With a whistle dangling around his neck, a new coach barked out instructions and offered encouragement at Herb Parker Stadium during Minot State football practice. The Hoffner Era is officially underway.
The Beavers kicked off their month-long spring practice schedule Wednesday, their coach's first chance to get on the field with them. Spring ball will culminate with an intrasquad game on May 2.
Hoffner, hired in January to replace former coach Paul Rudolph, last coached at Minnesota State-Mankato leading up to the 2012 season.
Minot State began spring practice on April 2 at Herb Parker Stadium. The spring game is scheduled for May 2.
The Beavers hope to improve on a 2-9 record in 2013.
"It's been tremendous. This is a lot of fun. This is what I love to do," Hoffner said. "I've been away from it way too long and so I'm very excited for the opportunity and the chance to work with young men again and help carve and shape their future."
Hoffner's staff is already putting its stamp on the program, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
MSU lost nine of 11 games last season, when its 3-4 defense allowed 34 points per game. The Beavers have switched to a 4-3 this spring with the hopes of lowering that points-against average.
"It's been a big change, but we've got some good coaches here that can get us in the right spots," said linebacker Casey Weinmann, a rising senior. "Pretty easy defense to understand. If you pay attention to them, you'll figure out the defense.
"I think we'll be pretty good this year."
Hoffner, though well-rounded, is more of an offensive mind. Before leading the Mavericks for four seasons, he served as the University of South Dakota's offensive coordinator.
In the past, Rudolph primarily handled offensive duties. He resigned in early January to become the
University of North Dakota's offensive coordinator.
"He (Hoffner) goes around and sees both sides of the ball - both offense and defense - so that's kind of nice," said Weinmann, a Harvey product. "You get to see the head coach and he gets to see you working. It's a little bit different than what we had before, but I think it'll definitely motivate people to work a little bit harder."
Just three months into his tenure at MSU, Hoffner is using the spring practices mostly to evaluate players. He said he has yet to identify a specific area that needs more work than the rest. Defensive coordinator Byron Thomas is also brand new to the MSU program.
"Normally spring would be about youth and youth development and trying to bring people along. But this is a little different scenario," Hoffner said. "All of our coaches are new and don't know a lot about these guys. They don't know a lot about us, so there's a little bit of a feeling-out process going on."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.