ROCKINGHAM — Bryan Till’s message was simple and clear on the first day of spring practice: set the standard.
The Richmond football team hit the practice field for a little more than two hours Monday afternoon in hopes of getting everyone mentally and physically prepared for what Till, head coach, expects to be a rewarding season this fall.
“The main thing we have to do around this time of year is set the standard,” he said. “We’ve got to get out here and get these guys to understand what we expect out of them from an effort standpoint. That’s the biggest thing.”
There was a huge uncertainty at the quarterback position heading into spring practice last season, but the Raiders are more than sure on who their guy is this go-round.
Rising sophomore Caleb Hood secured his spot as the quarterback of the future with his performance this past season, his debut, throwing for 2,095 yards and 16 touchdowns and completing 63.3 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 275 yards and five scores on 70 carries — which were all good for third-best on the team — and made the all-conference team.
Quarterbacks coach Jay Jones says Hood is starting to become more vocal around his teammates, which is something that was rare last year. On Monday, however, Jones witnessed Hood attack the huddle with some passion prior to a drive during the team’s 7-on-7 scrimmage.
“I don’t know what he said, but he got those boys fired up a little bit. It’s good to see that energy from him and it’s good to see him stepping more into that leadership role,” Jones said. “Last year he felt like he just had to set an example and keep his mouth shut because he was the newbie. This year, it’s a little different. It’s his team now.”
Backing up Hood will be rising junior Noah Altman, who led the junior varsity team to its second consecutive undefeated season and conference championship in 2017. Jones says Altman “understands that he’s the next guy up” and is working towards getting up to speed on how the game is played at the varsity level.
“Noah, even from the end of last year, has improved dramatically,” Jones says. “He’s progressing through the spring and has gotten a lot better in a short amount of time, so we need him to continue doing that all the way up into August.”
Richmond’s offensive and defensive units battled during the opening day 7-on-7, as both made a few big plays that got their teammates excited. Hood and Altman found receivers streaking down the field that would’ve been good enough for a first down or a score in a real game, and the defense intercepted a couple of passes that could’ve also gone for six.
While that was going on, a college scout from East Carolina University made his way down to the furthest practice field to get a good look at rising senior Malik Stanback, a wide receiver who was named all-conference after finishing last season with a team-leading 35 receptions and 751 receiving yards to go along with five touchdowns.
“It’s probably going to be several of those (scouts) coming out here. Malik is generating some interest and we’ve got some other rising seniors generating interest as well,” he added. “The attention is great, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t come out here and perform.”
Spring practice is scheduled for the rest of this week and all of next week, but Till and his coaching staff may be forced to make some changes due to the weather forecast calling for rain or thunderstorms until next Monday.
“It was good to get out here and relax and just have some fun coaching,” he added. “The kids may feel like I’m not having fun sometimes when I’m hollering at them, but I love this game and it’s a lot of fun being out here with these guys.
“I feel like we had a pretty good first day.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.