Spring Report #13: Redbirds Focus on the Run
April 16, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team worked predominantly on the running game during Wednesday's 24-period practice at Hancock Stadium, as the Redbird offense faced first-and-10 situations throughout the entire workout.
"This was a first-and-10 day and it was a run-emphasis day, so we wanted to extend the team period and got some real good work," said head coach Denver Johnson. "We are just trying to polish up some things on offense and get some clarity defensively. I thought it was a very good period on both sides."
Kevin Brockway and Preston Earl were each 3-for-5 passing during the team period, while Warren McCarty, Matt Mose and Casey Cline each hauled in two catches apiece. Tom Nelson and Khenon Hall each notched a pass breakup, while Dave Rivas collected a quarterback sack.
The final period of practice was spent in a goal-line situation with the ball placed on the 2-yard line. The offense scored touchdowns on four of the eight snaps. Cliffton Gordon and Geno Blow each had 2-yard rushing touchdowns, while Shaun Ratay connected with Eyad Salem on a fade route for a score and Brockway completed a two-yard pass in the flat to Garin Harcar.
Gordon was stuffed on a rush attempt by Hall, while Fisher was denied on the final snap by Casey Kociuba. Keenan Wimbley also added a sack earlier in the drill.
Earlier in practice, the Redbird receivers went one-on-one against the secondary in a red-zone situation from the 5-yard line. Ratay had the hot hand with a 5-for-7 effort, while Drew Kiel and Sam Donatucci were each 3-for-7. Brockway and Earl each finished with a 1-for-6 effort. Jason Tate intercepted a Joe DeVries pass during the goal line drill, while Hall intercepted another Redbird pass earlier in the 1-on-1 period.
After the opening period, the Redbirds worked on extra points and field goals. Kicking into a 33 mph wind, Nate Funk converted 2-for-3 PAT tries with Tate blocking his final attempt. Kevin Mazur was 2-for-2.
Again, booting into a stiff wind, Funk and Mazur were a combined 1-for-9 from 37 yards out. Mazur was the only one to split the upright in five tries. Funk had a pair blocked, including another one by Tate and the other by Kelvyn Hemphill.
In the following period, the punters were able to take advantage of the steady breeze. Bobby Kelsey averaged 49.8 yards per punt over four kicks, while Levi Dyer averaged 48.5 yards on two punts and Mazur average 54.5 yards also on two kicks.
Sophomore defensive tackle Mike Piton, who started all 11 games last season, will be sidelined for the remainder of spring practice. Piton will undergo surgery next week to repair a posterior labrum tear in his right shoulder, but should be fully recovered before the start of fall camp.
Illinois State will have one final practice, Thursday at 3:30 p.m., before Saturday's annual Red-White Scrimmage.