Cullowhee, N.C. - Rainy and muggy conditions did little to dampen the excitement and energy at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on Friday night as Western Carolina held its first preseason practice in preparation for the 2012 season.
Much like the first practice of the mid-March spring session under first-year head coach Mark Speir and staff, Friday night's opening session under the lights was conducted amidst sporadic summertime rain showers that moved through the mountain region. Donning the sparkling purple helmets for the first time, the squad was able to work through all 13 of the scheduled sessions, some amidst a driving rain.
"Tonight was a great start to our fall camp," said Speir following the two-hour session. "These first couple of days when we're just in helmets, we spend a lot of time refreshing our returning players and teaching our new guys. There is a lot going on with regards to translating what we're doing in film and meetings onto the practice field."
"Overall, I felt our guys came out sharp tonight and really competed. I was really impressed with a lot of our newcomers," he added. "I think you could really tell with our players the difference that working last spring for some and through the summer for most, the time spent with our strength coach Jeff Pitman. He and his staff have done a great job in helping us get better. But, tomorrow's another day and we've got to keep working and keep building."
With the units switching jerseys from the spring - the offense wearing purple while the defense went with white shirts - five quarterbacks took snaps during Friday's practice. Among those taking turns running the spread offense were returners Eddie Sullivan, Jawan Simmons and Michael Helms Jr. The trio that went through spring ball together was joined by freshmen Troy Mitchell and walk-on, Jonah Duggan.
Keeping with the up-tempo, station-to-station drills the squad used during Speir's first spring in Cullowhee, the majority of Friday's practice session was spent with individual position coaches, coming together for offensive and defensive unit work with a couple sessions of one-on-one drills with the wide outs against the secondary.
WCU will hold its annual Media/Photo Day on Saturday morning before hitting the turf for the second helmet-only practice of the season that afternoon. The squad will practice in helmets and shoulder pads on Sunday and Monday afternoons with the first practice in full pads slated for Tuesday at 3:30 pm.
Western Carolina's football practice this preseason is open to the public. However, it is respectfully requested that those in attendance observe from the stadium seating area and avoid being either on the field or sidelines for safety.
WCU officially opens the Mark Speir era on Thursday, Aug. 30 against the Mars Hill Lions in Cullowhee. The Lions are coming off an 8-3 season, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division II national playoffs. The pre-Labor Day season-opener has a special mid-week kickoff time of 8:00 pm.
To purchase season tickets or single-game tickets (except for the Appalachian State game), log onto CatamountSports.com or call 800-34-GOWCU.