CHARLESTON, S.C. - The sun was shining down on Buccaneer Field as the Charleston Southern football team opened up the Mark Tucker era on Monday afternoon with the first day of spring practice.
"The team has been anxious to get out here," said CSU head coach Mark Tucker prior to the first practice. "We're ready to get on with business as usual. There are a lot of new relationships that need to be built and established on both sides of the ball, but spring ball has been a long-time coming and we're ready to get out there for the next four weeks."
CSU is scheduled to hold 15 practices from now through April 13. All midweek practices will start at 3:30 p.m., while the Saturday practices are scheduled to start at 10 a.m.
From the first whistle on Monday, there was excitement from both the players and the coaching staff to be back on the field after falling in the first round of the FCS Playoffs last season. The Bucs are looking to utilize their spring practice slate to continue to build on two straight Big South Championships and FCS Playoff berths.
"Our strengths are our strengths and our youth is our youth," Tucker commented. "We've got a lot of work to do and it is day one out here. We're outside our comfort zone with spring starting a little later than usual and the players are ready to go. We've got quality players on both sides of the ball and now we just need to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity that we have out here."
A new defensive staff is in place for CSU and the Bucs will look to new Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Zane Vance and his staff to continue to shape and mold a unit that has become one of FCS' premier defenses over the past four seasons.
Talent abounds in the front seven of the Blue Swarm with defensive end Anthony Ellis, the 2016 Big South Defensive Player of the Year, and linebacker Solomon Brown returning to lead a unit that finished seventh nationally in total defense last year, and capped the campaign with dominant efforts against Liberty, Kennesaw State, and Wofford.
Zane Cruz and Bobby Ruff, along with a host of defensive linemen, give Vance and company an excellent nucleus to build upon this spring as the Bucs make the transition to a base four-man front.
"It's awesome to come out," said rising senior linebacker Bobby Ruff. "We've been running and lifting since January. It's nice to start doing more football-related stuff, putting the helmets on, and working on the schemes. You have people wanting to compete this spring and competition breeds excellence."
Rising redshirt sophomore quarterback Shane Bucenell echoed Ruff's assessment and excitement to be back out on the field.
"It's good to be back out here and to get to work," Bucenell said. "I'm excited and happy to be here. There's a lot of things I can improve on this season and we're ready to get out here and work every single day."
The Bucs will be back on the field on Wednesday afternoon with their second helmets-only practice before transitioning to Shells on Friday. Saturday morning's practice will be the first of six full-pad practices in the 2017 spring season.