March 18, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Catamount football team opened its 2014 Spring Drills on Tuesday on a sunny but chilly evening on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. WCU worked out in the first of two helmet-only practices in the acclimation period with the first of 15 practice dates this spring.
"Man, I had fun today," exclaimed Catamount third-year head coach Mark Speir following the conclusion of Tuesday's practice session. "I've been in that office with all of the snow and rain - but today was a beautiful day to get out and start this 2014 season."
"A lot of hard work has already been done over the past eight weeks with coach (Evan) Barr in the weight room. Our guys all got bigger and stronger. I just commend Coach Barr and his staff for what they've done leading up to this point. But, I thought our guys came out and were sharp; they bounced around, had high energy and we really got a lot done today," said Speir.
Tuesday's opening practice included 13 periods that spanned nearly two hours. The session began under bright blue skies and sunshine before concluding at dusk under cooler evening temperatures and a light wind that reminded everyone it is still mid-March. Most of the practice was spent in individual position and unit work during install sessions. But the offense and defense did come together for team competitions, as well as 7-on-7 skill position drills.
All told, WCU's NCAA-regulated 15 spring football practices will feature three intrasquad scrimmages, culminating with the annual Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo on Saturday, April 12 beginning at 1:00 pm.
Six Catamounts were held out of Tuesday's opening practice - and are slated to be limited throughout the spring after coming off of off-season surgeries. On offense, linemen Jake Thornton (knee) and Tyler Philpott (shoulder) are limited in practice with running back Garry Lewis (knee) also sidelined due to an off-season injury. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Sertonuse Harris (hip) and Coleman Cunningham (knee) are being held out, as well as linebacker Lee Pattillo (shoulder).
"Our big focus is to come out of this spring a disciplined, relentless, and classy football team," Speir said about goals of the spring practice season. "A big goal that we are working on is having no pre-snap breakdowns. That's something we're going to harp on for 15 practice days. We're going to stress knowing what to do, how to do it, and then do it with a great sense of urgency."
"A lot of our freshmen came right out of high school and they just started playing ball. We're taking the time - and not just assuming since they have played a year - to make sure they're ready to go," added Speir. "We've started back at ground zero with fundamentals and technique, and being sure we know how, when and where to do things."
Speir commented that no positions are set entering this spring - but that competition across the field exists for the Catamounts.
"We're talking a lot about not being an outcome-oriented football team, but about it being a process. And how you win a job is that process of the fundamentals of doing the little things right. We've got a bunch a good athletes out here and it's our jobs as coaches to get them going in the right direction - doing the little things right and doing it consistently."
Western Carolina continues its spring drills with its second practice on Wednesday afternoon. All WCU spring football practices are open to the public. It is respectfully requested that spectators observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or the sidelines for safety.
Upcoming Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(schedule subject to time/date changes)
Practice #1 - Tuesday, March 18: Helmets only, 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Practice #2 - Wednesday, March 19: Helmets only, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #3 - Friday, March 21: Shells, 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #4 - Saturday, March 22: Full pads, 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Practice #5 - Monday, March 24 : Shells, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #6 - Wednesday, March 26: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #7 - Friday, March 28: Shells, 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #8 - Saturday, March 29: Full pads, scrimmage - 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Practice #9 - Monday, March 31: Shells, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #10 - Wednesday, April 2: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #11 - Friday, April 4: Full pads, scrimmage - 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #12 - Monday, April 7: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #13 - Wednesday, April 9: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #14 - Friday, April 11: Helmets only, 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #15 - Saturday, April 12: Full pads, Spring Game - 1:00 - 3:00 pm