MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- As Bob Nielson approached Hanson Field for his first official practice as Western Illinois football coach on Wednesday afternoon, he joked "this feels like home."
He's referring to the cumbersome winters in Minnesota where he spent the last 13 years.
Nielson and the Leathernecks kicked off spring practice but it felt anything like spring and more like November.
However, the frigid temperatures are the least of Nielson's worries as he tries to turn around a program with a combined five wins the last two seasons.
He admits being a bit anxious.
"You find out a lot about your football team in the spring," Nielson said.
You identify strengths, identify the areas where you need to improve, and certainly for us, getting things installed with regard to the new system will be a priority."
Junior defensive back Martinez Davis raves about the new coaches.
"The thing about this (coaching) staff is the chemistry is so great. I really feel that we're extremely blessed to have them," Davis explained. "I'm just really ready to come out here and see how everything comes together."
Nielson added: "It's a unique situation where particularly offensively everybody is going to be learning. The opportunity for younger players to hit the ground running is really something that will present itself."
Western's focus over the next month starts with fundamentals.
Nielson wants his team to perfect the little things while continuing to build relationships with a new coaching staff. He also feels players can take their best step forward in their standing on the fall depth chart.
"I think the biggest points of emphasis for us as a coach to make sure we're a fundamentally sound football team that takes care of the things that are important to winning football," Nielson indicated.
And sophomore quarterback Hayden Northern plans to lead the charge.
"We put a big emphasis on our mechanics and that's probably the main thing we're focusing on other than running the offense," Northern said.
Junior running back Nikko Watson says spring football gives every player a clean slate.
"People who (didn't) play last year are trying to show the coaches that we can play football," Watson said.
"First impression is everything."
Spring practice concludes with the annual Bruce Craddock Memorial Spring Game under the lights on Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
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