By Pete Chiodo
Preseason football camp takes a toll ... in many different ways.
Sure, there’s the top-to-toe aches, pains, bumps and bruises that the players face.
Yet, it’s not easy on the coaches either. Take the gravel-filled voice of Meadville head football coach Mike Feleppa as it uncontrollably hops up a couple octaves in the middle of a word as he issues instructions to the team during Friday’s final practice session.
“ I don’t quite have my coaching voice underneath me yet,” he says, scraping out a laugh. “It went on me this morning for whatever reason.”
Yet, that rapidly fading talk box appears to have been spent to good effect. The Bulldogs report a productive first week of camp.
“This week it was wonderful,” said senior middle linebacker/offensive guard Jake Jageman. “We’re making it through the grind, we’re learning from our mistakes and we’re pushing through.”
Is it different from last year?
“It’s a lot more emotional,” he said. “We’re pushing each other a lot harder. We’re seeing a lot more leadership out here.”
Josh Trimble, a senior offense center/nose guard agrees.
“It was a pretty good week for us. The best first week of two-a-days I’ve been to,” he said. “The offense is really playing good ball. The defense is really starting to come around. Some of the younger guys are stepping it up.”
The Bulldogs certainly had their share of boxes to check off on the 2013 to-do list.
Just in the offensive backfield they had to replace a two-year starter at quarterback (Tyler Minnis), a running back with more than 3,000 yards to his career (current Temple University defensive back Artrel Foster) and an All-Region 5 first-team all-purpose back (Trevor Martin).
This past week they’ve worked to fill in those holes. Sophomore Tanner Frye has been slotted at quarterback. Juniors Jarrid Miller and Nathan Martin and senior Derek Neimann will all be a part of Meadville’s Wing-T backfield, joining returning all-region halfback and 1,130-yard rusher Ryan Harkness.
Yet, even with some new names in new places the Bulldogs appear to be hitting a nice stride.
“It was an excellent week,” said Feleppa. “I thought the kids were really upbeat. They came here to work every day. They showed great enthusiasm. They showed great emotion. I thought they had a great week of practice. I really did.”
Now it’s time to see how they do against another team.
The Bulldogs see their first real action today when they host Central Tech in a scrimmage that starts at 10 a.m. at Bender Field.
On one hand, the scrimmage is being looked at as one more practice session.
“Goals tomorrow: Hit hard, learn what we can learn, do what we can do, make improvements,” said Jageman.
On the other hand, after weeks of going head-to-head with their teammates, the opportunity has finally come to go full-on against a real live opponent.
“We get to hit a different color finally, not our own guys,” said Trimble.
And the ’Dogs seem eager to show how far they’ve come with one week down.
“Senior year, it’s going quick,” said Trimble. “It’s hard to believe the first week is over already. One more week to go and then the real season begins. It’s fast. Too fast.”