After waiting all spring to get back out on the field and compete, the Cal Poly football team finally got its wish Wednesday.

The Mustangs returned to the field for the first time since they played their annual spring game in early April.

“It feels good getting back on the field, seeing all the guys again,” said senior running back James Noble.

Wide receiver Tre’dale Tolver was also glad to be practicing again.

“It’s been all summer – we’ve just been training and lifting,” Tolver said. “I’m just happy to be back out here knocking the rust off and doing some football things again.”

The Mustangs practiced on the “I” field wearing only jerseys and helmets. Head coach Rich Ellerson made no bones as to the light nature of the team’s first session.

“That’s not a football practice,” Ellerson said. “But you have to do that so you can have a football practice in the near future.”

There were plenty of yellow (quarterback) jerseys for the first practice as Ellerson prepares to trim the number from eight prospects down to a more manageable figure.

“We have a cast of thousands,” Ellerson said. “We can’t leave (all) those guys at quarterback very long.”

While Ellerson will soon have to narrow his choices, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a player returning to the position next year.

“We’re going to be very pragmatic about what’s the best thing for this football team,” Ellerson said. “But obviously we can’t give reps to all those guys. We’ve got to get it down to two, two-and-a-half guys that are really getting most of the reps.”

Cal Poly opens its season with a tough three-week stretch starting at Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) San Diego State before a home game against highly ranked Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) foes Montana (in San Luis Obispo) and McNeese State (in Louisiana).

“This is the toughest schedule we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Tolver said. “We’ve trained hard, we’ve prepared well. It doesn’t matter who we play on Saturday – we know what we have to do. We just have to execute regardless of who we’re playing against.”

Ellerson said his team would practice with a higher level of physicality and aggression than in years past due to the pressing need to start fast.

“We need to step out there healthy and fresh,” Ellerson added. “But I’m looking at ways to make sure we’re pad-ready going into the first game.”

Noble, like the rest of the squad, is aware of the difficulty the Mustangs face this year, but is undaunted by the challenge.

“Our goals don’t change,” he said. “We’re just going to keep on moving forward. We’re going to take every game one step at a time, and practice hard every day.”

The Mustangs offense returns 10 starters from last season’s squad that was second in total offense in the FCS behind only national champion Appalachian State.

“It gives you a sense of security, like you know what the guys next to you can do,” Noble said. “Everything is going to stay rolling.”

Tolver agreed.

“The ability to tackle more complex things as an offense is there because we’re already experienced together,” he chimed in. “We’ve already bonded together.”

Cal Poly will begin its season Aug. 30 at San Diego State.

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