SAN JOSE -- A sense of normalcy returned to San Jose State on Thursday when it had its first practice in pads in three weeks.
The Spartans officially began preparing for their Dec. 27 matchup in the Military Bowl against Bowling Green, while Kent Baer led his first practice as interim head coach in place of the departed Mike MacIntyre.
"To me, I'm just doing the same thing I did as a coordinator," said Baer, the team's defensive coordinator. "We've got a great offensive staff. I don't have to watch any of that. We're just moving forward. I really never even thought about it."
Baer wasn't necessarily pleased with the effort in practice. Aside from the off-the-field distractions with MacIntyre leaving for Colorado on Monday, it was San Jose State's first time in pads since ending the regular season with a 52-43 win over Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24.
"It was a little bit sluggish. It's to be expected," Baer said. "We'll get back in tune, it's just going to take a couple practices."
For the players, it's a relief to return to preparing for a game and move on from the departure of the only coach many of these players have known.
"It was painful at first. Shocking mostly," junior linebacker Vince Buhagiar said of MacIntyre leaving. "But after we all settled down and settled in, we're starting to gear things up and get ready to go. We've accepted it, and we've moved on and we're doing what needs to be done."
The defensive players, and linebackers in particular, are excited to see Baer in charge. He's been SJSU's linebackers coach since 2008 and added defensive coordinator duties when MacIntyre took over in 2010.
"It's always a fun time with Coach Baer," junior linebacker Keith Smith said. "He knows how to have fun, but at the same time, he knows when it's serious business, and so do we."
Smith thinks that in terms of preparing for Bowling Green, the Spartans shouldn't miss a beat without MacIntyre.
"Coach Mac did a lot for us, but when it comes down to it, it was really our position coach that got us prepared for the games," Smith said.
Baer said he won't deviate from the plan that MacIntyre put in place to prepare for the bowl in Washington, D.C. The Spartans spent the past week and a half doing conditioning workouts, and the coaching staff is keeping practices shorter with players in the midst of finals.
Thursday's practice included some tackling work and was heavy on team drills. They'll focus again on tackling Friday to get the team readjusted to contact. But overall, it's business as usual.
"To me, there's been enough change, so we're not going to change a whole lot," Baer said. "We're going to do what we've done and get back in the routine, and I think that's the best way to handle it."
Baer seems interested in emerging as a candidate to become San Jose State's full-time head coach. He indicated as much in a Wednesday interview on KNBR radio. He has the support of his linebackers.
"He's just a caring person. He's a player's coach," Smith said. "That's probably the reason we love playing for him, because we have a good relationship personally with him, off the field, too. That's why I think he's going to be good for us going into the bowl game and hopefully longer than that."
"He's the type of coach where you're going to find a lot of players that would die for him," Buhagiar added.
"First of all, let me say I couldn't be happier for Mike MacIntyre and his family," DeFilippo said. "Mike did an unbelievable job at San Jose State. I love the place. It's a great place.
"My effort, 100 percent is on the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend and getting Carson (Palmer), Matt (Leinart) and Terrelle (Pryor) ready to go to 100 percent of their ability."
DeFilippo, 34, spent two years on MacIntyre's staff before joining the Raiders this season. He was the Spartans' quarterbacks coach both seasons and their offensive coordinator in 2011.
DeFilippo, whose offense is still run by San Jose State, seems a logical choice to emerge as a candidate. He was well regarded during his time with the Spartans and played a role in recruiting some of the current SJSU players, including quarterback David Fales.
Bay Area News Group staff writer Jerry McDonald contributed to this report. Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.