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NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team showed its balance with a strong offensive showing and stout defensive pressure Saturday, as the Redbirds completed 2012 fall training camp with their annual Red-White Scrimmage at Hancock Stadium.

The first team offensive unit led by senior quarterback Matt Brown wasted little time getting on the scoreboard to start the scrimmage. Starting from his own 25-yard line, Brown led the Redbirds on a quick seven-play scoring drive that brought the fans in attendance to their feet.

An early 10-yard completion to Donovan Harden got things going, but the big play came via a 51-yard connection from Brown to preseason All-American wide receiver Tyrone Walker that put the ball all the way to the four-yard line. On the next play, Brown found transfer wideout Phil Dudley in the corner of the endzone for the touchdown. In limited action, Brown was 6-for-7 for 78 yards with the touchdown and Walker finished with 52 yards receiving.

The defense recovered quickly and started by shutting down the Redbird running attack. Senior Darrelynn Dunn was only able to gain nine yards on four carries, while Cameron Hunt rushed for 45 yards on eight rushes. True freshman running back Marshaun Coprich was able to have some success, as he led all rushers with 51 yards on 11 carries, mostly with the third-team unit.

Redbird defenders racked up a total of six sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, led by redshirt freshman defensive end Zack Marshall's 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and five tackles to lead all ISU defensive players. Senior middle linebacker Mike Zimmer was right behind with four stops and two of Rickey Simpson's three tackles were for a loss.

The highlight of the day for the defense came in the middle of the scrimmage, when freshman Kalium Ewing picked off a Blake Winkler pass and returned it 45 yards for the touchdown. It was the second interception return for a touchdown for a Redbird defender in the previous two scrimmages, a welcome statistic for a team that recorded just two interceptions in 2011.

After several series of back and forth play, the offense rounded out the day with another impressive scoring drive. Winkler led the Redbirds on a six-play scoring drive that spanned 70 yards, which was capped off on a 47-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Milton Colbert. Colbert, who led all receivers with three grabs for 68 yards, was injured on the play and had to be carted off the field.

The Redbirds will have two weeks of preparation left, before the season opener Sept. 1 at home against Dayton. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Hancock Stadium.

 
   
 


NORMAL, Ill. - With the 2012 Illinois State fall football camp nearing a close, players and coaches are busy trying to end camp on a high note. Following two practices Thursday, the team returned to Hancock Stadium Friday for a two-and-a-half hour full-pad workout on a warm, sunny afternoon in Normal.

"I really like the personality of the team," head coach Brock Spack said. "There is a toughness and an edge to them at this point in camp that is very encouraging. They bounced back from a long day of work yesterday with a high-intensity camp today. It is important for everyone to realize that we are not done yet. We still have a few practices to go and need to get in some crucial work before game week preparations start. We are excited for the scrimmage tomorrow."

Individual drills with position coaches dominated the early portion of practice. As has been the case for the last week, special teams received extra time, with kickoffs and punts taking place with live defenses.

The horn sounded and the teams were split apart by offense and defense and taken to separate sidelines for 11-on-11 drills. Starting quarterback Matt Brown went 3-for-5, with pass completions to Phil Dudley, Tyrone Walker, and Donovan Harden. Backups Cameron Meredith, Blake Winkler, and Adam Pittser each completed 1-of-2 passes. Defensively, Alex Donnelly, Mike Zimmer and Evan Frierson all registered sacks.

With camp nearing a close, coaches are spending extra time working on fundamentals. Across the turf, players ran agility and formation drills. Running backs coach Lamar Conard lined two backs next to each other and threw a ball between them, forcing both players to compete to obtain possession of the ball. Secondary coach Cody Deti had safeties work on strip-and-recover skills.

The team re-joined for 11-on-11 competition that was dominated by the ground game. Running backs Marshaun Coprich, Darrelynn Dunn and Cameron Hunt received the most carries, with Dunn breaking two tackles en route to a 40-plus yard gain down the left sideline. Brown took off on a 25-yard scramble for a first down, drawing a large applause from his coaches and the offensive sideline. Coprich, a true-freshman from Victorville, Calif., broke several tackles and weaved into the end zone for a 30-plus yard score. Spack has indicated that he could be one of the only freshman in this year's class that may not redshirt.

The team returns to work with two practices Saturday. A light walk-through at 9 a.m. sets the tone for a 4 p.m. scrimmage at Hancock Stadium. The scrimmage is part of Redbird Fan Fair, a free campus festival that features live music, carnival games, and access to football and volleyball scrimmages. In addition, players from all 19 ISU varsity sports will be on hand to assist with games, sign autographs and interact with fans.

 
   
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NORMAL, Ill. - With heavy storms forcing an abridged workout Thursday afternoon, Illinois State head football coach Brock Spack challenged his team to make up for lost time with an effective practice Thursday night. His players responded with one of the most spirited camp practices of the fall, on a cool, dry evening under the Hancock Stadium lights.

