Players stretch out prior to spring practices. Photo by Chris Crews

Spring has sprung which means spring practices for 49er football have started to crank up.

After a dismal 1-11 season, all eyes are on Charlotte to see what will become of the program. Head Coach Brad Lambert brought in new members to the coaching staff, new recruits and a new routine.

The 49ers started what Lambert described as ‘phase one’ of their off-season routine, back in January. This included early morning weights and conditioning for the team.

“We changed it a little bit in the off season, when you look at everything you did. You’re always evaluating things you did as a coach and our staff and our players. We did a little bit more morning stuff in what I call phase one in our off-season program, we wanted to get up and get our day started early,” Lambert said.

The team is using one-win season as a sort of motivation towards their early morning workouts.

“We want to prove a lot of people wrong, so we can actually be top contenders in this league,” Benny LeMay said.

Though the early mornings continue some days, LeMay describes the addition of spring practices as “definitely the fun part” of their work.

“Running, that’s the grind-time, that’s the time you dig in and show you really want to play this sport. Now’s the time you can kick back, relax and do what you’ve been doing your whole life,” LeMay said.

Throughout the off-season, a 1-11 record can loom over head for a program. Lambert says that it’s not adding any extra stress to the team.

“I think we always put pressure on ourselves to perform well and to play well. That’s what we do, that’s the business we’re in. We have high expectations for our team and for our program, our university. We apply a lot of pressure to ourselves every time we come out here,” Lambert said.

Players participate in drills during practice. Photo by Chris Crews

Over the past few months Lambert has filled the various open coaching positions on the team. Sean Montgomery came in as the new OC, Glenn Spencer and Chip West will serve as the defensive coordinators. There are also new coaches with the offensive line, James Adams and Brad Queen.

With a program that’s hit such a low last season, there was still excitement generated by the new coaches.

“That was the fun thing for me is there were a lot of guys interested in coming to Charlotte, that was exciting for me. We have a lot of positives here so everybody’s excited about coming here and helping us build this program,” Lambert said.

With the new coaches comes new concepts for the team.

“New voice in the building on both sides of the ball, new schemes and different ways of doing things. Everybody does it a little bit different. I’m excited about them as people and what they bring to the table,” Lambert said.

The one thing that makes Lambert excited about spring practice is the “energy” seen by his team. After having low numbers of active players last spring, the high volume of players that are participating in practices this spring puts a smile on his face.

“That’s the number one thing, is the guys are really excited about being out here and playing and let’s go establish something,” Lambert said.

The team has 18 starters returning, eight offensively and 10 defensively, including last year’s QB Hasaan Klugh, leading rusher Benny LeMay, leading receiver Mark Quattlebaum and leading tacklers Jeff Gemmell.

“The number one thing is we’ll see who our quarterback is. It may be different at that position, we have to find who our quarterback is going to be, we have to find some new wide receivers,” Lambert said.

The Charlotte football program is still young, but for Lambert knows it’s time to take the next steps and not settle for just regular season wins.

“As I told this team we were in the foundation phase of building out program when we came here, and we’ve turned the corner on that. Now we’ve got to build, we’ve got to build this house, put the walls up. That’s the phase I told our team in 2018 we’re entering and to do that we need to go to a bowl game and win the bowl game,” Lambert said.

You can see the team in action April 21 in the annual Spring Game.

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.