One of the rites of passage of springtime is just a day away on the campus of the University of Toledo: spring football.
The Rockets will take to the field for 15 days of practicing and scrimmaging, as they do every year, but the location for some of their workouts will be much different this season.
UT will kick off spring ball at 3 p.m. tomorrow on the indoor practice field at the new Fetterman Training Center adjacent to Savage Arena.
"Having this in the new Fetterman is a great start for the new era," UT coach Tim Beckman said yesterday. "I saw Hal and Sue [Fetterman] last week during our spring break when I was down there speaking to an alumni group in Fort Myers, [Fla.]. And I went up to them and gave them the biggest hug I think they've ever had before, because we've had a great opportunity at getting ourselves better through winter workouts in this facility."
In the past if they wanted to work on actual football skills during the winter in addition to their conditioning programs, the Rockets had to find open time at the student recreation center or Savage Arena.
Now, players can throw, run routes, and kick on a football field instead of a basketball court.
"This indoor facility is awesome," said senior Alex Pettee, who will compete with three others for the starting spot at quarterback after the graduation of Aaron Opelt.
"We used to try to go to the rec and throw, but there's not much room in there. I think this year we kind of kept our skills on the same level as the other teams that have indoor facilities, so I think we have to have a better advantage going into the upcoming season."
Spring practices also were held exclusively at the Glass Bowl in years past, even in the always unpredictable weather of March and April.
And while UT will still hold the majority of its workouts outdoors, Beckman said at least the first two practices will be held in the Fetterman.
"This is just a gorgeous facility," Beckman said. "It suits every purpose that you could need as a football coach and as a football player."
ROSTER SHAKEUPS: Beckman announced a few roster additions and subtractions since he last met with the media on national signing day in early February.
Cornerback Andreas Ashwood and offensive lineman Chris Meenan have opted to leave the program. Ashwood played in all 12 games last season, making two starts and finishing with 13 tackles and one interception. Meenan played in two games in 2009 as a reserve and chose to graduate in May instead of using his fifth year of eligibility.
Beckman added that redshirt freshman offensive lineman Manny Bell also is considering transferring.
The Rockets welcomed cornerback Diauntae Morrow, a transfer from Iowa who will have to sit out the upcoming season per NCAA rules.
Morrow joins wide receiver Cordale Scott, an Illinois transfer who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility this season, four freshmen, and two junior college transfers.
"I think they've all done really well," Beckman said. "For a young man to come in in January and not know anybody and jump in and get involved in the program, it's new to them.
"You could see them progress each and every day of workouts."
INJURY UPDATES: Two returning starters on defense will be forced to sit out spring practices, Beckman said.
Senior defensive end Alex Johnson (knee) and sophomore cornerback Daxton Swanson (shoulder) are still recovering from offseason surgeries but are expected to be fully healthy by the fall.