Redbird Football Begins Spring Practice Tuesday
March 24, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team takes its first step toward a 2008 Gateway Football Conference Championship Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., as the Redbirds take the Hancock Stadium turf for the first of 15 spring practices.
Coming off a 4-7 campaign, ISU head coach Denver Johnson anticipates using spring practice as the framework of building a fundamentally-sound football team.
"We want to re-establish ourselves as a fundamental football team," said Johnson. "Looking back at last year, one of the things that really glared at us was how poorly we executed some of the fundamentals of the game. We had some personnel issues, and we had some schematic issues but we also some fundamental issues."
The Redbirds return 13 starters from their 2007 roster and 44 letterwinners. Offensively, ISU will have to replace its starting quarterback, running back and three linemen.
"We are going to look at everybody," said Johnson. "There is no incumbency and there is no seniority. All the jobs are wide open, and the guys that perform the best are the ones that can lay claim to those jobs."
To strengthen the team as a whole, Johnson, who enters his ninth season at Illinois State, and his staff have made some personnel changes. Junior Brandon Wilson will move to inside linebacker, after playing defensive end his first two seasons at Illinois State, while sophomore Dane Zumbahlen will move from tight end to offensive tackle.
"We have asked a few guys to make some position moves and to take a look at a few things," said Johnson. "We'll evaluate those (position changes) and see how they work out."
With the vacancy at the offensive line coaching position, Johnson will oversee the offensive front on an interim basis. An offensive line coach for 12 years prior to becoming a head coach, Johnson is excited about returning to his roots.
"I'm really looking forward to getting out and working individually with the guys," said Johnson. "One thing I miss about being a head coach is that you don't coach football players, you coach the football team. I will continue to evaluate candidates to shore up something for the long haul, but in the short term, I will fill that gap."
ISU's spring practice will culminate April 19 with the Red-White Scrimmage. The annual spring game will take place at Hancock Stadium and will kick off at 1 p.m.