Panthers practice in pads for 1st time

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern football team put on full pads for the first time in approximately 10 months in a Thursday morning practice.

The practice was one of 15 pads practices the team is able to hold after the NCAA allowed teams not playing games to adopt a spring mold for this fall semester.

As the Panthers move toward a season in the spring, practicing in pads was a major step in ramping up football activity after so many months without doing so, and head coach Adam Cushing said he is happy to be doing so.

“What I took away was it was awesome to be out here,” he said. “I was probably drowned in as much excitement as anything else, and I think the players had an absolute blast. They’ve earned this. Our guys have been doing a great job paying attention to the details doing everything they possibly can to get themselves to this point.”

Cushing also said that it was exciting to get the younger players out on the field in full pads, some of them for the first time at the college level.

“We got to see a bunch of our young guys, a big group of freshmen and sophomores, line up and go head-to-head and see who wins in one-on-one matchups.”

One of the sophomores back on the field is running back Jaelin Benefield, who was the team’s leading rusher as a freshman last season.

Benefield said he is also happy to be back practicing in pads.

“It’s been a while, but we appreciate it,” he said. “We’re so thankful to be able to have this opportunity to come out here and do what we love. It’s kind of like a safe place for us, you know, with everything that’s going on off the field, it’s kind of a place for us to just be thankful that we get the opportunity to do this, and like coach says, ‘get to versus have to.'”

Another sophomore, defensive lineman Tim Varga, shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s a blessing, man, coming out here with my pads on with the brothers, you dream about these things,” Varga said.

He also said he is eager to share his experience with freshmen teammates, now that he has one season under his belt. Seven of the 14 players on the defensive line are freshmen this year.

“We’ve seen a lot of freshmen come in,” he said. “I’m just trying to coach them up on the things I didn’t know last year.”

Cushing said that the main goal of these 15 practices in the spring mold is to get their base systems in place and go from there.

“Certainly, just installing our very base offense, defense and special teams, and then get into some situational stuff,” he said.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]