Cullowhee, N.C. – Business started to pick-up on Sunday afternoon as the Western Carolina football team put on shoulder pads for the first time this preseason for practice No. 3 on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. Working out in shells, the team practiced for right at two hours following an afternoon of meetings.
“With the first day in shoulder pads, the tempo and enthusiasm picks up even more. We had a lot of good execution out here today,” said Catamount head football coach Mark Speir. “Again, the defense was flying around out here and that’s what we’ve been stressing and straining. On offense, we’ve got to be more consistent. I thought we’ve hit some really good plays. At times, we’ve really run the ball well, but we’ve just got to be more consistent.”
Speir continued by saying that he’s been very impressed with the conditioning of the team entering this year’s fall camp, crediting Director of Athletic Performance, Evan Barr, and his staff. Speir has also been impressed with the mentality and the leadership his players have displayed through the early part of the 2019 preseason camp.
“Right now, it’s just starting to feel like midseason practice; it’s not really feeling like fall camp,” said WCU redshirt senior quarterback Tyrie Adams, one of the leaders Speir alluded to. “When we come out and work as hard as we did in the summer, practice now, it’s almost like it’s second nature. Everyone knows the playbook already, the freshmen coming in feeling comfortable with what we want to install.”
Adams also added that improvement is all about accountability – and not just players being accountable to the coaching staff, but also to each other regardless of class standing on the roster.
When asked about the first three days of the 2019 preseason camp, second-year defensive back Ronald Kent said Sunday that he feels the start of this year’s fall camp has been “way different than last” year as a true freshman.
“The intensity has been higher, everything is fast. On defense, we’re all running to the ball,” said Kent. “We’re all just giving maximum effort. Whatever you’re doing, the coaches have told us to go to the extreme point of effort.”
The Catamount offense opened Sunday afternoon’s practice strong in the “Start Fast” period, recording three first downs from scrimmage. Tyrie Adams twice found tight end Owen Cosenke for big plays with RB Donnavan Spencer also ripping off a big run. Defensive lineman Ricky Palao closed the short, practice-opening period with a stop on RB Caleb Ferguson in the backfield.
Four quarterbacks split reps on Sunday between unit and team drills. Amidst 7-on-7 skelly drills, WCU’s signal-callers distributed the ball to eight different receivers highlighted by a pair of catches by WR D.J. Thorpe and Ferguson hauling in two from the backfield. The two biggest gainers came on a connection from QB Bubba Williamson to a streaking tight end Caleb Woodard who rumbled for a big gain towards pay dirt, and WR Daquan Patten who ran a beautiful route before Adams dropped the ball to him in stride where he found the end zone.
Defensively during the skelly drill, senior DB John Brannon made a diving stop to deflect a pass away from Thorpe on a PBU, with DB Reggie Jones also showing near-perfect coverage on a deep ball to force an incompletion. Redshirt freshman DB Cinsere Allison also posted a PBU in the period.
In Sunday’s final practice period before conditioning, the offense and defense went head-to-head in a thud-up scenario. Adams found Thorpe on first-down hook-up to open the period as a part of the offensive highlights. Others included a scampering run by D.J. Atkins with Adams finding Donnavan Spencer for a solid gain. Nate Mullen pulled in a catch in the right flat but had the ball stripped by a defender in traffic with the fumble ranking among the defensive highlights. Others included a big hit at the line of scrimmage by Palao with freshman LB Jaylin Virgo also delivering a thudding stick at the point of attack.
The Catamounts continue preseason practice on Monday afternoon with a second session in shells before taking their first break on Tuesday for the annual Media/Photo Day. Practice resumes on Wednesday morning with the first workout in full pads. All WCU’s preseason football practices are 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.
Season tickets for Western Carolina’s six-game 2019 home schedule are on sale now through the Catamount Athletics ticket office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU, and online at CatamountSports.com. Purchasing season tickets allow fans to lock-in their seats before single-game tickets officially go on-sale the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 7.
2019 Catamount Football Preseason Practice Schedule:
Mon., Aug. 5 – Practice #4 – 4:15 – 6:15 pm (shells)
Tues., Aug. 6 – No Practice – Media / Team Photo Day 4:00 – 5:45 pm
Wed., Aug. 7 – Practice #5 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Thurs., Aug. 8 – Practice #6 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Fri., Aug. 9 – Practice #7 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Sat., Aug. 10 – Practice #8 (scrimmage) – 2:30 – 4:30 pm (full pads)
Preseason Facebook LIVE with Mark Speir, presented by Stanberry Insurance (5:00 – 6:00 pm)
Sun., Aug. 11 – Victory Day – 2:00 – 3:45 pm
Mon., Aug. 12 – Practice #9 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Tues., Aug. 13 – Practice #10 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (full pads)
Wed., Aug. 14 – Practice #11 – 9:45 – 11:45 am (shells)
Thurs., Aug. 15 – Practice #12 – 9:45 – 11:45 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
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts, @CatamountsFB), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Athletics / Catamount Football:
Wed., Aug. 7 – Catamount football single-game tickets go on-sale
Fri., Aug. 16 – Western Carolina University Freshman Move-In Day
Mon., Aug. 19 – First day of classes for the fall semester
Fri., Aug. 30 – 15th Annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament at the Waynesville Inn – Golf Resort & Spa
Sat., Aug. 31 – 2019 Catamount Football season and home-opener vs. Mercer; Purple Out! Postgame fireworks presented by Ingles, and iHeartMedia partners, 99.9 FM Kiss Country and Star 104.3