OGDEN — The sun beat down unobstructed upon the artificial surface of Weber State’s field at Stewart Stadium.
Sprinklers splashed the football field to cool it down as players took a 10-minute break before entering the final sessions of their two-hour practice.
Head coach Jay Hill spoke up. “This is as hot as it will be at kickoff in our opener at Utah,” he said wryly. “So get used to it!”
When the final sessions were over, players rushed to the middle of the field with some hollers. Day 1 of fall camp was over.
“It felt great to get out there and just get back into the swing of things,” senior fullback Brady May said. “You’ve got to ... put new pieces into the puzzle for the ones we lost last year, and just mold together and establish a new identity with the new guys ... I feel like we’re in a good spot for where we’re at.”
Hill spent at least five minutes with his team huddled after practice, asking them for maximum effort and to trust the process as camp continues.
“We’re not supposed to be at our height right now, we still have a long way to go,” May said. “You’ve just gotta trust the process, trust the coaches, do our assignments and things will fall into place.
Senior linebacker LeGrand Toia said Hill asked his players to take control.
“We have to step up and take over the team. It can’t be a coach-based team,” Toia said. “He wants us, the leaders of the players, to step up and show the younger people the ropes.”
The big question, of course, is who will rise up and take the job at starting quarterback.
“I wouldn’t even be willing to comment on that for another week or two,” Hill said. “I want to see those guys compete. I want to see them when they have a good day, I want to see them when they have a bad day, and I want to see how they respond.”
As Hill was not willing to parse the quarterback pecking order, it also wasn’t apparent through drills and offensive sets who might be in the No. 1 spot. Each passer took turns going first, some got more reps here, some more reps there.
Senior Rathen Ricedorff, redshirt sophomore Braden Miles and redshirt freshman Kaden Jenks were the main players in spring ball, and each showed well at given times.
But Wednesday also brought the first day of practice for sophomore transfer Jake Constantine and freshman Kylan Weisser, who each had their good moments.
Constantine drew praise from both Hill and sophomore receiver Rashid Shaheed, the latter saying “he’s going to be a special player for us,” and adding he has good chemistry with several passers. Hill said the quarterbacks “look like they’ve done a good job developing this summer.”
The team is plugging along at learning Dave Schramm’s offense — the new playcaller on board this year after the departure of Fesi Sitake — with a similar power run game but a new set of receiver routes in the passing game.
“We’re executing a lot better and learning more every day, so it’s coming out nice,” Shaheed said.
The practice began with drills at each position, eventually coming together for several 11-on-11 sets to close the day. The defensive secondary was active, particularly Keilan Benjamin, in deflecting passes, but the offense whooped it up when Ricedorff dropped a deep throw between defenders to Martrel Holmes for a 25-yard completion on a post route.
Personnel-wise, the roster was as expected, as other freshmen like AJ Allen, Devon Cooley, Marque Collins and Kris Jackson got their feet wet in practice for the first time.
That also includes senior linebacker Landon Stice, who sat out most of spring camp for precautionary reasons due to concussion concerns but did stay with the program. He was second-team all-Big Sky last season despite battling injuries.
“Landon’s one of the best FCS linebackers in the country,” Hill said. “To have him back, he’s a leader, he’s a great player for us, he’s athletic. He gives up a matchup with other people’s skill positions like their running backs, their athletic tight ends.
“Having him out there is huge. I suspect he’ll have a great senior year,” Hill said.
WSU continues fall camp through August before opening the season Aug. 30 at Utah.