Cullowhee, N.C. - On-field preparations for the 2017 football season commenced Tuesday afternoon for the Western Carolina Catamounts as the squad worked through a 12-period opening practice session on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The practice was held under mostly cloudy skies and pleasant temperatures for the first day of August, though temps on the turf did add some degree of heat to the festivities.
A total of 105 football student-athletes reported on Monday and were all active during Tuesday's two-hour, helmet-only drill. WCU's first practice included multiple individual unit sessions with a couple special teams drills, with both offense and defense coming together for several team drills including the practice-ending "Play Ball" segment.
Also on Tuesday, single-game football ticket sales opened to both Catamount Club and current season ticket holders. Single-game ticket sales for the general public opens on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
"It was great to be back out here number one. I thought that the guys came out with a lot of energy today -- they were having fun. And as much as anything, when you come out on the first day, you just want to see guys bouncing around, guys having fun with a lot of energy," said Western Carolina sixth-year head coach Mark Speir following his squad's first preseason practice. "I thought that our defense flew around, created some turnovers when we did our skelly. I felt that they played with some intensity, with a little edge about them that was good to see. Overall, I thought that it was a very productive day -- I thought the tempo was really good today."
Speir felt that his squad's retention from much of the install and review of basics from the spring season through the summer's player-led practices was key in Tuesday's first practice which featured reps through up to three different units.
WCU opened fall camp with seven active quarterbacks, led by returning starter in redshirt sophomore Tyrie Adams, the returning Southern Conference Freshman of the Year. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native was flanked by returning redshirt junior Wes Holcombe, seeing his first action since suffering a season-ending leg injury against The Citadel last fall. Local product, Ray Smith, and Charlotte, N.C., sophomore Nolan Beasley were also in spring camp for the Catamounts. Those four QBs were joined by highly-touted freshmen Will Jones (Greensboro, N.C. / Page HS), D.J. Thorpe (Nashville, Tenn. / Cane Ridge HS), and Tucker Woolum (Pineville, Ky. / Pineville HS).
Those seven quarterbacks rotated reps during Tuesday's first practice -- something Speir said would happen across the field at a variety of positions as the squad looks to build experience depth.
Highlights from Tuesday's 7-on-7 drills including 11 different players catching passes including returning redshirt senior Terryon Robinson hauling in two including one up the sideline that split the corner and safety on a would-be touchdown route. Defensive highlights including linebacker Kendall White intercepting a tipped pass with second-year corner John Brannon tallying a pair of pass break-ups. Brannon also came up with an interception during the "Play Ball" segment for a defensive stop.
Western Carolina's first week of practice will include mostly afternoon sessions as many of the student-athletes complete the second semester of summer school. Practice times will shift to more morning sessions entering the second week of practice.
Western Carolina opens the 2017 season at Aloha Stadium in Hawai'i on Saturday, Sept. 2 in the first of 12-consecutive weeks of football. The Catamounts open the home portion of their schedule against the Davidson Wildcats at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on Saturday, Sept. 9 in the "Blackout" game that includes special black and purple uniforms. The 6:00 pm kickoff will be followed by postgame fireworks, presented by Ingles and iHeartRadio partners Star 104.3 and 99.9 Kiss Country.
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts, @WCU_FB), and Instagram (wcu_catamounts), as well as video updates on the department's YouTube channel (CatamountSports).
Season tickets for all five home dates of Western Carolina's 2017 football season are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans can also call the ticket office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
2017 Catamount Football -- Opening Week of Fall Practice Schedule:
Wednesday, Aug. 2 -- Practice #2 -- 3:45 pm -- 5:45 pm (helmets only)
Thursday, Aug. 3 -- Practice #3 -- 3:45 pm -- 5:45 pm (shells)
Friday, Aug. 4 -- Practice #4 -- 4:20 pm -- 6:20 pm (shells)
Saturday, Aug. 5 -- Practice #5 -- 3:15 pm -- 5:15 pm (full pads)
Sunday, Aug. 6 -- No Practice -- Media / Team Photo Day
* Practice times are subject to change
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Football:
Wednesday, Aug. 2 - STATS FCS initial Walter Payton Award Watch List released
Friday, Aug. 4 - STATS FCS initial Buck Buchanan Award Watch List released
Saturday, Aug. 5 - First scheduled practice in full pads
Sunday, Aug. 6 - Western Carolina's on-campus Media / Photo Day
Tuesday, Aug. 8 - Single-game home football tickets on sale to general public
Friday, Aug. 18 - Western Carolina University Freshman Move-In Day
Saturday, Aug. 19 - Football Scrimmage No. 3 and "Meet the Cats" following practice
Monday, Aug. 21 - First day of fall classes; "Solar Eclipse Blackout Uniforms" Facebook LIVE event
Saturday, Sept. 2 - 2017 Catamount Football season-opener at Hawai'i -- 6 pm HT / Midnight ET
Friday, Sept. 8 - 13th annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament at The Maggie Valley Club
Saturday, Sept. 9 - 2017 Catamount Football home-opener vs. Davidson in Cullowhee, N.C.
Friday, Oct. 27 - "The Mutt" Catamount Football Golf Classic at the Laurel Ridge Country Club