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The X's and O's of football won't be taught during spring drills at Canisius.

There won't be enough time.

New coach Ed Argast and his players will need more minutes than most to learn about each other before they can afford to learn anything else.

"It's going to be important for the players to focus on their fundamental skills and understand the systems and get comfortable with my coaching style," Argast said Monday night as the Golden Griffins trotted onto the Demske Sports Complex carpet for the first time under his direction.

About 50 players suited up, but Argast plans to bring in 30 more before the season opener Sept. 9 at Iona College.

Unlike most college coaches during spring practice, Argast won't be conducting any heated battles at various positions. He admitted he knows only "about two dozen" of his players by name, much less ability.

"We're a ways away from that," said Argast. "All that will unfold in the fall camp. We'll have a good assessment of what tools we have to work with after spring, and then in fall ball, we'll put them in the right places to help us win."

Argast, a 12-year assistant at Colgate, is trying to rebuild a program that had two winning seasons in the 1990s. The Griffins went 16-34 the past five seasons under Chuck Williams, who resigned after going 1-10 last year.

Argast intends to turn the program around with commitment from his players.

"I want to find kids who are willing to work to win," he said. "I want them to understand what it takes and I want them to go out there and do it.

"I'm not going to be easy on them. I going to work them hard through the spring and see who I'm going to be able to count on.

"I'll point out to them what needs to be done, but it's up to them to get it done. It's their team. They're the ones who wear the jerseys."

According to assistant coach Glen Graham, a holdover from Williams' staff, the Griffins are more enthusiastic than usual this spring.

"It's a really positive atmosphere," Graham said "There's a lot of buzz and a lot of good, positive energy surrounding the players.

"When you consider all the stuff they went through last year, and to get a quality head coach in here, the players can't help but get excited."

Argast, however, wants to take it slow through the spring. Instead of immediately instituting offensive formations and defensive sets, he instead plans to alternate fundamental sessions with scheme sessions.

He said he hopes to have 20 or so offensive plays and three defensive sets installed by the end of spring.

"Right now, I don't want to make them think," Argast said.

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