"That was a very good practice," Spack said. "The weather decided to cooperate with us. It felt like we had the air conditioning turned on. The guys definitely had an extra bounce to their step, which is uncommon because this is the time of the year when their legs are tired and their bodies are worn down. I was really happy with the amount of energy on both sides of the ball. The first-team units played very well and did exactly what they were supposed to do."

After a severe thunderstorm chased the Redbirds off the field in the afternoon, the team re-emerged from the Kaufman football building donned in helmets, jersey tops and shorts on a near-perfect night. The customary team stretch led into punting drills, while the quarterbacks warmed up for team exercises.

The first 11-on-11 session opened with senior quarterback Matt Brown connecting with Darrelynn Dunn and Tryone Walker for 10-yard gains. Brown's next four attempts would be broken up, with particularly strong efforts from Colton Underwood and Matt Goldsmith. Backup Cameron Meredith went 2-for-3, connecting twice with wide out Milton Colbert. Blake Winkler completed both pass attempts.

The offense and defensive line retreated to the south end zone for one-on-one drills as 7-on-7 competition commenced. Brown finished that session 4-for-5, connecting with tight end James O'Shaughnessy twice and Donovan Harden and Colbert once each. Backup Adam Pittser was a perfect 3-for-3, successfully completing passes to Phil Dudley, Corey Shandrick, and Marlion Barnett.

With the lines back in place, practice concluded with an extended 11-on-11 battle. Sacks from Evan Frierson, Teddy Corwin, and Zack Marshall paced the defense, while Ezra Thompson's leaping interception was the play of the session. On offense, Dudley caught the defense off guard, working a 65-yard run on a reverse play. Meredith flashed his speed as well, dashing for a 23-yard touchdown run on fourth down. Nearly every healthy player saw action in the drill and each good play drew an animated reaction from the respective offensive or defensive sideline.

The Redbirds return to practice with a two-and-a-half hour workout Friday afternoon at Hancock Stadium beginning at 3:00 p.m.

 
   
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NORMAL, Ill. - The heavy thunderstorms that ripped through Bloomington-Normal Thursday morning were a welcome sight for many hoping for some rain, but they played havoc for the Illinois State football team that had the first of two practice on the day scheduled for 9 a.m.

The start of practice was delayed two hours due to rain, wind and lightning in the area, but the team was eventually able to take the field at 11 a.m. Weather delays are something football teams have to deal with throughout the year and head coach Brock Spack and his staff was prepared to get work in while protecting the players and staff on field at the same time.

"We tell our players constantly to focus on what they can control and weather is certainly something that none of us have any control of," Spack said. "We can't put a request in for clear skies and cool temperatures every day, so we have to adjust accordingly and do what is best for the safety of our players and staff. Once we were able to get out there safely with the lighting out of the area, we got our work done and were able to get off the field before the next wave hit, which was good."

Heading into the morning practice, the players knew that the focus of the workout would be on special teams via a "kicking scrimmage." The coaches scripted out a set of plays focusing on every aspect of the kicking game and the winds and rain actually added an extra dimension to that session.

It started with a focus on kickoffs, with kickers Nick Aussieker, Spencer Smith and Scott Kuehn taking turns booting balls to Ben Ericksen, Lechein Neblett, Josh Burch, and Phil Dudley. After six repetitions, the team worked on a series of onside kicks, with the defense recovering one of those attempts.

The punters then took the field and worked on end zone pressure kicks, with Patrick Wright and Brandon White taking the bulk of the snaps.  After a horn, the team shifted into focus on kickoff returns, and Burch had the highlight of the day when he returned a kick 83 yards for a touchdown, going nearly untouched the whole way. During this set of kickoffs, the kickers alternated between full distance and squib kicks, with up men like Brian Athey and Bradon Prate forced to take kicks and try to get positive yardage.

Practice concluded with the first and second-team offense getting a crack at the two-minute drill. Starting at its own 22-yard line, the first-team offense led by Matt Brown needed just seven plays and 1:20 to get the touchdown it needed. On second down, Brown found Neblett for a 48-yard gain to move the ball down to the opponent 32-yard line. After completions to Darrelynn Dunn, Tyrone Walker and James O'Shaughnessy, that moved the ball to the 16-yard line, Brown found Neblett in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown to cap off the drive.

The second-team unit did not have as much success, as they were only able to advance the ball to midfield before being forced off the field on fourth down. Brown and the first-teamers got the final shot of the practice and the group worked to the 41-yard line, before Brown and Donovan Harden connected on a 13-yard pass to get the ball past midfield. On the next play, a Brown pass was nearly intercepted on the sidelines by Ezra Thompson, but given a second chance Brown was able to move the ball to the 33-yard line on a pass to Dunn to force third down. After a breakup by Dominic Clarke, Brown was sacked by Shelby Harris to end the session as the team headed in as another set of storms crept closer to the stadium.

Weather permitting, the Redbirds will come back out at 7 p.m., for practice No. 16 of fall camp Thursday night.

