PERU — The 2019 St. Bede Bruins football team was certainly a sight to behold at the players' first official day of practice on Monday.
Going through their workouts on freshly cut turf, the question was whether there were more players on the grass, or more grass on the players.
Regardless, with every blast of the whistle, the 45 Bruins in attendance were on the move, eager to show head coach Jim Eustice (in his fifth year leading the St. Bede football program) what he has to work with this season.
Eustice saw positive things in his players already.
"We've got a really good group of kids that work hard and really seem to like each other," he said. "You know, that's half the battle, making sure you've got guys that are gonna be good teammates and root each other on, and I think we're going to have that here.
"We're very young and inexperienced, but they want to be coached, so it helps offset that."
A new addition to the coaching staff provided a reunion of sorts for Eustice.
"We added Nick McLaughlin, who I coached when I was at Marquette," he said. "He spent the last four years at L-P (as track coach) and now the new Tonica Grade School principal, and he's coming to help me now.
"We've kept in touch over the years, so getting to have a player from 10 years ago come and help me is a neat thing."
The Bruins, who were 4-5 and 2-4 last season, suffered their own share of graduation losses and prefer to focus on what is being gained for this fall.
"We've got more than a handful of kids that you can tell have been working hard," Eustice said. "We've had probably the best summer in the weight room since I've been here, as far as attendance and effort.
"Right now, Trevor Mooney has been a good leader coming back, and Nick Lough's been an absolute terror in the weight room in the off-season and had a good winter wrestling. Expecting good things from them both as two of our leading seniors."
The Bruins start off the new season with high hopes, hosting Morrison in a non-conference matchup on Aug. 30, but one team will be getting extra attention from the St. Bede players and coaches.
"I don't think anybody (in the conference) thinks that Princeton's not gonna be the team to beat on our side," Eustice said. "And after that, Monmouth's always good, Sherrard could be improved, and E-P had a lot of numbers last year.
"You just don't know who's done what and how things are going to happen, with injuries and things like that, but we expect to be in the mix there."