Cullowhee, N.C. – Coming off Wednesday morning’s early practice session, the Catamount football team returned to the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on Thursday afternoon for a two-hour workout in shells – helmets and shoulder pads – working through practice No. 12 of 15 during the 2019 Spring Drills, presented by Wells Fargo.
Thursday’s session featured 14 periods with five including head-to-head match-ups between offensive and defensive players. WCU also held three special teams periods in addition to the individual position and unit sessions.
“Today was probably our worst practice of the spring – and it wasn’t that it was a bad practice, I just didn’t think we had the effort level and the focus that I’d seen through our first 11 practices,” said WCU head coach Mark Speir. “To this point, I’m very pleased with where we are for the spring. I think we’ve gotten a lot done. Our offense has done a really good job of running the football, the offensive line has really come along. I think that our defense all spring has done a really good job of playing hard – and that’s something that we’ve been emphasizing that we didn’t always do last year.”
Speir reiterated, “Today wasn’t a bad day – but it just wasn’t up to par. These guys have set a standard and an expectation of what we’re going to do, and we’re going to hold each other to it. But overall, for the whole spring, I’m excited about where we are now.”
During Thursday’s 7-on-7 “skelly” drills – which pits the skill players from both sides against each other without the offensive or defensive lines – wide receivers Nate Mullen, Tucker Woolum, Dray Starr, and Brandon Hendricks each made catches with Connell Young also hauling in a couple passes from the trio of quarterbacks that saw time in the backfield. Defensively, the secondary got a play blown dead on a coverage sack with linebacker Darrius Smith tallying a pass break-up and Trevor Childers recording an interception.
The practice session concluded with the “Play Ball” session that included scenarios of starting at the 25-yard line going in needing a field goal and 25-yard line coming out. The first team offense converted a third-down to keep the drive alive as Tyrie Adams found WR Mahari Stribling for a chain-moving reception, but the defense ultimately held WCU to a 21-yard Will Horton field goal.
On the second possession, the defense forced a three-and-out, halting RB Haki Bradley just short of a first down before Julian Pletz split the uprights from 34 yards out on a successful field goal. DB Reggie Jones nearly came up with an interception in the first possession on the 25-yard line coming out, but a reception by Mullen and a first-down scamper by QB Will Jones after a Childers TFL successfully moved the chains for an offensive success. QB Bubba Williamson saw the final series but was sacked by Jabril Dandy to slow the drive.
Offensively, a large part of the spring has centered around the coaching and role changes. Speir said Thursday that he continues to be pleased with the way his offensive unit has handled the change – and the jobs each coach is doing with their respective responsibilities.
“It’s been smooth,” said Speir. “Coach (John) Holt and Coach (Tyler) Carlton have done a really good job with the organization part as far as the molding of the offense and where its headed. Their strengths really complement each other. I’ve been excited with what Coach (Arketa) Banks has been doing with our running backs and tight ends – Connell Young has really looked good in the backfield this spring. And Coach (Phillip) Eli is doing a really good job with Tyrie (Adams) and developing Will (Jones) and those other young quarterbacks.”
Again, not fully satisfied with Thursday’s practice, Speir informed the squad following the session that they would alter Friday’s practice. Originally slated for a helmets and spider pads – foam pads that simulate shoulder pads but don’t allow for as much contact – to a helmets and shoulder pads – or shells – day to enable a little more contact ahead of Saturday’s fully-padded scrimmage, which has a new start time of 11:15 am.
Unless otherwise noted, each WCU spring practice 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. Fans can 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).
2019 Catamount Football Spring Practice
Presented by Wells Fargo
Practice #13 – Friday, April 12 – Shells – 4:15 pm
Practice #14 – Saturday, April 13 – Full pads (scrimmage) 11:15 am
Practice #15 – Tuesday, April 16 – Shells – 4:15 pm
(schedule subject to time/date changes)