Charlotte football cannot tackle the fall season without first tackling the spring season. This week, the team announced that there will be a spring football game held in Jerry Richardson Stadium in front of a limited crowd. The team's second week of spring practice ended on April 9.
"I am so excited to be able to have a spring game," said head coach Will Healy during his press conference this week.
With all the protocols and safety measures that have to be taken during a pandemic, this is not something to scoff at. While some may think it is just another spring season for football players, during Covid, nothing is guaranteed. To be able to have a spring game during these circumstances is quite a feat of its own.
There will still be limited capacity, but as coach Healy mentioned, having a spring game is exciting enough. "I felt like this is a stadium upgrade because we have added to the capacity," he said.
The game will be held on April 24 at 12 p.m., and there will be 3,890 people allowed to attend the game. This game's capacity is approximately four times the amount that was allowed during the previous fall season and is just one step closer to normality.
How are the players progressing so far?
After just a couple of weeks of spring practice thus far, Coach Healy applauded many newcomers on the defensive end. The 49ers lost key players such as Ben DeLuca on defense. It can be tough to rebuild instantly, but the players the coaching staff recruited are now in place to really keep the defense on track.
"We need to go out and practice every day like we have a chip on our shoulder," said Healy. He believes that they have had several solid days of practice over the past week. Some days were not up to par, but the team is progressing every day.
"The great part about it is, we are not in September yet," Healy added. "It is all about getting reps in for the new guys."
The team will have 15 opportunities to do just that between practices and scrimmages over the next few weeks to ensure that everyone knows the scheme and their duties, which is a top priority during the early parts of the spring season.
Quarterback competition brewing in the Queen City
With the addition of transfer James Foster from Texas A&M over the offseason, many 49er faithful wonders will get the start of September. Coach Healy values leadership, so it is a feasible conclusion that Chris Reynolds will keep his job at starter, but he has guys pushing him in practice.
"I really like what I have seen out of James Foster," said Healy. "He is progressing very quickly and throws the ball extremely well."
Foster was a four-star recruit when he committed to Texas A&M, and for many, it was quite a shock whenever he announced he was transferring to Charlotte. It seems as if he has made an instant impression on Healy and could be a valuable asset for the team as they head into the 2021 season.
It's not 100% who will start at quarterback for the team until September, but what is known is that Reynolds, Foster and Dom Shoffner will all bring out the best in one another. Healy and his staff have great options to decide the best fit.
2021 season outlook
With the pandemic still an ongoing worry, there is caution when approaching this season for the team.
"We aren't out of the woods yet, but we are getting closer to a sense of normalcy," said Healy.
Being able to let the players experience having more fans in the stadium and get that atmosphere back is a big boost to the team because after 2020 prohibited those experiences. Charlotte only played two home games in front of limited capacity crowds last year.
"The damage from a mental health perspective these last 14 months is unbelievable," Healy added.
The pressures that the pandemic has put on the team is astronomical. Football was the first collegiate sport to be played during the pandemic. When everything shut down in March of 2020, the first sport back was football. The constant testing and stress that the pandemic has put on them are often overlooked.
Along with the ability to get extra reps in, this year's spring game will allow players to experience a bit of normalcy that they have not been able to experience for a while.
With the continual progression, the hope is that 2021 will resemble 2019, where the 49ers made their first bowl appearance in program history. All the pieces are present; now, it is time to put the puzzle together and hope that Covid does not rear its ugly head during the 2021 season.