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High hopes abound as USD opens spring practice
At 70, Dale Lindsey is old enough to be a grandfather to his USD football players. Generation gap?
Try two generations.
But as the Toreros opened spring practice Tuesday afternoon, the players sounded as if they’ve been invigorated by the man who needs an industrial-sized fan to blow out his birthday candles.
“He brings a different element, an edge,” said returning starting quarterback Mason Mills. “He carries a toughness, a direct approach, which I appreciate.
“It’s very black and white. Here’s the law. Here’s what I want done. Here’s what I expect.”
After 35 years as an assistant coach in the NFL and college, Lindsey has landed his first head coaching job aside from high school. He served as the Toreros’ defensive coordinator last season, and his expectations for 2013 are Eiffel Tower high.
“We want to three-peat as PFL champs,” he said. “We want to be the first team in the Pioneer Football League in the FCS playoffs.”
For the first time in its 21-year history, the PFL champion automatically qualifies for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The Toreros figure to be the league favorites. The 2012 team finished on a six-game winning streak, closing an 8-3 season.
Fourteen starters return, eight on offense, the most significant being Mills, who barring injury or accident between now and September, will begin his fourth season as the Toreros’ starting quarterback.
The Coronado High product has passed for 7,636 career yards and 60 touchdowns.
“Our quarterback, first of all, has excellent leadership skills, which all great quarterbacks do,” said Lindsey. “Mason’s not only a good leader, but he’s an extremely tough-minded individual.
“He competes in any drill to win it. He wants to be the best. Here’s a guy who’s been here a while, but he wants to be better every day. And, he’ll play hurt.”
In 2011, Mills’ sophomore season, he played eight games after suffering a separated AC joint in his right throwing shoulder.
Finding someone to catch his passes won’t be a problem for Mills. His top six receivers in terms of receptions return. Combined, they accounted for 202 catches, 2,617 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Additionally, USD’s top four rushers return. The foursome compiled 1,584 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“When you have a great defense like we have, then bring all that firepower back on offense,” said Mills, “that’s what you need to win a championship.”
The question offensively will be in the line where two starters must be replaced, plus the tight end.
Defensively, USD’s late-season six-game win streak coincided with its ability to stop teams from scoring. First five games, 2-3 record, 29.6 points allowed. Last six games, 6-0 record, 10.6 points allowed.
“I think the defense played pretty well once we caught onto coach Lindsey’s mojo,” said safety Robbie Beathard (La Jolla High). “I think that (the Lindsey mojo) can carry over to the whole team and not just the defense. The man has a lot of fire.”
Lindsey said only one thing has perplexed him about being a head coach – the administrative details, like compliance rules and recruiting guidelines.
“Every time something comes up I run upstairs to all these athletic department assistants and they walk me through it,” said Lindsey.
“As long as it’s football, I know what I’m doing. But when its administrative related, I’m lost like a golf ball in high grass.”
By Don Norcross, The San Diego Union-Tribune