And we’re off.
Players reported to check out equipment Saturday at St. John’s – three weeks in advance of the Johnnies first game against Northwestern (Minn.), scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sept. 1 at Clemens Stadium
Assistant coach Gary Fasching said 197 players were expected to report in all. Players will be timed in the 40-yard dash beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday. Team pictures will follow before the first practice of the season gets underway at 3:30 p.m. at Clemens Stadium.
A few notes from check-in day:
* Cornerback Alex Powell, who started all 10 games for the Johnnies in 2010, saw action in only two a year ago because of a hamstring injury that nagged him all season. He then missed baseball season last spring with a broken left wrist. But he said Saturday that he expects to be on the field participating when practice starts Sunday.
“It’s getting better,” Powell said of his left wrist. “It’s not 100 percent. But I’m doing exercises and I can put more pressure on it. I should be ready to go.”
Powell said he will take a proactive approcach to staying healthy this preseason.
“I’ll be doing a lot more stretching and making sure I get loosened up,” Powell said. “I’ve been running a decent amount this summer just to get ready.”
* Defensive end Nate Blenker started the first two games of the season last fall before a knee injury ended his year. But he was back on the field during spring workouts and said Saturday that he enters this season 100 percent.
He is expected to move from defensive end to defensive tackle this fall.
* Johnnies coach John Gagliardi is beginning his 60th season in Collegeville this fall, and his 64th season overall as a collegiate head coach. But he isn’t getting philosophical about that number.
“I guess it just means I’ve been here a long time,” said Gagliardi, whose 484 career victories are the most in college football history.
“What’s different now (from his first season with the Johnnies in 1953) is that I have a lot of capable guys coaching with me who can do a lot of this stuff (like handing out equipment). Back then, I was kind of a one-man band.
“But we only had 42 guys on that first team, so I could handle it more easily. Now I’m trying to remember 197 names and put them together with faces. It’s not as easy to get them all down as it was with that first team I had here.”