March 26, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - After Monday's practice session was rescheduled, the Western Carolina football team returned to the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on Wednesday evening. Under bright sunny skies and cool temperatures with a lingering hint of the spring snow storm still dotting the shaded areas, the Catamounts worked out through an 18-period session that lasted the better part of two hours.
"I was really pleased with the tempo, the energy and aggressiveness, and the intensity out here today," said WCU head coach Mark Speir. "Our guys are enjoying the spring and having fun - and I think we're getting better on both sides of the ball. I thought both sides came out ready to practice. I was pretty pleased with today's practice."
Much like the majority of WCU's spring sessions, Wednesday's fifth practice session got underway with individual position drills followed by a quick team session involving both the first team offense and defense, as well as the second team O and D, working simultaneously on plays from scrimmage. After several unit segments, the two sides again were pit against each other in a series of scrimmage-like scenarios, followed by skill position drills matching receivers and tight ends against defensive backs and linebackers - first one-on-one and then in unison minus the linemen.
Practice concluded with a progressive scrimmage, offense against the defense with both the first and second teams rotating into action.
With two quarterbacks - rising senior Eddie Sullivan and rising junior Troy Mitchell - seeing the majority of the snaps in the backfield, WCU also rotated its running backs that were able to pick up good yardage for the Catamount offense. Rising senior Shaun Warren split time with both rising junior Darius Ramsey and incoming freshman Detrez Newsome as the primary ball carriers.
Defensively, the Catamounts came away with a couple of interceptions during the varying scrimmage scenarios and skill position work. Rising senior linebacker Christon Gill made one pick on a ball that bounced off a wide outs body, while rising sophomore Tommy Tate made an athletic move to jump a route to snag an interception.
Overall, Speir was very upbeat and positive about the progress made through the first week of 2014 spring drills.
"Our defense has been pretty salty and sound as far as not giving up a ton of big plays. And one thing that I'm really pleased with on the offensive side is that we're running the ball better. And it's not big 80-yard touchdown runs, but I believe our offensive line is growing up. They're getting stronger and I think that is part of them gaining confidence," said Speir.
WCU remained relatively healthy. In addition to the six players that aren't practicing due to precautionary reasons following off-season surgeries, several others were held out of Wednesday's session due to varying illness or injury. Running back Garrett Brown (foot) was injured early in the practice and was sidelined, with receivers C.J. Goodman and William Ramsey also missing portions of the practice.
With the threat of inclement weather across Western North Carolina on Friday, Speir and the coaching staff have moved Friday's scheduled practice session to Thursday evening. The team will work out in shells - helmets and shoulder pads - ahead of Saturday's scrimmage session. Speir hopes to get in about a 30-to-35 minute scrimmage session at the end of a regular practice on Saturday afternoon, with practice getting underway around 2:00 pm.
"As is our focus for the entire spring and looking at Saturday's scrimmage, we want to narrow down all of the things that we can control - like no dropped balls, not jumping offside, no bad snaps or no missed assignments on defense," said Speir. "We've got good football players. They're growing up, gaining experience and getting stronger. The big thing when you look at last year's films, at times, we beat ourselves - a holding call here, a bad snap that got us off rhythm, a receiver runs a route at four yards instead of seven. It's just the consistency of our individual tasks, and not feeling like `I've got to be Superman' or great - but that I've got to do my job and be efficient. And those are the things, the process we're working on this spring."
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 #5 - Wednesday, March 26: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #6 - Thursday, March 27: Shells, 7:30 - 9:00 pm
Practice #7 - Saturday, March 29: Full pads, scrimmage - 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Practice #8 - Monday, March 31: Shells, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #9 - Wednesday, April 2: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #10 - Friday, April 4: Full pads, scrimmage - 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #11 - Monday, April 7: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #12 - Wednesday, April 9: Full pads, 4:45 - 6:45 pm
Practice #13 - Friday, April 11: Helmets only, 4:30 - 6:30 pm
Practice #14 - Saturday, April 12: Full pads, Spring Game - 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Practice #15 - Monday, April 14: Helmets only, 4:45 - 6:45 pm