 
   
 


NORMAL, Ill. - The temperatures had cooled recently in Central Illinois, which was welcomed by the Illinois State football team that has been working hard during fall practices at Hancock Stadium. However, the heat rose a bit on Wednesday and that caused the intensity during practice to climb as well for the Redbirds.

After 13 tough practices since August 4, head coach Brock Spack moved the majority of the session up to the grass practice field adjacent to the stadium to provide the players a bit more cushion during the physical, two-hour padded practice. Throughout practice, players were battling the heat and their teammates across the line, which caused some spirited play between the offensive and defensive units.

"We've been lucky with the weather this past week, and this heat got to the players a little bit today," Spack said. "They are all a bit tired, bruised and exhausted at this time of camp and really want to hit someone other than their teammates. I love this time of camp, because you see what these guys are made of and get an idea of how mentally and physically tough they are. We have five practices and a scrimmage left before we get into our regular routine and they need to finish strong to get prepared for the opener."

Even with full pads on, the contact was lessened early on to protect the players and the grass field provided more support for the their tired legs. After individual workouts and special teams drills, the team went immediately into the blitz drill. Quarterback Matt Brown showed a quick release as he eluded the rush of the Redbird defenders in white jerseys and James O'Shaughnessy made a couple of strong catches. Linebacker Evan Frierson did make his presence known during the session, as he recorded a pair of sacks.

During 7-on-7 work, Brown was efficient as always going 6-for-8, with three-straight completions to Donovan Harden during one stretch. Cameron Meredith was 5-for-6, with his only blemish coming as a result of a tipped ball that was intercepted by Ezra Thompson. Adam Pittser also got his shots in, as he finished 5-for-6 with a pair of completions to Anthony Williams. On the defensive side, Dominic Clarke, Dontae McCoy and Mike Banks all recorded pass breakups during the session showing the depth in the secondary.

The final period of the day was the team session, where the physicality was apparent and the tension was palpable. The offense controlled the momentum throughout, led by pair of strong runs and a nice catch on a screen pass by Darrelynn Dunn. Lechein Neblett and Corey Shandrick also made big plays later in the drill, before the defense made some big stops late. Banks nearly intercepted a Meredith offering, one play after he and Brandon Westphal combined to pull down Harden in the backfield on a reverse play. Colton Underwood and Shelby Harris also combined for a TFL when they brought down Cameron Hunt behind the line of scrimmage and Zach Marshall capped things off with a sack on Blake Winkler to end the day.

The Redbirds will hold their final two-a-day Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. with practice No. 15. The team will then return to the field under the lights of Hancock Stadium at 7p.m. for its final night practice of fall camp.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. -Hours after walking off the Hancock Stadium turf following an effective morning practice, the Illinois State football team returned to their home stadium for a two-hour full-pad practice Tuesday night. It marked the 13th-of-20 fall camp practices and just 18 days remain before the Redbirds open the season, Sept. 1, against Dayton.

"I thought we did really good things on both sides of the football tonight," head coach Brock Spack said. "It was really important that they carry over all of the momentum that was built at practice earlier today and they did just that. It is a tough day when you have two practices, but everyone was very focused and competed well. When you are not making a lot of mistakes, you know they are locked in."

With the bright lights illuminating the turf, the Redbirds emerged from the Kaufman football building on a muggy, windless night. Special teams opened practice with their customary kickoff and punt drills, before the offense and defense split for 11-on-11 competition.

One day after the offense dominated play, Spack challenged the defense to return the favor. They would not disappoint. Quarterback Matt Brown's first two pass attempts were swatted away, before he split double-coverage for a 15-yard gain to wide receiver Tyrone Walker. Austin Davis nearly intercepted Brown's next pass, before defensive lineman Shelby Harris closed the drill with an explosive sack on Illinois State's first-team quarterback.

The players were broken up into individual drills for the next 30 minutes, with position coaches explaining proper technique, mechanics and footwork. Special teams again returned to the forefront, with kickoffs being the focus. Returners Ben Ericksen, Tevin Allen, Phil Dudley, and Lechein Neblett all had opportunities to work on returns versus a live defense. Allen's 95-yard return for a touchdown was the highlight.

A brief 7-on-7 drill went in the favor of the offense. Brown completed 5-of-6 passes, including a 20-yard touchdown to tight end James O'Shaughnessy. Backup Cameron Meredith showcased his footwork and speed, weaving through defenders for a long gain on the ground. He also lobbed a fade route touchdown to Dudley in the south end zone. After Blake Winkler completed 2-of-3 passes, redshirt freshman Adam Pittser executed the play of the session, firing a perfect spiral to a leaping Brian Athey for a score.

The linesmen then joined the competition for the final 11-on-11 drill of the day. On the second play from scrimmage, Brown was caught blindsided by Austin Davis, who registered a sack. His next pass would be intercepted by Ezra Thompson, leading to a loud ovation from the defensive sideline. Freshman running back Marshaun Coprich would score twice, once on a pass from Meredith and the other on a handoff from Pittser. Brown would go on to complete his next five pass attempts, before Colton Underwood sacked him to finish the drill.

