Inaugural Club Football Combine Impresses Head Coach


Charity worker by day, football coach by night. This is the life of Al Manfroni, who recently took the head coaching job for the new Michigan State club football team. And so far, he likes what he sees from his Spartans.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]“Heck, we’re inside, running on field house tennis court carpet, and I’ve got guys running 4.7 40’s…”[/su_pullquote]Eighty-five players crammed into the IM West tennis courts Saturday morning at the first-ever MSU Club Football Combine. While there were certainly some nerves to begin, the players noticeably got more comfortable as the day went on and performed very well. They began with the three cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 40-yard dash before moving on to individual position drills. The performance in those drills certainly caught the eye of the man in charge.

“There’s a lot of talent,” head coach Al Manfroni said. “Heck, we’re inside, running on field house tennis court carpet, and I’ve got guys running 4.7 40’s. That’s huge. Quite frankly, that’s Division 1 speed, not even in cleats.”

Manfroni certainly knows talent when he sees it. He has coached for 35 years, and at many different levels. He comes to Michigan State after coaching his son’s high school team a year ago, while in 2013 he coached at Oakland University in their first year of club football.

Although his experience in the sport is impressive, his history of winning is staggering. Of his 35 years in coaching, Manfroni has only seen two seasons where his team finished with a losing record. Matt Oxie, who joined with Chris Wesolowski to form the club football team, believes that Manfroni’s winning pedigree will translate to success on the field from the start.

“Coach Manfroni strives for nothing but the best when it comes to winning, with only two losing seasons in 35 years. I’ve got a lot of faith that he’s going to be a great coach and I’ve got a lot of faith that he brought on guys who are really going to complement him and do a great job of building our team,” Oxie said.

Those guys that Manfroni brought on are no slouches, either. Defensive coordinator Chris Pickney comes to East Lansing from Oakland, where he took the reins from Manfroni and won the NFCA national championship last year. Manfroni mentioned that Pickney’s defense will vary between “a 4-4, 4-3, and maybe some 3-4, depending on personnel.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Brad Boven also comes from Oakland and will coordinate a high-powered spread attack.

[su_pullquote align=”left”]“I’ve got a lot of faith that he’s going to be a great coach…”[/su_pullquote]Manfroni said of the offense, “We run a modified spread offense. We will do some power running, but we’re primarily a spread offense with some option, some speed option, some read option. We do run no huddle. It’s definitely a competitive offense.”

The coaching staff’s experience is a big reason why the club football team will be contenders in just its first year, and the coaches didn’t mince words when expressing their expectations for the upcoming season.

Pickney expressed his hopes to the players, saying “if you’re here for any other purpose than winning a championship, please leave now.”

No one walked out the door after that statement, so you can expect club football to contend when their season begins September 19 at DePaul.

Photo: Bradley Allen/MSU Impact Sports