College Football: U-Mary players, coaches discuss how they created a new culture

National Sports

In about 48 hours away, the U-Mary football team will play the first game in the Craig Bagnell coaching era. I spent time with the first-year head coach and players to find out what’s different about the new regime.

“The vibe on campus and the vibe in town,” Jarad Zittleman said. “You can tell the people are excited about Marauders football.”

Craig Bagnell was tasked with turning around a program that only won three games in the past three seasons.

“The first thing you have to have is leadership and accountable,” Bagnell said. “If you don’t have leadership and accountability, then there is no culture to create.”

So Craig challenged his players over the offseason to stay on campus and improve their bodies and hone their skills.

“They are people that are going to find a solution and make it work and there are people that are going to quit,” Bagnell said. “The guys that are finding a solution are the guys that are here.”

Sophomore wide receiver Luke Little is a returning player who can see a change.

“I think the culture and energy has definitely started to change,” Little said. “Everyone is really excited about this year. The coaches are big on being positive.”

Practices also move a lot faster.

“Uptempo all the time,” Little said. “Hustling between drills. Hustling between plays and especially during the play.”

The word team also came up a lot during interviews. Players say coaches are stressing coming together as one.

“Team aspect,” Zittleman said. “It’s all about us as a team. We’ll do things together all the time. We’re always together in meetings and that’s football.”

and the strategy is working.

“This group here has a special bond,” Zittleman said. “Everyone here is excited. We are all brothers now.”

U-Mary opens the season Thursday on the road against St. Cloud State.

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