Practice concluded with a winner-take-all goal line stand. With the ball placed at the one yard line, Spack laid out the ground rules. If the offense could score, the defense would have to run the stairs of Hancock Stadium's west bleachers. If the defense made the stop, the offense would do the running. Under center, Brown handed the ball to running back Darrelyn Dunn, who leapt high over the defensive line and across the goal for a score. The defense took to the stairs at Hancock Stadium, while the offense high fived and hugged at midfield.

The Redbirds return to practice with a two-and-a-half hour workout Wednesday afternoon at Hancock Stadium beginning at 3:00 p.m.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State football head coach Brock Spack was not very pleased with his defensive unit's efforts Monday evening and challenged the group to improve during practice No. 12 of fall camp Tuesday morning. Without factoring in any full-contact work due to practicing in shells, it appeared that the Redbird defense responded well under clear skies at Hancock Stadium.

"Not to take anything away from the offense, but I thought the defense was pretty lackluster yesterday," Spack said. "This is the time in camp where it really starts to grind on the players and bumps and bruises start to pile up. I was not impressed with the enthusiasm and focus, so I set the challenge for today. I thought they responded well this morning and they seemed refreshed. How that translates to tonight's practice is another story, and something we will have to watch for."

With the pads off, the team went back to basics and focused heavily on individual drills with position coaches. The Redbirds also focused heavily on special teams, with a particular focus on punting under pressure. Punters Patrick Wright and Spencer Smith each took turns punting from their own end zone, as the defense threw its punt-blocking efforts at the punters. Donovan Harden, Lechein Neblett and Phil Dudley all did their best to return the punts that made it out safely.

During the 7-on-7 session, the defense took its first steps towards redemption. Quarterback Matt Brown was solid, with completions to Tyrone Walker and James O'Shaughnessy, but he had passes deflected by linebacker Mike Zimmer and cornerback Mike Banks. Cameron Meredith also had a good session, but missed on a couple of throws due to strong coverage by Tevin Allen and Dontae McCoy.

During the team session, the defensive front that was dominant in 2011 began to show its ability. The attempted running attack from the offense was thwarted repeatedly by the likes of Colton Underwood, Shelby Harris and linebacker Evan Frierson. Running backs Darrelynn Dunn, Cameron Hunt and Marshaun Coprich found it difficult to accumulate big chunks of yardage, but the passing game was able to make a few plays, including a great catch and throw by Brown and Walker on the far sideline for a first-down conversion.

With 12 practices in the books, the Redbirds will return to the field for lucky No. 13 Tuesday night beginning at 7 p.m.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - After the first off day of camp Sunday, the Illinois State football team returned to work Monday afternoon at Hancock Stadium for fall camp practice number eleven. On a cool, rainy afternoon the offense built off a strong performance in Saturday night's scrimmage, dominating much of the two-and-a-half hour practice.

"Offensively we were excellent today," head coach Brock Spack said. "I was impressed with our running game and the offensive line gave the guys a lot of protection. I thought Matt Brown threw the ball really well, especially given the slick conditions. They just seemed very much in sync with one another."

After the traditional pre-practice stretch, special teams took over midfield for kicking drills. Kicker Neil Aussieker practiced onside kicks, while the hands unit worked on recovery. On the other half of the field, punters worked reps to the return team players.

Offensive coordinator Luke Huard pulled the quarterbacks aside for footwork drills, having players dodge cones and other obstacles in the south end zone. The offensive and defensive linemen focused on quickness and technique in the opposite end zone.

With the rain steadily increasing, Brown led the first-team offense on to the field for 11-on-11 competition. The senior quarterback completed 6-of-7 passes, finding Tyrone Walker, James O'Shaughnessy, and Darrelynn Dunn twice a piece. Backup quarterbacks Cameron Meredith, Adam Pittser and Blake Winkler also saw action, with Pittser going 5-for-8, including two long completions to Scott Keuhn. Running backs Marshaun Coprich and Dunn received the majority of the rush responsibilities.

The quarterbacks, wide outs and secondary went to the north end zone for passing and defense competition. In the south end zone, the running backs and offensive and defensive linemen battled through ground plays.

Practice concluded with the entire team running the length of the field multiple times in 20-yard sprints. The team then met at midfield for stretching and post-practice meetings.

Illinois State will return to Hancock Stadium for two practices Tuesday. The morning session begins at 9 a.m., and the even practice gets under way at 7 p.m. Each practice will run two hours.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. -Saturday night's closed scrimmage at Hancock Stadium marked the mid-way point of the Illinois State football team's fall practice season and the Redbird offense showed it was close to being ready for the season opener against Dayton.

The combined offensive units racked up 462 yards of total offense, ran 130 plays and scored 52 points under the lights. Quarterback Matt Brown came back from some early struggles and finished the night with 109 yards and a touchdown, including a 59-yard TD strike to Donovan Harden to open the scoring. Brown also added a seven-yard touchdown run of his own to cap off a solid evening.

