The Dayton Flyers have had a fairly typical spring football practice season with one exception — almost everybody else in the Pioneer Football League is playing games that count this spring.
Dayton and Marist opted out of the six-game season, announcing their decisions in January. Six other league members, plus Presbyterian, which joined the league as part of a scheduling agreement for this spring, started a six-game season March 13.
“It is a little tough when you first see it,” Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said Monday, “but I thought our administration and everybody involved in the decision making really laid it out for the team leading right up to the decision about how tough (playing) was going to be. And I think the players see all that you would have had to do to get to that point. It’s all about preparation — physical preparation and your football preparation. I don’t know how sharp we would have been going into it, and I think our I really believe our players feel good about having that opportunity to get better, to be able to perform at a at a higher level.”
Dayton was scheduled to play two scrimmages against other Ohio colleges not playing spring seasons. The first was scheduled to be played Saturday in Springfield, but Wittenberg had to pull out of the game because of COVID-19 issues on its roster. Dayton is still scheduled to play Ashland at 1 p.m. April 17, at Welcome Stadium.
The scrimmage will be a normal game in many ways.
“The only little variances will be no tackling of the quarterback,” Chamberlin said. “There will be limited special teams with kickoffs and kickoff returns, fair catching punts and just starting the ball wherever that may be. It’ll be four quarters and officiated, and we’ll be trying to score touchdowns.”
Through Sunday, Dayton had held 10 of its 18 spring practices. Nine of the 18 will be full-contact practices. The first practice was held March 22, and the spring season will end with scrimmage against Ashland. To make up for the lost scrimmage against Wittenberg, Dayton will hold an intrasquad scrimmage this Saturday.
The biggest challenge this spring, Chamberlin said, is getting reps for a roster that numbers around 100. In normal years, the spring roster has fewer players than the fall roster. That hasn’t been the case this year.
“We’ve had a great retention of our freshmen from this past year,” Chamberlin said, “and six or seven of our seniors have decided to come back.”
Asked who has stood out, Chamberlin started with quarterback Jack Cook, a senior who has the sixth-best career pass efficiency rating in Football Championship Subdivision history.
“He’s been very sharp,” Chamberlin said. “He knows the offense. His arm looks good.”
Chamberlin also praised junior running back Jake Chisolm, who led FCS football in all-purpose yardage (204.3 yards per game) in 2019, and senior safety Brandon Easterling, a Fairborn graduate who led FCS football in solo tackles (7.5 per game) in 2019.
“We’re limiting Jake and his reps right now because he’s looking so good right now and sharp in the offense,” Chamberlin said. “Brandon is a take-charge kind of a guy,. and he’s really helping our defense in leadership and playmaking.”