Alex Yanosko didn't care for the lack of unity as his teammates broke the first huddle of preseason on Wednesday at Magic City Campus.
So the junior quarterback and returning starter called the makeshift first unit back together. The redo was more to his liking as the players clapped in unison and moved quickly to the line of scrimmage.
Yanosko will lead a revamped offense, which lost all five of last year's offensive lineman to graduation (including first-team all-state and Northern Illinois freshman Dustin Adams). Eighth-year coach Barry Holmen is looking to pass more than his teams have previously and the quarterback's leadership on day one was an encouraging sign.
Minot High School junior quarterback Alex Yanosko prepares to take a snap from senior center Nick Nesdahl on Wednesday at Magic City Campus. Junior tailback Kolton Larson is in the backfield. Senior lineman Tanner Gust is to Yanosko’s right.
Yanosko led about 110 players onto the practice field at 9 a.m. for the first of the day's two workouts. As the practice closed, Yanosko set the pace during wind sprints.
"I'm a year older and I'm a year more mature," he said. "So, I feel that as a junior now - as an upperclassman - I have to lead my class even better than I did last year and I felt like I did a pretty good job last year, but I'm gonna do a much better job this year."
Holmen was pleased with the first practice, which focused on offensive terminology before players split to receive basic instruction from position coaches. Holmen stayed with the quarterbacks initially and emphasized attention to detail, informing the upperclassmen that they will be expected to teach proper form and footwork to newcomers.
"I think (Yanokso) is ready to become one of our team leaders," Holmen said, "and certainly we need more than one. If he's ready for that role, he can join a handful of seniors that we're counting on. You don't have a good team if you don't have some strong player leadership."
Senior lineman Tanner Gust, a returning first-team all-state performer, will lead on both sides of the ball. Gust may also see time as a lead blocker in certain packages after having success at fullback last season.
Junior linebacker/tailback back Kolton Larson, a two-time, first-team all-state player, will be a primary ball carrier following the graduation of Adam Melom (second-team all-state).
"That fresh-cut grass - it's always nice to come out the first day after a long summer and get back on the field," Larson said. "The main goal is to get back to playoffs, as always, but we're looking to be kind of an uptempo team this year and maybe run the whole length of the field the whole game."
Holmen described the first-day turnout as lighter than usual, but expects more athletes to show up in the coming weeks.
"With the flood and the housing situation and all that, I think there will be some other people showing up here too," Holmen said. "We want them to join us if anyone's out there. If you think that it's too late, it's not too late."
Players must participate in three days of non-contact play and the team will begin hitting on Saturday.
Though Yanosko will likely be off limits to would-be tacklers, he's looking forward to game speed after attending skill camps and showcases in seven states this summer.
"I've been preparing very hard for this year and I'm really ready for everything to happen," Yanosko said. "I went to camps in Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
"I worked with some (former) NFL coaches like Rich Olson and he really (emphasized) the high releases and my footwork is good, he (was) just saying I'm doing really well. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing."
Note: Olson was most recently a coordinator at Arizona State University from 2007-2009. He's been an assistant with numerous NFL teams, including the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.