Freshman signal-caller Blake Winkler was very impressive as well, completing 8-of-12 passes for 139 yards, including a long of 57 yards to DeAndre Eagle, who led all receivers with three catches for 109 yards. Winkler also tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Eagle, but was sacked four times. Redshirt freshman Adam Pittser only attempted six passes, but completed four of them for 48 yards, including a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brian Athey.

Four different running backs recorded at least 10 carries each to balance out the running attack, with freshman Marshaun Coprich leading the way with 65 yards including a 29-yard touchdown run late in the scrimmage. Junior Cameron Hunt carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards and added a pair of touchdown runs from one and three yards out, respectively. Senior Darrelynn Dunn added 10 carries for 39 yards and Nick Bellamy added 11 carries for 38 yards.

Despite the 52 points scored, which also included a 35-yard field goal from sophomore Nick Aussieker, the Redbird defense had several players shine during the two-hour scrimmage. A total of nine different players recorded sacks, led by Nate Palmer's two to go along with five tackles. Shelby Harris also added 1.5 sacks and six tackles and redshirt freshman Will Davis recorded five tackles, a sack and two tackles-for-loss.

Senior Ben Ericksen led all tacklers with eight stops and Patrick Dougherty was right behind with seven tackles. Ezra Thompson chipped in with six stops and broke up a pass that would have been a touchdown catch by James O'Shaughnessy had he not got a hand on the football. The men in white jerseys also forced three fumbles, including one that was scooped up by Brandon Westphal and returned 62 yards for the defense's lone score of the day. The group also blocked three kicks, with one each by Harris, Colton Underwood and Andre Allen.

ISU will have an off day Sunday, before returning to the field for practice No. 11 at Hancock Stadium on Monday at 3 p.m.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team continued fall camp Saturday morning, meeting on the Hancock Stadium turf for a two-hour practice under cloudless, blue skies. After a lunch and team meetings, the team will return to the facility for a two-hour scrimmage Saturday night.

"We went pretty hard these last few days, so the guys are feeling it a little right now," head coach Brock Spack said. "This has been a long week for them, but we are excited to get under the bright lights tonight for our scrimmage. There are always lulls that you need to address as a coaching staff, but with the day off tomorrow it is important that the guys are high-intensity tonight. Being tired and sore affects the way you perform and that is why we have to grind during fall camp to get ready for the season."

The team emerged from the Kaufman football building just before 9 a.m. to begin the day. After stretching at midfield, special teams took center stage, with kickers attempting field goals from varying lengths. The punters practiced high-risk end zone kicks, while defenders blitzed from all sides. Kick returners Dominic Clarke, Lechein Neblett, Donovan Harden and Phil Dudley alternated reps.

After the horn sounded, the offense and defense split to their respective sidelines and 11-on-11 drills began. Backup quarterback Cameron Meredith took to the field with the first-team offense, connecting on his first three passes to Tyrone Walker, Darrelynn Dunn and Milton Colbert. The defense responded with consecutive sacks from linesmen Tim Dawson and Rickey Simpson. Backup quarterbacks Blake Winkler and Adam Pittser also saw action, with Pittser connecting on a 15-yard pass to Walker to end the drill.

Players were again divided by position for individual workouts. Linesmen practiced two-on-one tackle and block drills, while the rest of the offense and defense focused on red zone strategy. Offensive coordinator Luke Huard had the quarterbacks throw fade routes to various receivers and running backs practiced on ball-protection skills.

Before returning to 11-on-11 competition, the special teams returned to midfield for kickoff practice. On the sidelines, long snapper Chris Highland and punter Patrick Wright performed countless snap drills.

The defense maintained its intensity in the second half of 11-on-11 activity. Starting quarterback Matt Brown led the offense onto the field, and with the defense collapsing around him, fired a pass that was intercepted by a leaping Tevin Allen. The new two plays from scrimmage were handoffs to Dunn, before the second-team took over. Meredith missed on his first two pass attempts, before connecting with Marshaun Coprich twice. Winkler's best pass of the day found Marlion Barnett for 15-yards on the left sideline. Brown returned to the field and was sacked by Shelby Harris and Meredith was dropped behind the line of scrimmage to close practice.

Illinois State will return to Hancock Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday for a two-hour scrimmage.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - Coming off its first two-a-day workout of the fall, one might expect that the Illinois State football team would be a bit tired and sluggish during its full-pads practice Friday afternoon at Hancock Stadium. However, that was not the case as the play was crisp and both sides of the football made big plays on the turf during the two-plus hour session.

ISU head coach Brock Spack preaches a lot of things to his players and one of those is how his team hustles during practice. Spack no doubt thought that his group might lack a little hustle after three practices in two days, but he was pleased with what he saw with his team between the whistles.

"I preach the importance of hustling to the players all the time," Spack said. "It's one of the pillars of our program and from day one, our players are expected to hustle in practice. During the action, I thought both sides of the football had a lot of energy and the hustle was good. What we need to continue working on is the tempo between plays, because we feel that the way we practice is how we will play in the fall."

