CHARLESTON (WCIA) — After finishing the 2019 season 1-11, Eastern Illinois quarterback Harry Woodberry had some extra time to stew after their 2020 season was pushed to Spring.
“It’s been the longest offseason in football history,” said Woodberry.
Now, the Panthers are almost back and will open the season a week from Sunday against UT Martin. Head coach Adam Cushing says they had games last season where up to nine true freshman were playing at the same time, and the extended break because of the pandemic may have been an opportunity in disguise to let the young team grow.
“We’ve gained a ton of experience for those young guys, those newcomers between then and now and it certainly allowed us an opportunity,” says Cushing. “Everyone can talk about the delay as a negative, we’re flipping that right on it’s head and turning it in to an incredible opportunity for us to gain more experience, more exposure to the system.”
The Panthers will play a seven game, all Ohio Valley Conference schedule. Due to the season’s delay to Spring, EIU will have to fit two football seasons into one calendar year, but the players say they aren’t too worried about the turnaround.
“All the workouts, all the early mornings and the late nights, just being able to get back out on the field and play football with your guys,” said Woodberry. “It’s why we work in the offseason, it’s why we get up early, it’s why we’re out on the field when it’s 15 degrees outside. It’s just going to be great to get back out on the field and let it loose.”
“I think if you ask the players they’d certainly say they’re pretty excited about the opportunity,” said Cushing. “I think when it comes down to how we’re going to go about preparing for that, we’re going to do it one week at a time.”
Eastern will finally be looking to show just how much the time off has helped them on February 21st. They play UT Martin, 456 days since the longest offseason started.