MACOMB, Il. (WGEM) -- It's still early in the practice schedule on the campus of Western Illinois University, but things are beginning to take form for first year head coach Bob Nielson and the Leathernecks.
Nielson isn't new to stepping into a program with a recent history of struggles, most notably in 2008 when his Minnesota-Duluth squad won the Division-2 National Championship after a sub .500 record the previous season.
While Nielson is pleased with the early progress at Hanson Field, he continues to be humble about expectations for his young team.
"We're an exceptionally young football team," he expressed.
"I can tell you from 20 plus years of being a head coach, the one good thing about being a young team is that young football teams can improve very rapidly."
One area where Western should be in good shape is at offensive tackle, and running back, where Jimmy Holtschlag will returns to anchor the right tackle position, and Nikko Watson will start in the backfield coming off of a 1,000-yard season.
Holtschlag says adapting to a new system has been a mostly smooth transition, and completion has added an extra element to the early practices.
"Right now we've got a lot of competition, and that's getting everybody to work harder than I've ever seen," said Holtschlag.
"So it's just about coming together full circle as a really powerful offense."
Monday was the first padded practice of the fall for the Leathernecks, who still have position battles on-going, especially at the quarterback position with six on the roster.
Nielson and his staff should have plenty of time to sort out the depth chart, leading up to Western's season opening game on August 29th against Hampton at Hanson Field in Macomb.