Spring Report #10: Redbird Offense Moves the Chains
April 9, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - In addition to the sunshine returning to central Illinois, there were several bright spots at the Illinois State football team's practice Wednesday at Hancock Stadium, including the offense's performance during the third-and-seven situational team scrimmage.
The Redbirds opened up the team period with a third-and-seven situation and the ISU offense responded. On 15 snaps, the Redbirds converted seven first downs. Senior Kevin Brockway led the offense on three first-down plays, including a pair of passes to Eyad Salem. Brockway finished the drill completing 3-of-5 pass attempts.
Sophomore Preston Earl completed 4-of-5 passes, but his biggest play was the audible he called that resulted in a would-be touchdown run by Cortes Rice. Once receiving the handoff Rice hit the hole off right tackle, before cutting back to the left and eventually heading back toward the right sideline.
"I was just telling the offense that we did a much better job converting on third down," said Jim Williams, ISU's offensive coordinator. "The last time we practiced third down, we were like 2-of-9 or something. We just wanted to concentrate on winning every play."
Despite allowing seven first-down plays, the defense did muster a sack by Babtunde Soyebo, an interception by Chris Garrett and a pair of pass breakups by Tom Nelson and Donnie Phelps. With the ball spotted at first-and-10 later during the team period, the defense stifled the Redbird offense.
"The offense just wasn't as intense in the first-down drill," said Williams. "The mind was thinking too much. There was a new defensive front thrown at them (Wednesday), and they just have to understand that they need to play fast. You can't play slow when you're seeing something different."
The defense compiled three sacks on first-and-10, with Ray Sankey, Keenan Wimbley and Dave Rivas each getting one. Geno Blow and Clifton Gordon each added a run of 10-plus yards, but the offensive production was limited.
Earlier during the Redbirds' 24-period workout, the offense went against the defense in the 7-on-7 drill. Brockway completed 5-of-8 passes, while Earl was 4-for-5. Drew Kiel also had a good day throwing the ball with a 5-for-7 effort. Dean Eastman was the leading receiver with three catches, while Garrett had two pass breakups and Mark Martin added one.
Warren McCarty hauled in eight catches, while going one-on-one against the Redbird secondary to lead all receivers during an earlier drill. Brockway completed 9-of-14 passes don the same drill and Kiel was 8-for-11. Earl also finished with a 6-for-10 effort. Nelson had a pair of pass breakups and Antonio Adams added another.
After the first period, the Redbirds worked on their kicking game. Senior Kevin Mazur hit the left upright to open the extra point tries and finished 1-for-2, while Tyler Funk split the posts on both of his attempts. From 41 yards out, both Mazur and Funk finished 3-for-6, but each made three of their last four after both missed their first two attempts.
The following period focused on the ISU punters. Bobby Kelsey averaged 40.7 yards on three punts, while Mazur averaged 36.7 yards and Levi Dyer carried a 36.3 yards per kick average.
The fear of weather continues to alter the ISU practice schedule. As a result, the Redbirds will return to practice Friday, while the rest of the weekend remains up in the air.