Anxious to pick up where they left off last season, Stony Brook's football players arrived well ahead of schedule for their first official practice. The warm summer sun did not seem to slow the tempo during Monday's fast-paced workout in LaValle Stadium.
"Everybody was on the field 45 minutes early,'' coach Chuck Priore said, "so obviously they were excited about being here."
Perhaps it is because the team is driven. The Seawolves are coming off their first appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, beating Albany in the first round last season before losing to then-top ranked and undefeated Sam Houston, 34-27, in the second round.
"The last time we were on the field we lost a game in the last minute of the fourth quarter,'' Priore said of that outcome. "You lose a game in the last minute of the fourth quarter, you've got to change that. You change that by practicing hard and being prepared, working the little things because at the end of the day the little things cost you games.''
Priore made that point clear Sunday night when his players arrived on campus.
Said offensive lineman Michael Bamiro: "We learned that we're a resilient team and that we can stack up with any of the best teams out there if we put our hearts into it, if we put our minds into our plays, if we focus on it.''
Expectations are high for a team that is loaded on offense -- keyed by running backs Miguel Maysonet and Iowa transfer Marcus Coker --and the probability that this is the university's last season in the Big South Conference, which the Seawolves are favored to win. Sources last week said Stony Brook will join the Colonial Athletic Association after this season. An official announcement is imminent.
Coker did not see much difference in the I-A practice world he left at Iowa, saying, "Pretty much same type of practice, intensity the same, skill level is the exact same. There really isn't much of a difference. You can just see in practice how everybody is hyped up, amped for this season.''
The beginning has been structured to yield a very meaningful end to the season.
"I think this team is ready to handle the notion that we should strive for goals that are expected of the best teams in the country,'' Priore said.
Maysonet added, "Our expectations are basically to win. We obviously want to build on what we did last year and go further into the playoffs and at the end of the day we want to win the national championship, but it all starts here. We have to prepare ourselves better than we did last year so we can make it further.''