Spring football practices and games are winding down around the country.
Sights are being firmly set on Aug. 30 and the first Saturday of the college football regular season.
Two former St. Clairsville Red Devils recently completed their first round of spring drills in the Big Ten Conference.
Dan Monteroso and Michael Ferns took part in conditioning and drills at Purdue and Michigan, respectively.
MONTEROSO enjoyed a solid freshman season for the Boilermakers, despite having much of it cut short with a broken collarbone he suffered during camp last August.
The Boilermakers, who were strapped for playmakers on offense last season, elected not to redshirt Monteroso. He played in just a handful of games and didn't catch a pass.
A losing season and not contributing were totally new concepts to Monteroso, who helped lead the Red Devils to the Division IV State Championship Game in 2012.
"We don't talk about the 2013 season, but it's certainly in all of our minds," Monteroso said during a phone interview. "We struggled last year, obviously. We're going to put that behind us, but still use it as a motivator."
Monteroso certainly used his freshman season as motivation into the spring workouts. He was moved into the slot for the first time in his career and earned the respect of his coaches and won the "Newcomer Award." It's chosen by the Purdue coaching staff of a player, who is in his first spring drills.
"I got really comfortable (in the slot), but it was a tough adjustment at first," Monteroso said. "There's a lot of freedom in there."
While he was honored by the recognition, it's just another part of the motivation.
" I just have to keep working and keep getting better," Monteroso said. "The coaches now expect me to play at a high level, so that's what I am going to work to do."
During the Boilermakers' spring game, Monteroso caught two passes.
"I had 14 good practices (during the spring), but one bad practice and it's that one that continues to motivate me," Monteroso said. "As a team, we've progressed really well."
Classes are winding down at Purdue. The term ends in a little less than three weeks and Monteroso will be home for about three weeks before returning to campus to begin preparations for the 2014 season.
"It's going to be nice to re-charge," Monteroso said. "I feel a little sore physically, but I always have to try to stay into it mentally. I will come back in June ready to go."
FERNS enrolled at Michigan in January after graduating early so he could be on campus for winter conditioning and spring practice.
Unfortunately for him, he was slowed during spring drills with a lingering hamstring problem.
"About halfway through winter conditioning, I came up with the hamstring issue," Ferns said. "I went through the first few spring practices, and it seemed fine, but I re-aggravated it and missed half of the practices we had."
Rather than getting the on-field reps, Ferns became a full-time student of the game.
"I tried to do all of my catching up in the meeting room, through extra film study to make up for the missed practices," Ferns said. "Other than the injury, it was an enjoyable spring and I am definitely glad I came up here (early)."
Whether or not Ferns will redshirt this season is still up in the air. The same for whether or not he'll travel when the Wolverines go on the road.
"Camp will still decide those things," Ferns said. "I didn't get to prove what I wanted, so I look forward to being able to make a statement during camp and getting playing time as soon as I can."
Ferns did see time in the Michigan spring game, which was held more than two weeks ago.
"Our spring game was more of a practice because the first half of it was drill work and then there was a scrimmage portion," Ferns said. "It was fun being in uniform in the stadium, though. I had wished for a little bit better weather."
Ferns saw action on four plays as part of the "third group."
"The ones and twos got most of the reps," Ferns said. "I've realized that you can't get down on yourself or anything. You have to deal with whatever comes your way. We have a strong group of linebackers with a great deal of experience, so I just have to be patient and learn all I can from those guys.
While his classmates at St. Clairsville are winding down their high school careers and looking ahead to graduation, Ferns isn't sure when he'll be back to Belmont County.
"I won't be home for an extended period of time for a while," Ferns said. "Obviously, it's different being away from your family, but moving away was sort of made easier because of how close of a group of guys we have up here."
Ferns, who was a standout student at St. C., indicated his first semester of classes has gone well, but he's also realized some things.
"I may have taken too hard of a schedule coming in," Ferns admitted. "I need to be able to balance things a little more, but that's all part of the learning process."
While no one has any idea just how long Reno Saccoccia plans on coaching at Steubenville, it appears Big Red may have found his eventual successor.
Todd Filtz was hired as a teacher and will join the Big Red coaching staff for the upcoming season. Filtz was most recently the head coach at Canton McKinley High School, leading the Bulldogs to a pair of playoff berths.
Prior to accepting that position, he was the head coach at Maple Heights. He led it to a Division II state championship and state runnerup finish.
Big Red's coaching staff has always been amongst the area's and state's best. Adding Filtz is simply an incredible hire.
I texted with Filtz Thursday afternoon and he told me he had some other opportunities, too. However, returning to Big Red, where he played his prep ball, was simply too good to pass up.
He won the All-Ohio Track Classic last weekend in Cincinnati. He threw 61-ft-7 and was named GLIAC Athlete of the Week for his efforts.