Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina football put on shoulder pads – or shells – for the first time this preseason Monday morning, working out for right at two hours under sunny skies on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The session was the third for WCU this week ahead of the 2018 season.
Overall, WCU seventh-year head coach Mark Speir expressed that he has been “very pleased” with the first three practice sessions this fall with each building upon the previous.
“It was good to get the shoulder pads and the helmet on today, get to ‘thud up’ a little bit. With the first two practices in just helmets, it’s more of a teaching pace, but today, we got to see guys be a little more aggressive,” said Speir following Monday’s session. “I’m very pleased with where we are both offensively and defensively. Especially on defense – a lot of those young players are showing up and that’s what we’re counting on going into this fall, some of those young guys coming in to add depth and even compete for a job.”
Highlights during Monday morning’s 7-on-7 skill session included the defensive unit coming away with three interceptions as the defensive backs went against the wide receivers. Junior Devarius Cortner and classmate transfer Brandon Bawn both intercepted passes in the back end of the secondary with freshman Ronald Kent Jr., picking off a pass along the sideline. Kent also broke-up a pass in the end zone during the skill drill with freshman linebacker Devlin Olawumi jumping a short passing route for a deflection.
Offensively, redshirt junior WR Charles Johnson made several receptions with senior Tyran Reynolds hauling in a deep pass up the right sideline. Redshirt freshman receiver Keshaun Abel also climbed the ladder to bring in a pass, touching a toe before momentum carried him out of bounds.
Monday’s practice concluded with a competitive “Play Ball” segment pitting the offense against the defense. Among the highlights were a big completion from quarterback Tyrie Adams to Jordan Mathis while QB Will Jones connected with Johnson for a big gainer. Running backs Haki Bradley and Caleb Ferguson saw a lot of the reps as players rotated on both sides of the ball between three different units.
Kent and senior safety Marvin Tillman both recorded pass break-ups, while sophomore linebacker Trevor Childers broke through and was credited with a sack during the closing segment as bright spots for the defense.
Western Carolina continues its preseason practices on Tuesday morning, again working out in shoulder pads ahead of Wednesday morning’s first practice in full pads. Thursday marks the first off-day from the practice field as the team will conduct its annual media and photo day, with the special Facebook LIVE event with head coach Mark Speir, presented by Stanberry Insurance, slated for 6:30 pm online. The Catamounts are scheduled for their first of three preseason scrimmages this Saturday, Aug. 11 beginning at Noon.
Catamounts Receiving Votes in STATS FCS Preseason Poll
Western Carolina appeared in the “others receiving votes” section of the first STATS FCS poll of the year that was unveiled on Monday afternoon. WCU received 10 votes, ranking out at No. 42 in the preseason media tabulation.
The Catamounts returned to the national rankings in 2017 for the first time since the 2006 campaign, breaking into the poll following a 4-1 seasonal start that included the home upset victory over then No. 16 Samford and receiving votes three-consecutive weeks prior. WCU crested at No. 18 in the STATS FCS poll a season ago. Since moving to the NCAA FCS level (previously NCAA Division I-AA), WCU's highest ranking in a season was eighth back in 1993.
The Southern Conference had six teams listed including three inside the top 25 – No. 10 Wofford, No. 11 Samford, and No. 23 Furman – while WCU was joined by Mercer and The Citadel among the others receiving consideration. North Dakota State was ranked No. 1, followed by James Madison, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, and Kennesaw State to round out the top five.
WCU Single-Game Tickets Go on Sale Tuesday, Aug. 7
Individual game tickets for all five home dates officially go on sale Tuesday morning at 9:00 am through the first-floor ticket office in the Ramsey Center, by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or online at CatamountSports.com.
Season tickets for all five home dates in 2018 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone toll-free at (800) 34-GOWCU or locally at (828) 227-2401, or purchase tickets online at CatamountSports.com. Purchasing season tickets allow fans to lock-in their seats for each home game, beginning with the Labor Day Weekend opener against Newberry.
2018 Catamount Football -- Opening Week of Fall Practice Schedule:
Tuesday, Aug. 7 – Practice #4 – 9:45 - 11:45 am (shells)
Wednesday, Aug. 8 – Practice #5 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Thursday, Aug. 9 – No Practice -- Media / Team Photo Day (3:30 – 5:30 pm); Facebook LIVE with Mark Speir (6:30 – 7:30 pm)
Friday, Aug. 10 – Practice #6 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Saturday, Aug. 11 – Practice #7 (scrimmage) – Noon – 2:00 pm (full pads)
* Practice times are subject to change
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts, @WCU_FB), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Athletics / Catamount Football:
Tuesday, Aug. 7 – Catamount Football single-game tickets go on sale; (9:00 am)
Thursday, Aug. 9 – WCU Photo Day / Media Day (3:30 pm); Facebook LIVE with Mark Speir (6:30 pm)
Friday, Aug. 17 – Western Carolina University Freshman Move-In Day
Monday, Aug. 20 – First day of classes for the fall semester
Friday, August 31 – “The Mutt" Catamount Football Golf Classic at The Maggie Valley Club
Saturday, Sept. 1 – 2018 Catamount Football season and home-opener vs. Newberry -- Fireworks Night
Friday, Oct. 12 – 14th annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament at the Laurel Ridge Country Club
Saturday, Oct. 13 – Catamount Football vs. Chattanooga – Hall of Fame Day