By Brad Fauber
Scott Yoder has had plenty of off-the-field matters to take care of since being named Shenandoah University's new head football coach back on Jan. 3, including the solidifying of his full-time coaching staff and seeking out potential athletes for his inaugural recruiting class.
But while Yoder has had his hands full over the last three months - as he will for much of the offseason and beyond - the new Hornets coach has had nothing but good things to say about his early experiences with the Shenandoah football program.
"It's been busy on all fronts, but I think if you told me back in January that we would be where we are right now in March, I would take it," Yoder said. "The kids have been fantastic. Everything is as good as it could be right now."
Those good vibes only increased for Yoder after the Hornets' 78 current players hit the practice field last week for the first time this spring.
Division III rules for spring football practice prohibits the use of pads, and Yoder said the focus early on has been on establishing the tempo of spring practice. Yoder said the goal for the spring will be for his players to develop a deep understanding of the team's offensive and defensive schemes.
Shenandoah has been on the practice field for only a week, but Yoder has already been impressed with what he has seen in the Hornets' limited action.
"I'm pleasantly surprised with the effort and the talent level," Yoder said. "We have more talent than I thought we did. We are ahead of where I thought we would be."
Yoder and his staff are still hard at work on the recruiting process, and Yoder said he hopes to have 75-80 percent of his targets squared away by the time the school's May 1 signing deadline rolls around. Yoder said there are currently four or five recruits that appear to be a lock to join the Shenandoah program in the near future.
The Hornets coaching staff has focused the recruiting effort heavily in Virginia and parts of West Virginia, Washington D.C. and southern Pennsylvania as the staff looks to "defend our home turf," according to Yoder.
Yoder said there are also a few recruits in New Jersey that have shown interest in coming to Shenandoah.
Yoder spent 12 seasons as an assistant coach at Hobart College in New York prior to being named the head coach at Shenandoah, and he said his connection with the New York area could help in the recruitment process next season when the coaching staff begins to expand its recruiting area.
"I've built some good ties and I've stayed in touch. I know we will be an option for some kids up there," Yoder said.
Yoder said he experienced some minor hiccups over the last few months, but that was to be expected as he transitioned into the new head coach role. He said that things began to settle down once he announced the completion of his full-time staff in mid-February.
Yoder praised the efforts of assistant coaches Brock McCullough and Kalvin Oliver, who were retained from former head coach Paul Barnes' staff, during the transition period, as the two assistants kept the program's recruiting efforts going while a new head coach was sought.
"They have been the glue that has held this team together," Yoder said.
Shenandoah, which will look to rebound from a 1-9 season last year, begins the 2013 season with a 7 p.m. home game against Gallaudet on Sept. 7.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org