The offense and defense traded punches in the blitz session, before quarterback Matt Brown connected with James O'Shaughnessy on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the second-to-last play of the drill. The defense countered on the final play, as Brown attempted to connect with O'Shaughnessy again, but Ezra Thompson broke up the attempt from his safety position showing solid closing speed and hustle.

During the 7-on-7 drill, the offense was tasked with driving the field to try to score. Brown and the first-team unit drove down the field nicely, thanks to completions to Tyrone Walker, O'Shaughnessy and Chick Chatham. However, after a pair of incompletions and a short pass to Corey Shandrick, Brown faced a fourth-down conversion that was foiled by a breakup by middle linebacker Mike Zimmer.

Cameron Meredith had a bit more luck, as he needed just two plays to put points on the scoreboard for the second-team unit. After a first-down completion to Scott Kuehn, Meredith found tight end Brian Athey over the middle for a 65-yard touchdown as he broke away from the covering safety. Adam Pittser also struck quickly, as he needed just two plays before finding DeAndre Eagle for a 40-yard touchdown. The defensive effort during the drill was led by Matt Goldsmith, who recorded an interception and a breakup.

Colton Underwood and the defense finished off the day strong during the team drill. The junior defensive end recorded two tackles-for-loss and a sack during the session and Dontae McCoy and Josh Burch added a pair of pass breakups each. Kerry Guest and Zack Marshall also added sacks on Blake Winkler and Thompson picked up an interception on a tipped ball.

ISU will participate in a pair of practices Saturday, with the first set to begin at 9 a.m. The night practice at 7 p.m. will be CLOSED to the public.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. -Just hours after completing a two-and-a-half hour morning practice, the Illinois State football team returned to Hancock Stadium Thursday night for the first evening workout of 2012. Under the bright lights of the facility, the team put in two more hours of work, bringing to close the first of five two-a-day practices this fall.

"The great thing about coming out here at night is you get the cooler weather and it gives the guys a little bit of a break," assistant head coach Spence Nowinsky said. "It helps keep up that great enthusiasm when you don't have 95-degree heat to deal with. As a coaching staff, we were really happy with the effort today. The biggest thing about two-a-days is remaining consistent and keeping spirits high from the morning practice to the night practice. There are still little things we need to work on, but the effort was there."

After a brief thunderstorm delayed the start of practice 15-minutes, the Redbirds were split on separate halves of the field. Head coach Brock Spack walked the defense through various formations, while offensive coordinator Luke Huard directed the offense on goal line techniques. The team then met at midfield for a 10-minute stretch and brief special teams work.

Senior quarterback Matt Brown led the offense onto the field for 11-on-11 competition. After connecting on his first two passes of the night, Brown was chased by senior Colton Underwood for a sack. It would be the first of three sacks for Underwood Thursday. Backup quarterbacks Cameron Meredith, Blake Winkler, and Adam Pittser also received reps, with Pittser finding Corey Shandrick for a 20-yard gain. Brown would return to the field and complete his last three passes, bringing an end to the drill.

Quarterbacks and wide receivers returned to the red zone to work on slant passes, while the running backs weaved through an obstacle skills course in an effort to increase agility. Spack pulled the linebackers aside for one-on-one tackling drills.

The horn sounded and the kickers were brought to midfield. Nick Aussieker, and two walk-ons, alternated kickoffs, while Ben Ericksen, Donovan Harden, Lechein Neblett, and Doiminic Clarke took turns working on returns. Clarke showcased his blitzing speed, weaving through defenders for two touchdowns.

The offense and defense returned to the field for one more set of 11-on-11 drills. Meredith flashed his speed, legging out a 20-yard run after the defense limited any open wide receivers. Brown, foreshadowing what is expected to be a routine connection in the regular season, found wide receiver Tyrone Walker on a fade route into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to close the session.

Practice concluded with kicker Aussieker attempting field goals and extra points on a live defense, before a stretching session and brief team meeting at midfield ended the day. Illinois State returns to Hancock Stadium Friday afternoon for a two-and-a-half hour practice beginning at 3:00 p.m.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - Like many of the local high school programs, the Illinois State football team hosted its first two-a-day workout Thursday morning at Hancock Stadium, with the second practice of the day to start at 7 p.m.

The Redbirds took the field in shells (helmets and shoulderpads) for the two-hour morning session, after a tough full-contact workout Wednesday afternoon. They were greeted with much cooler temperatures, which seemed to give all of the players a bit more energy. The favorable conditions also seemed to liven up the Redbird offense, which impressed head coach Brock Spack during the early workout.

"I thought the offense was crisp this morning and looked about as good as they have all camp so far," Spack said. "That group has the tough task of going up against our defense every day, which was one of the best in the conference last year. Our front seven on defense are a very athletic and physical group and usually are a step ahead of the offense at this point in camp. However, the offense looked like it caught up a bit today and may be starting to get into a rhythm. We'll see if that carries over into tonight's practice or not, but it was good this morning."

