Marie Collop, Campus Carrier Assistant Sports Editor
The Vikings football program is making strides to success by hiring a new linebacker coach, Eric Garcia, and acquiring 42 newcomers.
After being the linebacker and running back coach at Colby College in Maine for eight years, Garcia will continue to coach linebackers for the Vikings. He was drawn to Berry because he saw the opportunity to help cultivate the new program.
Tony Kunczewski, the head football coach, said Garcia will be a good fit with the coaching staff. Garcia said that like Kunczewski, he invests in each player to help develop them on and off the field. Garcia said he likes to focus on life philosophy just as much as football.
“They give us four years, we want to give them 40 years,” Garcia said.
Another attribute that Garcia possesses is his ability to recruit at the national level.
“He has had great experience being able to recruit in a similar environment at Colby College,” Kunczewski said.
Both Kunczewski and the athletic director, Tom Hart, said Garcia’s intensity and energy set him apart from the other candidates.
Along with the addition of Garcia, the football program added 42 freshmen this season. Kunczewski said with the addition of this second recruiting class comes competition between teammates.
“Competition will breed success,” Kunczewski said.
| Jason Huynh, Photojournalism Editor
New linebacker coach Eric Garcia looks onto practice during the first days of pre-season.
He was hired over the summer to fill a vacancy. He will mainly be in charge of
coaching linebackers and will assist in recruiting new players.
Not only do the freshmen add more competition, they also add the physical element of height.
“When you’re starting a program from scratch, you want to bring in quality, but there is also a quantity issue,” Kunczewski said, “This freshman class is half the size of the first class.”
With a new incoming class comes different expectations for the season. Both Kunczewski and Hart focus on measuring success qualitatively.
“Last year may be characterized by planting the seeds, this year we’re beginning to tend the crop,” Hart said on this season’s expectations.
Like Hart, Kunczewski believes that improvements from last season won’t necessarily be found in the win column.
“That is never going to be the ultimate litmus test, how many wins you have; it’s always going to be about how you are improving on and off the field,” Kunczewski said.
He also said that daily competition at drills during practice will be the best preparation for success on Saturdays.
When asked about how this season will look different from last, Hart said, “Last year, it was new for everybody, players, coaches, trainers. This year, there is already a knowledge base.”
Last year, there were three players with college football experience on the team. This year, there are 66.
“I’ve been really happy with the way our returners have bonded with the new guys,” Kunczewski said.
Along with the newfound experience, the players are in better physical condition.
“Almost all the returners, their numbers were up from the spring whether it be in the weight room or conditioning tests,” Kunczewski said. “We have significantly less injuries than we had a year ago.”
With 42 new players coming onto the squad, there are some that stand out to the coaching staff. “So far, freshmen Jalen Tuggle (running back), Sam Wood (offensive tackle), and Austin Haight (corner), have really opened some eyes,” Kunczewski said.
The football team plays their first game Saturday, Sept. 6th at Maryville College in Tennessee.