Big men on campus

UWF football players donned the team's helmet design at Tuesday's practice. Though not advertised as open to the public, curious students and Pensacola residents lined the edge of the practice field. Tuesday marked the sixth day in a row the team had practiced. Photo by Jason Dustin

UWF football players donned the team’s helmet design at Tuesday’s practice. Though not advertised as open to the public, curious students and Pensacola residents lined the edge of the practice field. Tuesday marked the sixth day in a row the team had practiced. Photo by Jason Dustin

Jason Dustin

Staff Writer

Necks are thicker, biceps fuller and shoulders more broad than ever this fall on the University of West Florida’s Pensacola campus.

Argonauts football head coach Pete Shinnick’s planning and work – 18 months’ worth – have manifested into a 106-man roster one year away from its first game.

“We’re installing just like we’re playing games,” Shinnick said. “The same as if we were playing a schedule.”

A roster is in place, but not static. Shinnick and his staff are holding the team’s second round of open tryouts this Thursday, Sept. 3.

“It could be interesting,” Shinnick said. “We’ve had a lot of people say that they’re interested.

“If somebody is better than what we have, then we’re going to add them – that’s the bottom line. If they’re the same we’re not going to add them. They’ve got to be better than what we have. If we find 15 we’ll take 15. If we find zero we’ll take zero.”

Four players, including local products Tyrone Jones, Stetson Nash and Jamie Smith, made the team following the first tryout.

As Shinnick spoke, players passed by the open door of the Field House office in which he sat, having completed a day of lifting weights.  It was an off-day, of sorts, following six consecutive days of practice. The mindset is improvement, not coasting.

“We’re lifting to get stronger, we’re lifting to build bodies up,” Shinnick said.

The buildup includes five scrimmages between the Argos’ offensive and defensive units, this fall.  All scrimmages will be open to the public, according to UWF’s athletics department website. The first will be held Saturday, Sept. 12, beginning at 11 a.m. This fall’s schedule is highlighted by the team’s first-ever appearance at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, on Oct. 17.

Also in place are the team’s uniforms, supplied by Nike and designed by Argo offensive coordinator Jammie Deese, Schinnick said.

In motion is the construction of the team’s eventual home field, which will be to the west of the aquatic center. The initial design will consist of a synthetic-turf playing surface, flanked by two grass-covered berms for spectators.

“Plans for a stadium are obviously down the road,” Missy Nicholson, UWF Facilities Planning and Construction project manager, said. “It’s pending funding.”

To date, the squad is representative of UWF’s commitment to being a regional university. Of the 106 players, 88 are from Florida high schools and 13 played prep football in Alabama. Twenty-one members of Shinnick’s team are transfer student-athletes.