The offense was near-perfect during the blitz drill, completing 11-of-12 passes overall, with the lone blemish coming on an interception by Dominic Clarke off Cameron Meredith. Matt Brown was a perfect 6-for-6, with a pair of completions each to James O'Shaughnessy and Lechein Neblett. Meredith completed a pass each to the two newest Redbird transfers, Anthony Williams and Marlion Barnett, and freshman Blake Winkler capped off the drill with a strong pass to Scott Kuehn.

Brown showed his consistency once again in the 7-on-7 session, completing 5-of-6 attempts with a pair of completions to Donovan Harden. Winkler and Adam Pittser were each 2-for-3, with Williams catching a pass from each quarterback.

The team then took a break to work on special teams, with a focus on the kickoff unit. Nick Aussieker and freshman Spencer Smith each took turns booming kicks to Harden and Neblett, as the coverage teams focused on staying in their lanes and form tackling.

The team session concluded the early workout and the offense worked a balance between the running game and passing game. Darrelynn Dunn handled the bulk of the early carries and had a couple of strong runs. Brown also completed a pair of passes to Tyrone Walker, before freshman Marshaun Coprich got his chance to carry the ball. Later in the drill, Brown and Neblett connected on a 50-plus yard pass, which Neblett caught one handed as Ezra Thompson fought him to the ground to try to pry the ball loose.

Colton Underwood and Tevin Allen capped off the drill on a high note for the defense, with Underwood recording a sack on Brown and Allen nearly intercepting a Pittser throw in the flat.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - A steady rain fell throughout the Illinois State football team's fifth practice of fall workouts Wednesday at Hancock Stadium and clashing pads made it seem like it was thundering as well on the turf during the Redbirds' first full-pads practice this season.

After working through the first four practices of the acclimation period, the `Birds were able to put on their full allotment of padding, and with that came the first full-contact drills of the 2012 campaign. Head coach Brock Spack wasted little time seeing what he team could do and immediately sent the team into the full-contact blitz drill to start the day, after the normal stretching and walkthrough periods.

"I thought there was some good contact out there today," Spack stated. "We started things off with a few live shots in there to set the tempo early and I thought the players responded well. I think we are a bigger, stronger and more physical team than we were last year and that showed during those drills. It was a good start, but we are not ready to cancel the rest of practice and play Dayton tomorrow. There is still a lot of work to do and plays to run before we are ready for that."

The newly-formed offensive line of Josh Aladenoye, Mike Liedtke, Pete Cary, Rocco Ammons and Jermaine Barton fared well against the experienced and dangerous Redbird defensive front in that first blitz drill. Quarterback Matt Brown was able to complete two of his first three passes to Tyrone Walker and James O'Shaughnessy, before the pressure finally came off the end from Nate Palmer when he recorded a sack.

Cameron Meredith then got his chance and completed a pair of passes to Marshaun Coprich and Scott Kuehn to keep things rolling for the offense. True freshman Blake Winkler also got into the action by completing a nice pass over the middle to Brian Athey, before Evan Frierson closed out the drill with a sack on Brown.

The Redbird signal-callers were equally effective during 7-on-7 work, with Brown completing 5-of-8 passes including a long touchdown pass to O'Shaughnessy over the middle. Meredith was 3-for-4, with his only blemish coming on an interception by Dominic Clarke, and Winkler connected with Kuehn three times to cap off a solid drill for the offense.

The hitting picked back up during the team session, where the focus was heavily on the running game. Senior Darrelynn Dunn recorded the bulk of the carries and ripped off a trio of strong runs, including one where he lost his helmet in a big collision with Frierson. Cameron Hunt and Coprich also had their chances to run the football, but both were met for losses by Shelby Harris inside. Palmer also added a pass breakup and a sack on back-to-back plays and Clarke had the play of the day on a scoop-and-score touchdown after a wet ball popped out of the hands of Coprich.

Practice concluded with field goal drills and sophomore kicker Nick Aussieker impressed, making 7-of-8 attempts including four from 40 yards or more out. His lone miss came on the final kick of the day from 50 yards out. The Redbirds will return to the field Tuesday morning for the first of two practices on the day. The morning workout is scheduled for 9 a.m., with night practice to follow at 7 p.m.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. -Under a grueling mid-afternoon sun, the Illinois State football team took to the turf at Hancock Stadium Tuesday for their fourth camp practice of the fall. The team battled 95-degree temperatures for a two-and-a-half hour practice in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.

"Things were a bit slow out there today and our players had to fight through the heat," head coach Brock Spack said. "Weather is something we can't control, so the players have to understand that they need to focus on what they can control and do those things well. We need them to focus, hustle from drill to drill, get their work in and take care of themselves off the field as well. If they can do those things on a hot day like this, then they should be able to duplicate that easily as the season progresses."

The daily pre-practice stretch was moved from the artificial turf surface at Hancock Stadium, to the natural grass field of the ISU football practice facility. After warm-ups, special teams drills had kickers and punters face an all-out block defense. For the first time this fall, kick returners also faced opposition, as they attempted to dodge defenders while returning punts.

