March 12, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - The Mark Speir era at Western Carolina University is officially underway.
Western Carolina opened its NCAA-mandated 15 days of off-season spring practices on Monday evening under mild but rainy conditions with sprinkles turning to moderate showers before the 11-session workout was concluded. Speir and his complement of new assistant coaches worked out the Catamounts for right at two hours on Monday at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Among Monday's 11 periods included individual position work with the skill players coming together with the linemen for basic play calling scenarios amongst the two units. The offense and defense only worked against each other in 7-on-7 in passing drills.
On working through the feeling out process between player and coaches, as well as the rainy conditions for Monday's opening practice, Speir said with a smile, "we wouldn't have it any other way."
"Football's a game where there are a lot of things that are unexpected, a lot of changes and a lot of adversity - when everything is easy, everybody can do it. And today's an example of there being some adversity," said Speir, still dripping from the rain showers that peppered practice. "Today was a lot of guy's first impressions of us and it was our first impression of them. But our overall effort, I thought was outstanding."
Talking about his first day impressions, Speir wanted to review the film before talking much about the X's and O's execution in the first practice.
"I thought they went out and worked hard today. I am proud of their effort," said Speir of his returning players. "It's all brand new; they don't know where certain drills are going to be run - we talked about it in meetings, but until you get out and do it, we're teaching them as much about where, how and when as far as practice as we are X's and O's at this point. But today, it was good to get out on the field it was a real good introduction and we'll come back on Wednesday and polish it up more."
The Catamounts are scheduled to work out in helmets only once more this week on Wednesday, March 14, before putting on the shoulder pads for the first time on Thursday, March 15. The first day in full pads this spring is Saturday, March 17 with a late-morning practice. Spring practices are open to the public unless otherwise listed and are scheduled to culminate with the annual Spring Game session on Saturday, April 14 from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm.
Once the squad returned for the spring semester, Strength & Conditioning coordinator Jeff Pitman has worked with the players in early morning running and weight lifting sessions. The conditioning sessions picked up over the past month leading into spring practice on Monday.
The bulk of the squad returns intact and healthy for spring practice with a few exceptions. Offensive lineman Teddy Rhoney will be limited in contact situations after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season, with defensive backs J.D. Polk and De'Von Richardson both out of Monday's practice. Tight end Connor Orr, who missed last season due to a back injury, has been cleared to return but was held out of the first spring practice.
Also, wide receiver and kick return specialist George Richardson was on the sidelines and is expected to miss all of spring ball and the 2012 season after suffering a knee injury in off-season workouts.
A few players were wearing different colored jerseys for the first spring practice from the last practice of the fall of 2011. Wearing the offense's white jersey was Dee Williams who is switching to wide receiver. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Johnson traded his wide receiver jersey for that of a defensive back while Joe Korac worked out with the tight ends.
WCU's spring drills continue on Wednesday, March 14 with another afternoon practice session.
Upcoming Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(practice schedule subject to change)
Wednesday, March 14 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Thursday, March 15 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Friday, March 16 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Saturday, March 17 - 11:00-1:00 pm
Monday, March 19 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Wednesday, March 21 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Friday, March 23 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Saturday, March 24 - 11:00-1:00 pm
Monday, March 26 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Wednesday, March 28 - 6:00-8:00 pm
Wednesday, April 11 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Thursday, April 12 - 4:30-6:30 pm
Friday, April 13 - 4:30-6:00 pm
Saturday, April 14 - 1:00-3:30 pm