Reinhardt is set to begin its first football season, and newness permeates everything and everyone associated with the program.
“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s brand spanking new,” sophomore middle linebacker Chas Pierce said. “I mean our socks are even new.”
Coach Danny Cronic, hired in March 2011, said that starting a program from the ground up suits him well, and many things are new to him even though he has more than 36 years of coaching experience.
After spending 2012 scrimmaging and practicing only against each other, the Eagles open the season with every position up for grabs.
“I dream dreams and have visions, but I also recognize that experience is a key factor, and we probably don’t have more than one or two players who have played in a college football game,” Cronic said.
With 30 years of experience as a head coach, Cronic is back to roots he has known since the 1970s, when he was head coach for Cherokee High School.
“There’s a tremendous amount of youth involved here,” Cronic said. “We’re going to be playing against sophomores, juniors and seniors. So that’s somewhat of a disadvantage, but it’s also an advantage because the (freshman) are getting on the field.”
Reinhardt plays its first game Aug. 31 at Mercer, also a new program playing its first game that day.
Since starting his coaching career, 14 players he has coached have gone on to the NFL, including former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking, whom Cronic coached him at East Coweta High in the early 1990s. He also won the Region 6-AAAA championship with LaGrange High School in 1983 as head coach.
With that experience, Cronic is confident in his ability to put Reinhardt in a position to be successful. “I know we have offensive and defensive goals, but if I can just get (the players) to do the best they can then that’s my goal,” he said.
The entire team redshirted last season and practiced for only five weeks. The Panthers have more than 80 freshman on the roster, with no seniors and one junior.
Freshman outside linebacker Tyler Martin said being part of a first-year program is a dream come true. “It’s a lot of hard work,” Wilson said. “We busted it this past year, and we’re getting better. The speed of the game is a little bit faster, and size-wise it’s a lot different than high school.”
Cronic’s concern at the start is that his players understand who they are and how to motivate one another.
“There will be one thing that won’t happen,” Cronic said, “you can’t practice the first game. You won’t have that experience until you get there.”
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