Aug. 9, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina returned to the turf of E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field on a hot and muggy Friday morning for the ninth practice session of the 2013 preseason, the first of two sessions scheduled for the end of the first full week of camp. The squad worked through 17 periods in full pads, completing practice with wind sprints for conditioning.
The team will return for a helmet-only practice on Friday evening surrounding the "Catamount 101: Ladies Love Football" event taking place at 5:30 pm on the Northwest Patio of the Ramsey Center.
WCU's practice included a lot of position and unit work, taking the classroom and walk-thru install sessions to the field at full speed. There were several competitive situations including 7-on-7 drills pitting the wide receivers and running backs against the defensive secondary and linebackers.
With extra wind sprints on the line, practice concluded with a situational scrimmage with a third-down and eight yards to go scenario. Despite a couple of good opportunities to move the chains by the offense, the defensive unit held and was rewarded with fewer reps of conditioning.
According to the WCU Sports Medicine staff, injuries have started to take their toll as preseason practice completes its first full week. On Friday, a total of five players were completely held out of the morning fully-padded session with 10 others limited in drills they could participate in and were restricted from being in full pads.
A total of five quarterbacks continue to split reps with redshirt junior Eddie Sullivan and sophomore Troy Mitchell seeing the bulk of the reps. The two continue to rotate practice sessions with the first team with Sullivan running with the first string on Friday morning. Redshirt sophomore Jawan Simmons, redshirt freshman Jonah Duggan and true freshman Josh Phipps also saw time at quarterback.
Elsewhere on offense, five running backs continue to split rotations with sophomore Darius Ramsey and junior Shaun Warren splitting most of the reps while converted wide out, David Giron, redshirt freshman C.J. Goodman and freshman Garry Lewis also taking snaps in the backfield. Goodman was held out on Friday.
Likewise is the case for the WCU receiving corps., as returners like juniors Karnorris Benson, Garrett Brown and Jeff Moore, splitting rotations with redshirt sophomore Tyler Klipa who is returning from a knee injury. Freshman - and local product from Hendersonville - Steffon Hill, continues to work into the rotation, as does his classmates Terryon Robinson and Willie Police, who was limited during Friday morning's session. Redshirt freshman Seth Curtis continues to progress, hauling in several difficult passes during the 7-on-7 drill, as did transfer John Sullivan.
Defensively, the Catamounts continue to rotate both linemen and defensive backs between the first and second string, working the younger players in with the veterans. Sophomores Caleb Hawkins and John McBeth continue to impress during camp, as does senior Brian Johnson who has become a leader along the front line. Redshirt senior Andre Shishkin, returning from elbow surgery that sidelined him in 2012, was limited on Friday morning but is expected to participate in Saturday's scrimmage.
In the secondary, preseason All-Southern Conference selection Ace Clark continues to be a leader for the younger players. Sophomore Sertonuse Harris was limited in Friday morning's practice, but should be ready for Saturday's scrimmage.
Senior linebacker Marcus Stokes, who is returning from a knee injury suffered during spring drills, remained out of action as he has yet to be cleared for practice. Freshman Tommy Tate was held out after twisting a knee during Thursday's practice.
During his post-practice remarks, WCU second-year head coach Mark Speir complimented his players on their effort thus far during preseason, but reminded the squad that the intensity and preparations needed to be taken to the next level as camp progresses.
"We're anticipating our first scrimmage on Saturday. We'll have SoCon officials on the field and are looking forward to having Catamount Club members, as well as fans, in the stands here in Cullowhee," said Speir. "We have altered our Friday schedule some in preparation for our scrimmage on Saturday with plans of running well over 100-plays. It's going to be hot, upbeat and intense. I can't wait to see how our guys compete on Saturday afternoon."
Among the spectators during Friday's first practice was former Western Carolina offensive lineman, Dan Best (1995-98). Best was a two-time All-Southern Conference selection in 1997 and '98, earning first team plaudits during his senior season. He was later signed by the Carolina Panthers, spending two seasons with the NFL squad.
Best - who was the first-ever player current head coach Mark Speir recruited to WCU - watched practice with his family and was introduced to the team at the end of practice. A man of few words but who led by example during his playing career in Cullowhee, Best addressed the team with the simple mantra - "leave it all on the field."
Western Carolina resumes its preseason practices this afternoon with meetings ahead of its 10th practice session of the preseason on Friday evening. Again, the team will hold its first true scrimmage of camp on Saturday afternoon beginning at 3:30 pm.
A reminder that WCU 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.
Fans can keep track of many of the preseason activities through the Catamount Athletics social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts), YouTube (CatamountSports) and Instagram (wcu_catamounts). Additionally, CatamountSports.com will be updated throughout the 2013 preseason.
This Week in Catamount Football:
Friday, Aug. 9:
Practice #10, 5:30 pm (helmets only)
Catamount 101: Ladies Love Football, 5:30 pm
Saturday, Aug. 10:
Scrimmage (Practice #11, full pads) 3:30 pm
Catamount Tailgate Kickoff (Catamount Club Members)
* Practice schedule is subject to change
Important Catamount Football Dates to Remember:
Fri., August 9 - Catamount 101 - Ladies Love Football event, Cullowhee (5:30 pm)
Sat., August 10 - Catamount Tailgate Kickoff (Catamount Club members, Noon)
Mon., August 19 - First day of fall classes at WCU
Mon., August 19 - 2013 Catamount Football single-game tickets go on sale
Thurs., August 29 - 2013 Catamount Football season-opener at Middle Tennessee; Murfreesboro, Tenn. (6:30 pm CT / 7:30 pm ET)
Fri., September 13 - The Bob Waters Memorial golf tournament; High Vista Country Club in Mills River, N.C.
Sat., September 14 - 2013 Catamount Football home opener vs. The Citadel (3:30 pm)