Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina football held its 10th practice session of preseason fall camp on Tuesday morning, working out in full pads for right at two hours, culminating with conditioning drills before breaking.
“We had a great practice on Monday – a lot better than I thought it was going to be, honestly, and that's a credit to the player-led leadership on this football team. And we came out and got a lot of teaching done today,” said Speir following Tuesday's workout. “Today wasn't a pep-rally, ‘rah-rah' kind of practice, but I think that we got a lot accomplished with some new install. Overall, I'm really proud of where we are right now.”
Though the team was in full pads on Tuesday, the squad did not do much tackling through the play to the ground but rather tagged-off or “thudded up,” which initiates contact without finishing. WCU head coach Mark Speir stressed the importance of the mental part of the game especially when the bodies are tired as the team gets into the grind of training camp during his on-field address to the team following the 16-period practice.
Speir added, “We're like every other team in America at this point of preseason camp – a little beat-up, banged up. But I talked to the team after practice about the mental training and how sometimes that's a lot more important and a lot harder than the actual physical training. I think that we're in great shape and that's what's keeping the majority of our guys on the practice field – yea, we are banged up and beat up, but as long as we're out here practicing, we're getting better.”
* Several different receivers caught passes during the 7-on-7 skelly drills with quarterbacks Tyrie Adams and Will Jones splitting the bulk of the reps ... Running back Donnavan Spencer caught two passes, one from both QB, including the longest of the period ... Others catching passes included TE Owen Cosenke, RB Luke Hoggard, and wide receivers Tyler Mitchell and Kasimir Absolu;
* Defensively during the 7-on-7, linebackers Ty Harris and Trevor Childers both came away with interceptions in the full-field drill while DB Michael Murphy came up with a pick on the goal line when the drill moved inside the red zone ... Senior DB John Brannon was credited with a pair of pass break-ups while Jontavious Shotwell also prevented a completion with a deflection ... The secondary also forced a coverage sack during the drill;
* In the final period – “Play Ball” – both sides had their moments ... Ty Harris came-up with a session-opening tackle for loss with the offense pushed back into a 3rd-and-long scenario right out of the gates before Donnavan Spencer broke a big run to move the chains ... Tyrie Adams also found D.J. Thorpe during the session on a pass play ... LB Jarquavius Wortham and DL Jibril Dandy both made stops right at the line of scrimmage – if not for small losses – before QB Will Jones found TE Luke Britt for another first-down play, one of two hook-ups between the two during the period ... Ultimately on the second drive, the defense held on a fourth-and-short situation.
Notes & Quotes:
John Wiley, Defensive Coordinator / Inside Linebackers Coach
On assessing preseason camp to this point from the defensive perspective:
“There's been a lot of focus. These guys have brought a lot of energy to camp, they're ready to go. They worked really hard this summer and we've seen that improvement with their quickness and with their conditioning levels. Now, they're kind of hitting that wall a little bit that has come in all 32 camps I've been a part of, so right now, we're trying to massage them through that wall.”
What are you looking for the rest of the week heading into Saturday's scrimmage:
“I told them this morning, our focus has been to execute our call and that means adjustments and know what we're doing. Two, to work on our techniques up front and to keep our effort while we do it.”
Alan Harris, Redshirt Soph., Linebacker
On the focus of the defense up to this point of preseason camp:
“The coaches have really just been preaching effort and execution. Those are the two biggest things.”
On the blend of the returning talent and the influx of talented youth on defense:
“It's blending together very well. We've got a little bit more experience on defense. Last year really has helped us a lot. I feel we're very talented – with experience and talent, that's a winning combination.”
On this weekend's scrimmage:
“I'm taking this preseason one day at a time, but looking ahead to Saturday, the focus will be on execution and play-making – and knocking some heads.”
John Holt, co-Offensive Coordinator / Offensive Line Coach:
On assessing preseason camp to this point from the offensive perspective:
“We want to move the ball; we want to take care of the ball on offense. We're trying to score as many points as we can. We're trying to be tough, we're trying to be physical and play with a ton of effort. Right now, I like what we're seeing at every spot on offense in that aspect.”
On the progression of the offensive line through preseason:
“Up front, we just want to give a hard, physical edge to every defense we play. We want to be that physicality that makes guys pay if they don't respect us up front. We've got a young group of offensive linemen; we've really got a young group of tight ends. But those guys have really bought in and decided that we're going to be able to run the football, we're going to protect the passer. I think the age and experience in the backfield have really helped us up front.”
Nate Mullen, Redshirt Senior, Wide Receiver
On the focus of the offense up to this point of preseason camp:
“A big focus of ours has been switching up a little bit with someone different calling plays. I think that it's been going really well. For the most part, our effort's great, we're flying around and we're getting better every day, steadily climbing up the hill. We're just really looking forward to August 31st getting here.”
On the offensive focus entering this weekend’s scrimmage:
“Just keep improving; keep installing. Everyone getting in their playbook and understand what’s going on and just keep improving off what we’re doing. Then, on Saturday when we go live with the scrimmage, just treat it like it’s a game day and go have some fun.”
Western Carolina continues its preseason practice on Wednesday morning in shells in what is expected to be a high-tempo workout before pausing on Friday to aid in WCU's annual Freshman Move-In Day. WCU will scrimmage this Saturday, Aug. 17 at 1 pm. Each of WCU's preseason football practices is open to the public. It is respectfully requested, though, that spectators observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or the sidelines for safety. Practice times are subject to change.
Both single-game and season tickets for each of WCU's six home dates in 2019 are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center or by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401. Fans can purchase season tickets online by visiting CatamountSports.com. Tickets for the home and season-opening game against league-rival Mercer – the “Purple Out that includes a postgame fireworks extravaganza presented by Ingles and iHeartMedia partners 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3 – are going fast!
2019 Catamount Football Preseason Practice Schedule:
Wed., Aug. 14 – Practice #11 – 9:15 – 11:15 am (shells)
Thurs., Aug. 15 – Practice #12 – 9:15 – 11:15 am (full pads)
Fri., Aug. 16 – No Practice – WCU Freshman Move-In Day
Sat., Aug. 17 – Practice #13 (scrimmage) – 1:00 – 3:00 pm (full pads)
Sun., Aug. 18 – Practice #14 – 1:45 – 3:15 pm (shells)
Mon., Aug. 19 – No Practice – First Day of Classes
* Practice times are subject to change
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