April 11, 2012
Audio of Coach Speir on 'Cat Chat' on ESPN Radio 1310 Big WISE (April 10)
Spring Practice (Wed., April 10) Photo Gallery
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina football returned to the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field for the first time since Spring Break on Wednesday afternoon for a spirited, 15-session practice in full pads. WCU will practice in half pads on Thursday before a helmet-only workout on Friday ahead of Saturday's final session.
Western Carolina will host its annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 14, with a full day of activities scheduled. Festivities kickoff at 9:30 am with three and a half hours of tailgating with first-year head coach Mark Speir and special guests Athletics Director Randy Eaton and University Chancellor Dr. David Belcher holding a special meeting with all Catamount football alum around 12:30 pm.
Fans will want to be in the stadium for a special team introduction beginning around 12:45 pm with the final intrasquad scrimmage of the spring commencing just after 1:00 pm. The day will include a post-game "meet & greet" with the players and coaches where fans can meet their favorite Catamount and get autographs.
"Saturday is an opportunity to come out and watch some football here in the spring. It's a chance for our fans to see the new schemes, the new systems. But more importantly, it's a chance for us to give back to our fans. We always ask them to support us and this weekend is our opportunity to interact with our fans and get our players around them," said Speir.
He added, "The `Whee is going to be rockin' this Saturday and we want everyone to be here this weekend."
WCU entered its final week of spring practice back on Monday, reconvening following the break that afternoon for a heavy conditioning workout with head strength & conditioning coordinator, Jeff Pitman. The team was off Tuesday with the annual department awards show before strapping on the pads again Wednesday.
Greeted by fall-like temperatures on Wednesday, the squad muscled through individual sessions that culminated with a period of offense-versus-defense scrimmage scenarios. Practice concluded with the "Cat Drill," WCU's variation of the football "Oklahoma" alignment followed by special teams work on kickoff and kickoff return and conditioning.
"I was pleased with the intensity and the progress we made today - as well as the focus we had coming off the break," said Speir. "We've got three more practice opportunities including our final spring scrimmage on Saturday. These three days and especially what we do on Saturday is what we're going to take into the off-season and fall camp. We've got to continue to improve and continue to push ourselves with every chance we get."
During the scrimmage period, four quarterbacks rotated in the shotgun with transfer Eddie Sullivan seeing the most reps, followed by returning sophomore Brandon Pechloff, Jawan Simmons and freshman Michael Helms, Jr. The same trio of running backs - Michael Johnson, Shaun Warren and Mike Vaughn - split time running alongside the signal caller in the backfield.
Among the wide receivers, redshirt freshman Tyler Kilpa made an impressive catch while falling away, with standouts Jacoby Mitchell and Deja Alexander both recording catches as the offense was successful in moving the chains.
Overall highlights of the scrimmage included a long touchdown run by Warren on offense, while the defense came up with four turnovers. The defensive unit recorded a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns by defensive backs Terrence Green and Christon Gill, as well as two takeaways on fumble recoveries by Randy Pressley and Ben Watkins.
Practice continues Thursday and Friday afternoons ahead of Saturday's Spring Game in Cullowhee.