Cullowhee, N.C. - While his squad is making improvements and adjustments on the field during its annual spring drills, Western Carolina fourth-year head coach Mark Speir has also announced several alterations to duties assigned to five members of his coaching staff.
Speir retained his entire full-time coaching staff from the 2014 season, WCU's first winning season since 2005 - and just its second finish above the .50 mark for the program since 2001. Speir was granted a four-year contract extension by WCU's Board of Trustees in early February.
"We are very excited that we have kept our entire staff intact for the 2015 season. Continuity in a staff over time is so important to the sustained success of any program," said Speir. "Our Athletics Director, Randy Eaton, and the university have made a tremendous statement in their support of not only our student-athletes, but the men who are guiding these players."
Speir added, "We have an outstanding group of men who form our coaching staff. And as time goes by, each man brings a talent that helps develop and improve our program, as well as the players themselves away from the field. Being a coach today is much more than recruiting and the X's and O's - you have to know how to mold and develop young men into responsible and accountable people who learn to make wise decisions. As a result, we have added some responsibilities to several members of our coaching staff."
Western Carolina assistant coach and the program's recruiting coordinator, Mark Rhea, was elevated to Assistant Head Coach. Rhea, who coaches WCU's defensive ends, previously held the title under Dennis Wagner and also served as the program's interim head coach in 2011 prior to Speir's hire. Rhea is entering his fifth season on the sidelines in Cullowhee.
Running backs coach De'Rail Sims, entering his third season at Western Carolina, will now also serve as the program's Director of Player Development, while offensive line coach John Holt was also dubbed the Director of Player Personnel. Sims mentored tailbacks Darius Ramsey and Detrez Newsome, both of whom garnered All-Southern Conference plaudits a season ago. Holt, a former offensive lineman at Appalachian State, is in his fourth season in Cullowhee. Linemen Josh Wineberg and Jake Thornton earned all-conference accolades under Holt's tutelage a season ago. Holt also serves as the WCU's Director of Camps.
Assistant coach Dennis Thomas, who coaches WCU's defensive tackles, has been tagged as WCU's Director of Housing and the Pro Liaison working with professional football scouts and the Catamount players. Thomas is in his third season at WCU, coming to Cullowhee prior to spring drills in 2013 from his alma mater, South Carolina, where he worked on Steve Spurrier's staff.
After filling the role a season ago, Speir has officially named tight ends coach Pat Mills as his Special Teams Coordinator. Mills, who like Holt played collegiately at Appalachian State, came to Cullowhee in January of 2012.
Western Carolina returns to the practice field on Friday afternoon in a helmet/shoulder pads practice that gets underway around 4:00 pm. The squad's first scrimmage session of the spring is slated for Saturday morning with an 11:00 am start time on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Unless otherwise noted, all Western Carolina spring practices are open to the public. However, it is respectfully requested that fans observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or the sidelines.
Season tickets for 2015 are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans can purchase a reserved adult season ticket for all five home games for just $125 with youth reserved starting at $65. Returning season ticket holders must renew their season tickets by June 30, 2015. Fans can call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Upcoming 2015 Catamount Football Spring Practice Schedule:
(schedule subject to time/date changes)
Practice #6 - Friday, March 27: Shells, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Practice #7 - Saturday, March 28: Full pads, scrimmage - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Practice #8 - Monday, March 30: Shells - 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Practice #9 - Monday, April 6: Helmets only, 6:15 - 8:00 pm
Practice #10 - Tuesday, April 7: Full pads, 5:15 - 7:00 pm
Practice #11 - Friday, April 10: Shells, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Practice #12 - Saturday, April 11: Full pads, scrimmage - 11:00 - 1:00 pm
Practice #13 - Tuesday, April 14: Full pads, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
Practice #14 - Friday, April 17: Shells, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Practice #15 - Saturday, April 18: Spring Game presented by Wells Fargo - 1:00 - 3:00 pm