UTPB football coach Justin Carrigan was in his element.

Standing up in front of his coaching staff, Carrigan was writing down plays on the whiteboard at the front of the room, terminology covering the space as the Falcons’ staff went through its playbook.

A playbook that will be cracked wide open well before the sun comes up this morning.

At 6:30 a.m., the whistle will blow to start the first of 15 practices that include a live scrimmage on March 30 and then the annual Spring Game to culminate things at 11 a.m. on April 14 at Ratliff Stadium.

“We’re excited about getting back out on the field,” Carrigan said. “When the season ends, everyone gets out to go recruiting and that takes up all your time.

“When that’s finished, then you start to focus on the spring practices.”

A lot of that focus will be on the starting quarterback spot, with the next month giving the current roster of signal callers — Kameron Mathis, Michael Myers and Sam Allen, a transfer from San Jose State — the opportunity to step up and take control of a program heading into its third season as a member of the Lone Star Conference.

The Falcons have improved competitively each season, winning twice in their inaugural campaign in 2016 and then capturing the school’s first Lone Star Conference victory last season.

This season, Carrigan and staff want to see the Falcons win the close games that eluded them last season, continuing the learning curve and helping to put UTPB football in the minds of not just the Permian Basin, but the rest of the conference and NCAA Division II schools.

“We played better than our record showed last year,” Carrigan said. “We were in the game late against West Texas A&M in Canyon before losing, we lost late against Tarleton State and then by a field goal against Eastern New Mexico.

“It’s a learning process, but our kids never stopped competing.”

Now, the Falcons and the rest of the conference get to compete against the NCAA Division II national champions, that moniker having been earned by Texas A&M-Commerce.

Carrigan used the Lions’ success in his recruiting talks with potential future Falcons.

“One of the first things I talked to players about during the recruiting process is whether or not they were ready to compete on that level, the level of being able to compete with programs capable of winning national championships,” Carrigan said. “Because this conference is very tough, very competitive and you have to be ready each week.

“And it wasn’t only the players that we were trying to recruit that we talked to. We talked to all the players already on the roster, too, letting them know how important they are to us and what we are trying to do here, the culture that we are trying to create; I think that’s very important.”

The important thing now is the next month on the field, getting through each day with a better understanding of what Carrigan wants this program to be, on and off the field.

He and his staff have finished the recruiting process that has added numerous talented players to the Falcons’ fold, but no one will get a real look at them until summer practices roll around. Carrigan wants to see what his current squad will do.

“The players have been working out in the offseason and now everyone gets to be out on the field and work on things,” Carrigan said. “It’s a fun time.”