, how to prepare, how to deal with us. We had to learn how to communicate with them.
"This year coming in, you can tell that we are all on the same page."
Regensburg and his Williams teammates arrived on campus last Saturday and will practice three hours a day until school starts. Then they'll prepare for their season opener on Sept. 16 against Bowdoin at home.
"It's a complete 180," senior defensive lineman Chris Hattar said. "Guys are running everywhere, hustling. It's been fantastic."
Fantastic might not be how Hattar or his Williams teammates would describe last year. After all, going winless for the first time since 1915 isn't anything to hang one's hat on. Williams went 0-8 last year, in head coach Mark Raymond's first season.
"Winning is not given. You have to work hard to be a winner," said Regensburg, who led the Ephs with 37 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns last year. "There's more to it than just going out and playing. You have to be able to step up when adversity hits and you've got to be able to come together as a team.
"Right now, with the schedule of practices and meetings at night, we have to lean on each other and pick each other up."
For Raymond and his staff, which includes newcomers Mark McDonough, Dan Wodicka and John LeClair, the pressure is on. It's not on because of last year, but more because of this year and the new schedule.
NESCAC went to a full round-robin schedule, where every football school plays each other for a nine-game season. That means the regular season starts a weekend earlier than it had been. Williams, and its NESCAC brethren, did not get any additional practice time, so there are now less than three weeks until the opener.
"Yeah, absolutely. It's a week sooner," Raymond said. "We put a lot of stuff on them in the summer, to make sure they were prepared physically, so they don't have to work themselves into shape."
The second-year Williams coach said it was exciting for he and the staff to prepare for the quicker start to the season.
"It is, it is," he said. "Time is your enemy at this point."
For the players, the pressure isn't their enemy.
"Guys are out here 15 minutes earlier," said Hattar. "We're busting it everywhere. We're going, we're going. The tempo is great. Guys are doing little things outside of practice to get ready."
The Williams statistical leaders from last year are practically back en masse. The only two gone are leading tackler Alex Brandeis and No. 3 tackler Russ Monyette.
One thing that Raymond and his offensive staff won't have to do is play a first-year quarterback. Jansen Durham, a freshman last year, completed 96-of-172 passes for 917 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Back in the quarterback mix is senior John Gannon. Gannon suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first practice last year.
"He is" 100 percent, said Raymond. "He's done a great job.
"It's too early to tell [who will start]. If he couldn't run or was behind, it would make things more difficult for him. He's put the time in and he's ready to go."
So are the Ephs, and the clock is ticking.
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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