Practice makes perfect: GVSU football takes the field for training camp, looks to improve from 2017

GVL / Emily Frye   
Coach Matt Mitchell during the game against Ferris State University on Saturday October 21, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Coach Matt Mitchell during the game against Ferris State University on Saturday October 21, 2017.

Kellen Voss

The dog days of summer have officially arrived and that means one thing: college football is back. Like many college teams across the country, Grand Valley State football camp is in full swing as the players train vigorously for the upcoming season.

After getting in condition for the season, the team has been working on situational plays such as third and long, red zone offense and defense, and the critical two-minute drill.

These young men are eager to get this season started and are currently working 15 hour days to acclimate themselves to the game again and improve off of a disappointing 2017 season.

“We start the day at 7:30 in the morning and we’re done by 10 p.m.,” said head coach Matt Mitchell. “That’s not just a whole day of practice. There’s lots of meetings, lots of lifting and walkthroughs, it’s a pretty long day for the guys.”

Spending almost every hour of the day with teammates allows a bond to create, and Mitchell loves the chemistry that has already been forming with his young team.

“We have really good unity, and we’re developing a lot of trust with each other,” Mitchell said. “Elite teams have elite trust, and through our leadership groups and team dinners, we’re continuing to build trust with each other every day.”

As of now, Mitchell is fairly certain that all the freshmen on the team will be redshirted, per usual. Mitchell mentioned a few guys who were redshirted last season who have looked like contributors in camp, such as running back Jack Provencher, defensive back Antonio Strong and tight end Jayk Slager.

While these young players have put on a show in camp, Mitchell was particularly impressed the leadership he’s seen in his upperclassmen.

“We have really good leadership at all three levels of the defense, and I especially love our depth on that side of the ball,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have a lot of leaders of offense, but the ones we do, like (quarterback) Bart Williams and (right tackle) Ben Walling, are quality.”

One thing that separates GVSU practice from a lot of other college practices is they play eleven on eleven often. As soon as the team is done stretching, Mitchell loves to get the ball rolling with running plays to wake guys up and get them ready for the Saturday night lights. 

This team’s main goal for the season is to simply improve from 2017. After finishing the season 8-3, GVSU missed the Division II playoff and had a rather disappointing season by their high standards. 

The first game of the 2018 season for the Lakers is a rematch with Indianapolis, a team that beat GVSU 24-20 last year. As important as this season opener is, Mitchell and his staff haven’t started game-planning for the Greyhounds quite yet since they want to focus on improving themselves first.

“We’ve solely been focusing on GVSU and the things we can control,” Mitchell said. “The three teams that beat us last year [won] off of self-inflicted errors, and as of right now, I’m more worried about our guys being as good as they can before I pay attention to the opposition.”

Mitchell sees many areas that the team needs to improve in, such as depth at linebacker and finding playmakers on offense to replace talented players like running back Marty Carter and tight end Nick Keizer.

The Lakers have a tough schedule ahead of them, but through hard work, the improvement of the redshirt freshmen and the leadership of the upperclassmen, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the Lakers improve upon their 2017 campaign.

“We have four playoff teams from last year on our schedule,” Mitchell said. “We’ve only had a handful of practices, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

GVSU opens their season at home against Indianapolis on Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.