Spring Report #4: No Rest For the Redbirds on a Sunday Afternoon
March 30, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - With gray skies above and cool breeze blowing through Hancock Stadium, the Illinois State football team practiced for the second time in full pads on Sunday afternoon. The Redbirds worked out for more than two hours with another day of 24 five-minute drill sessions.
In spite of the cold, dreary weather, head coach Denver Johnson was impressed with the team's attitude and intensity level on the day.
"We were very physical today," said Johnson. "There was a lot of good hitting and movement throughout every drill and that is encouraging. As long as we are playing fast and physical then we will have a chance to get better."
ISU ran 32 plays in a 7-on-7 scrimmage situation. Kevin Brockway received most of the snaps and completed 7-of-12 pass attempts. He connected with Jake Rourke and Kelvin Chandler twice and hit Cody White on a post route that went for over 30 yards, the longest play of the drill. Preston Earl had two series in the 7-on-7 and completed 5-of-8 pass attempts, mostly on quick outs and screens. Drew Kiel also had two series and was 5-for-8 as well. He did throw the lone interception of the drill when Antonio Adams stepped in front of a pass that was intended for White. Sam Donatucci appeared in the final series and completed all four of his passes.
"The offensive line really took a step forward today," said Johnson. "There are some defensive linemen, like David Rivas, Adam Blankenship and Eric Brunner, who are really doing some good things. Overall, it was a very positive practice."
After the 7-on-7 drill, the Redbirds lined up with full squads on both sides of the ball for a 24-play series. The defense came up big from the start as Doni Phelps recorded sacks on two of the first three plays and Jason Tate broke up a pass on the other. Cortes Rice was the featured running back on the day, carrying the ball five times. He had two carries that went for more than 10 yards, including a pair of 15-yard scampers. Geno Blow also had a run of over 15 yards. Drew Kempe made a nice play when he caught a 10-yard out pass on the sideline and fought past a soft tackle to break down the field for a big gain.
Brockway, Earl and Kiel each took eight snaps during the full-squad plays. Brockway was 1-for-3 and was sacked twice. Earl was 3-for-3 and showed good poise as he was flushed out of the pocket on one play and managed to avoid the defensive pressure and make it back to the line of scrimmage. Kiel was 3-for-4 and was the quarterback on both of Rice's big runs. Casey Kociuba nearly intercepted Kiel when he came over from his safety spot on an out route, but could not hang onto the ball.
The practice ended with a short-yardage situation as the offense and defense were pitted against one another from the two-yard line. Of the 16 plays from the goal line, the offense scored on 10 of them, including three touchdown runs by Parrish Fisher. Brockway and Kiel each threw a touchdown pass; with Brockway finding Garin Harcar on a screen and Kiel lofting a corner route to Chandler. Earl ran in a touchdown when all of his receivers were covered on a bootleg. The defense managed three stops and forced an incomplete pass.
The kickers got some work in on the afternoon as well. Steven Fetzer was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra point attempts and Tyler Funk made all three of his tries. Kevin Mazur missed his second attempt and ended the day 3-for-4. The ball was then moved back to the 22-yard line where the kickers took their shots at 39-yard field goal attempts. Fetzer and Mazur each went 1-for-2 while Funk missed both of his tries.