JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman College football team held its first full-contact, full-pad scrimmage Saturday morning inside Burke-Tarr Stadium and they made it count. According to Ken Sparks, who will begin his 33rd season as the Eagles' head coach, it was the longest football practice in team history, at three hours and 56 minutes counting the team meetings that morning.
It was the first action many Eagles players had seen since early in the season as injuries hit Carson-Newman hard in 2011 at nearly every position.
"A lot of young guys had a chance to line up and get some reps," Sparks said. "They responded pretty well. We got it on video and have a whole lot of pictures to look at. We've got a long way to go, but the effort was good and the attitude was good."
C-N opened spring practice Wednesday with helmets and shorts and followed that with another shells and shorts practice Thursday. Saturday was the first chance for the team to collide and that they did, finishing practice with a physical Carson-Newman victory drill.
The Eagles got their first look at their two transfer quarterbacks in the scrimmage, though College of San Mateo transfer Miles Freeman (Sacramento, Calif.) was held out of full contact drills as he continues to recover from minor surgery in his non-throwing shoulder.
Bowling Green transfer David Freeman (Detroit, Mich.) saw his first action as well, as did last year's early-season starting quarterback Johnny Foster (Roebuck, S.C.), who missed the second half of 2011 with an injured ankle.
"We've got some guys that have really improved from last year and we've got two new guys that have come in here and are fighting like crazy," Sparks said. "We've got four or five guys that are really going to compete for the job. We've just got to keep working and get better."
The Eagles will hold three more full-contact practices and Sparks will use all of them as full-team scrimmages, culminating in the annual Orange and Blue game on March 15.
This weekend Carson-Newman will hold its annual coaches' clinic beginning Friday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Fen. 26. Guest speakers include Louisiana State University and former University of Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis and University of Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze. The Eagles will hold a special practice Saturday morning as part of the clinic.
In each section of the season, Sparks and his coaches choose a theme and this spring's is based on Psalm 139: 23-24.
"'Heart, Head and Hands' is our theme for this spring," Sparks said. "We want to do right with our heart, do right with our head and do right with our hands. One leads the other. If we believe right, then we'll probably think right and if we think right, we'll probably do right."