No one expected recently hired University of Akron football coach Tom Arth to take “bringing new energy” to the program quite so literally.

Arth, who was hired in December after the school decided to part ways with coach Terry Bowden, opens his first spring practice at the helm Saturday.

However, once the team began offseason conditioning, Arth, 37, could be found in the early morning hours running right alongside his players.

The former University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and John Carroll coach confessed there is a little bit of enlightened self-interest at play in that he likes to stay in shape. After all, he was a quarterback for St. Ignatius, John Carroll and in the NFL for several teams, including a three-season stint with the Indianapolis Colts, which allowed him to earn the confidence of Peyton Manning.

“While we're out there with the guys, it just makes a lot of sense for me,” Arth said during an interview in his office Thursday. “I think they enjoy it, they like seeing me out there, seeing me go through what they go through. I think that's one thing as a coach is, you don't ever want to ask your players to do something you're not willing to do, and we tell them that but that's one way that we show them.”

It’s now Arth’s job to show his players — or at least the ones able to participate in spring practice — how he wants his team to perform on the field. With that, however, comes a new reality for returning players.

“We don't have returning starters," Arth said. "We have people who have started for us and because you started doesn't guarantee anything going forward.”

No real depth chart exists beyond knowing which players will take the field first, second, etc., Arth said.

“And that's going to be evaluated on a daily basis, and every player in our program knows that and every player in our program is excited about that,” he said. “We're going to put the best 11 out there that give us the best chance to be successful in every situation that we have.”

That philosophy will ultimately dictate the team’s style of play on the field.

“We are an offense that is built on maximizing the talent and potential of each player in our program, and what we are, how we play, is going to be very dependent on our players,” Arth said. “Now, we will be in a lot of different personnel groupings and a lot of different formations.”

That attitude extends to defense, too.

“We believe in players, we believe in bringing players into our program that can do a lot, that are really versatile athletes,” Arth said. “And those guys do really well for us because, again, we are going to be very multiple.”

Revitalizing UA’s program won’t rely solely on talent as much as it will finding the right fit for it. Wins and losses will eventually determine whether the university’s search committee chose Bowden's successor wisely, but there’s a basic sincerity in Arth’s words and the tenor of them. How that manifests with the players will ultimately reveal itself, but he said they’ve bought in.

“It's been so encouraging to see the way that they've embraced us, to see the way that they've embraced our program, our philosophies, the expectations that we've set for them, the standards that we've set for them," he said. "The way that they've embraced it has given us so much encouragement and we'll find out.

"I don't know how good, how bad, I don't know what we are at this point.”

He may not yet know, but the journey through the proving ground begins now.

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.