Players report at SJU

Andrew Rose was just glad to be back on campus focusing on football Tuesday.

“It feels great,” said Rose, a junior returning starter at linebacker on the St. John’s football team. “I’m just ready to get back to playing football again.”

A disappointing 5-5 finish last season gave way to a crazy offseason in Collegeville. John Gagliardi retired after 60 seasons as head coach and longtime assistant Gary Fasching was hired to take his place.

Former Carleton head coach and Johnnies quarterback Kurt Ramler – also one of the finalists for the head job – joined the staff as the new offensive coordinator. And the team embarked on an extended spring practice period that included a spring game and a trip to Regina, Saskatchewan for a series of joint practices with a Canadian junior team.

“That really helped a lot,” senior tackle Pete Schwarz said. “Instead of just seeing some of the new things offensively on paper, we got the chance to experience them on the field in contact conditions with the spring game and playing against the Canadians. I think we all got a lot out of that.”

But beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday, things get started for real. And for the first time since 1953, a new head coach will take over at St. John’s as the team tries to regain its former position as an MIAC power after finishes of 7-3, 6-4 and 5-5 the past three seasons.

“I can feel the angst everybody has,” said senior Kevin Battis, a returning All-MIAC first-team pick at center. “We’re tired of being in categories we feel like we don’t belong in. We all want to be a championship-caliber football team and we all want to make that happen.”

* Fasching said 192 players reported in all Tuesday.

* Senior quarterback Connor Bruns — who was limited in spring workouts and unable to take part in contact drills due to offseason shoulder surgery — said he will be ready to go full-speed at the start of practice this fall. Bruns began last season as the starter, but suffered a shoulder injury in week four and was replaced by then-freshman Nick Martin, though Bruns returned to start the season finale after Martin injured an ankle.

The two are expected to compete for the starting job this preseason.

* Sophomore guard Ben Kuhr, who began last season as a starter before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament against St. Thomas in week three, said he will also be ready to go full-speed when practice begins Wednesday.

* Players are scheduled to be timed in the 40-yard dash and other drills beginning at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Head shots and position meetings will follow leading up to the start of practice at 3 p.m.

Frank Rajkowski

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