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University of Mary head football coach Craig Bagnell watches during spring practice in 2018. The Marauders open spring practice on Saturday.

After a long offseason of lifting weights, the University of Mary football team was anxious to throw on pads and get outside.

Unfortunately, the never-ending winter weather has other plans.

So, when the Marauders start spring football on Saturday, it’ll be under the roof of the golf bubble at the Fore Seasons Center.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but right now it looks like most of it will be at the golf bubble or at our fieldhouse on campus,” U-Mary head coach Craig Bagnell said. “The Community Bowl has offered to move snow for us, but there’s a lot down there.

“Our guys are juiced. They’re excited. We’re going to get a lot of good things accomplished regardless of where we have to do it.”

The Marauders will have 80 players participating, up nearly 30 from last season. Quarterback Jordan Velarde (knee) will be limited, but will participate in 7-on-7 drills. Other than one injury to an offensive lineman, the whole roster is good to go.

“We haven’t had guys quit. We haven’t had guys leave. Our guys have been here working hard and developing physically and as football players,” Bagnell said. “We’re a lot further ahead than we were last year.”

The Marauders will have 14 practices leading up to the spring game on Saturday, April 13. The game will be held at the Bowl following the Marauders’ track and field meet. The 14th spring practice will be run by the players as a way to prepare for summer workouts when coaches cannot be present.

Unlike last season when spring ball was used for instillation of the base offense and defense, this season Bagnell and his coaching staff have specific areas of improvement targeted.

On offense, it’s improving first- and third-down efficiency, red-zone production and ball security.

On defense, new co-coordinators Matthew Splon and Ben Davis have put improved tackling at the top of the list. Red-zone ‘D’ also is a primary concern.

“We have certain things we want to work on and things we have to improve on,” Bagnell said. “A big focus this offseason has been on the strength and size of our players. I think our guys are sick of coach (Michael) Silbernagel. He does a great job. Our guys are a lot stronger.”

“The next phase is putting on helmets and pads and continuing to develop our players. We’re excited and looking forward to seeing them in actual football situations.”

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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