Jacob Peters spent much of this week with a snow shovel in his hands.
Vaughn Taylor didn't think about the cold temperatures, ice or snow.
Peters, Taylor and the rest of Morehead State's football team have one thing on their minds – finally playing a game. The Eagles are scheduled to take on James Madison – the 2019 Football Championship Series runner-up — at noon Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
“We're very excited to get back on the field, to get back together,” said Taylor, a senior defensive end from Washington. “The goal is still the same even with the short season – to win the PFL (Pioneer Football League) championship.”
Morehead State begins its 91st football season. The Eagles have not played since a 31-16 loss to Stetson on Nov. 23, 2019.
“All the offseason work we put in, I think everyone was just focused on ourselves and what we would do,” said Peters, a redshirt junior tight end from Canal Winchester, Ohio.
At Wednesday's virtual Media Day, Morehead State coach Rob Tenyer talked about the difficulties – virtual meetings, making sure his team was sound physically and mentally – of managing a team in a COVID pandemic. He was quicker to talk about successes – and what was good: the 74 players who earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average, with nine at a perfect 4.0, a deep, experienced defense and bringing in 20 players during last fall's early signing period who normally would be considering bigger programs.
“It's been very unorthodox, to say the least,” said Tenyer, who begins his eighth season. “We got 14, 15 practices in and had a lot of time spent on strength and conditioning.
“It feels like it's been two years since we've been playing football.”
With no football for so long, other more important issues emerged.
“There was a lot of concerns and issues going on in society,” Tenyer said. “We spent a lot of time talking about social injustice, equity and what it meant to be part of this football team.”
Taylor, an African American, remembers the conversations.
“It was pretty good. It was really breaking down barriers,” Taylor said. “You learned a lot about your teammates through those talks.”
Peters, who is white, added: “Everyone has a different perspective and has different experiences.”
Tenyer said the ultimate spring season goal is to play a lot of players.
“It's not little league where everybody gets to play, but we want, with this long of a gap in between playing football, you've got to be smart with the physical part of the game, the mental part of the game,” he said. “Our goal is, we're going to play a lot of bodies.”
Five new assistants debut: Harris Bivin (offensive line), Will Kirkendall (cornerbacks/co-special teams coordinator), Matt Adolph (outside linebackers/co-special teams coordinator), Nick Wilson (running backs) and Valin Kattoula (administrative assistant/offensive line quality control.
Tenyer wants a more productive running game; the Eagles averaged 164 yards rushing in 2019. Redshirt senior Isaiah Aguero, who ran for 958 yards and seven touchdowns in '19, returns.
Redshirt junior quarterback Mark Pappas (2,327 yards, 19 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 57.4% completion average, 137.3 efficiency rating) is back. Junior Ian Holder (34 catches, 398 yards, two touchdowns) and senior DeVonte Adams (27 catches, 440 yards, 2 TDs) are the top two returning receivers.
Morehead State will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Taylor likes the move.
“It gives a lot of guys a chance to show their versatility,” Taylor said. “I'll be pretty much a speed rusher. I've played in both defenses; my first year here, we were 4-3.
“It's not something totally new to me.”
After Saturday, the Eagles are off until a trip to Presbyterian College on March 13 in Clinton, South Carolina. There are only three home games: Stetson at noon March 20, Valparaiso at noon April 10 and Butler on April 17.
As for James Madison …
“Last time they played was 2019, last time we played was 2019,” Tenyer said. “They're going to be a new team and Morehead State's going to be a new team.
“This is kind of a warmup, too, because we go back in the fall to play them again.”