The return of Packer Pride?Published 7:02pm Sunday, August 25, 2013
When Austin head football coach Brett Vesel came to town from La Crescent last year, there were a lot of question marks with his new team.
Could the Packers snap a two-year losing streak?
Would players get in the weight room?
Could Vesel turn the program around?
The answer to first two questions is a definitive yes. The answer to the third one may be known within the next year or two. One thing is for sure: the Packers have bought in to Vesel’s system.
Austin senior linebacker Gabe Gerstner recalled seeing just one or two players on the whole team with 40-yard dashes under five seconds last season and this year he saw four or five players run that time in a row during practice.
“The kids are getting better and they all want to come out and compete,” Gerstner said. “Now we’re just perfecting what we learned (last year).”
The Packer football team has also put on some size. Offensive lineman Joe Grabau, who was the smallest lineman in the Big Nine last season, has put on 25 pounds, and plenty of the other Packers have bulked up as well.
“It’s night and day,” Vesel said of where the team is now to where it was last season. “We’ll find out how it will translate to wins and losses. But we’re so far ahead, it’s unbelievable. We’ve got a tough conference, but we look good right now.”
Equally important to the improved athleticism is the Packers’ familiarity with Vesel. The team had to learn a new system last season and now it’s only fine tuning what it already knows.
“It’s really good just to clean things up. Last year we were learning and now we’re executing,” Austin senior quarterback Ryan Synoground said. “We know what coach Vesel expects this year. He expects a high tempo and he wants us to give 100 percent. It’s been a good experience to be part of the program.”
Vesel also picked up a lot of experience himself last season. Coming from the HVL to the Big Nine, he wasn’t certain what he would see from opponents.
Now that he has seen most of the conference up close, he has a much better plan on what to prepare for.
“It’s big for me,” Vesel said. “I knew there were some good teams, but I didn’t know what they did. It’s a huge advantage to know what they’re doing.”
Austin senior Tony Baudler said the team will be more prepared this year than it ever was last season. He noted how players have watched film and their head coach is telling them what to look for.
“We’re going to know teams’ offenses better than they do,” Baudler said. “That’s how good Vesel is with film. That’s his life is to watch film.”
The Packers open their season at Faribault Friday at 7 p.m. and they play three of their first four games on the road. Austin’s home opener is against Mankato West Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.
•Aug. 30 at Faribault 7 p.m.
•Sept. 6 vs. Mankato West 7 p.m.
•Sept. 13 at Roch. John Marshall 7 p.m.
•Sept. 20 at Winona 7 p.m.
•Sept. 27 vs. Owatonna 7 p.m.
•Oct. 4 vs. Rochester Mayo 7 p.m.
•Oct. 11 at Albert Lea 7 p.m.
•Oct. 16 vs. Mankato East 7 p.m.