The horn sounded and players were split into individual position workouts. The secondary met with defensive specialist Cody Deti for footwork drills around cones. George Barnett ran the offensive line through coordinated speed drills. Linebackers Austin Davis, Evan Frierson and Mike Zimmer took time practicing ball-stripping techniques.

Big plays dominated the 11-on-11 session Wednesday. Second-team quarterback Cameron Meredith connected with Anthony Williams for a 35-yard gain near the right hash marks before halfback Tyler Finkbeiner made a dazzling one-handed catch while falling out of bounds. On the very next play, Will Davis broke through the offensive line for an explosive sack on Meredith. Running back Cameron Hunt showed off his improved footwork by breaking an 80-yard touchdown run down the sideline.

Senior Colton Underwood made perhaps the most impressive defensive play of the afternoon, splitting the offensive line for a tackle-for-loss of running back Darrelynn Dunn. Quarterback Matt Brown concluded the session by finding Lechein Neblett for an easy score.

Hydration was the common theme all afternoon, as players huddled around watering stations between drills. It is required that every student-athlete weigh in before and after each practice in an effort to ensure that no one is losing too much weight during drills. Temperatures are expected to drop into the 70's later this week.

The Redbirds return to practice Wednesday for a two-and-a-half practice at Hancock Stadium. It will mark the first time this fall that the team works out in full pads.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. -Just hours after meeting with the media for the first time in 2012, the Illinois State football team returned to Hancock Stadium for a two-and-half hour practice Monday afternoon. After two practices in helmets, jersey tops and shorts, the team donned shells for the first time this year, prompting increased intensity.

"We put shoulder pads on for the first time today and it is always interesting to see how the players react," head coach Brock Spack said. "I would have liked to see a little more enthusiasm and intensity today, but it was not bad for the first day. We have a lot of new players out there that have never put on pads at this level, so that takes a little getting used to. Tomorrow, that should not be the case and I expect them to have a bit more fire and hustle heading into the first day of full pads."

After opening practice with the customary stretching session, the coaching staff focused on special teams work. Under a cloudless afternoon sky, punters Patrick Wright and Spencer Smith traded kicks to awaiting returners Lechein Neblett, Phil Dudley, Tyrone Walker and Jonathon Miller. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks worked on various footwork drills while the secondary focused their attention on agility work.

After a quick hydration break, the first session of 11-on-11 competition began. On his first pass of the day, quarterback Matt Brown was nearly intercepted by Tevin Allen. The very next attempt was a 15-yard reception to running back Darrelyn Dunn. On his only two pass attempts during the drill, sophomore Cameron Meredith fired completions to Cameron Hunt for 10-plus yard gains. The session ended when Brown was sacked twice by junior defensive tackle Shelby Harris, who exploded through the offensive line to get to the quarterback.

Once more, the team was split into individual workouts. Running backs coach Lamar Conard had the backs weaving through cones near the south end zone. On the north side of the field, defensive line coach Spence Nowinsky directed the linesmen on how to improve quickness.

Throughout camp, Spack has preached the importance of younger players taking advantage of an opportunity to get the coaching staffs attention. With the first-team working on 11-on-11 drills on the grass practice field, backups at Hancock Stadium had a chance to vouch for increased playing time. True freshman quarterback Blake Winkler effectively completed 4-for-4 passes, including a 70-yard touchdown pass on a fade route. Meredith went 3-for-5, while running backs Dunn, Hunt and Marshaun Coprich all received reps.

Practice concluded with kicker Nick Aussieker attempting 45-yard field goals, before a stretching session and brief team meeting at midfield ended the day. Illinois State returns to the field Tuesday afternoon for a two-and-a-half hour practice beginning at 3:30 p.m at Hancock Stadium.

 
   
 

NORMAL, Ill. - After fighting through high winds and rain in its first practice of the season, the Illinois State football team was graced with a near-perfect summer day as it participated in the second practice of camp Sunday afternoon at Hancock Stadium.

Clear skies, cooler temperatures and a steady breeze made playing conditions ideal for the Redbirds, who worked for two hours on the turf. The day started as most early camp practices do, with a walkthrough and install period with the offensive and defensive units on opposite sides of the field. From there, the players met with their position coaches to continue to work on individual position drills before being called to the center of the field to work on special teams work.

Punter Patrick Wright looked solid booting punts to Donovan Harden, Phil Dudley and Lechein Neblett and the coverage units worked on their pursuit drills and staying in their assigned coverage lanes. After special teams work concluded, the team split up with the first and second team units staying on the stadium turf as the third and fourth string units headed up to the grass practice field.

This early in camp, each repetition is important especially for the new and young players on the roster. Without pads on due to the mandatory acclimation period mandated by the NCAA, head coach Brock Spack thinks it's a perfect time to split the group up and give them more opportunities to impress the coaching staff.

"We try to split the groups up to give the guys a lot of reps," Spack stated. "It's our way of evaluating the players this early in camp. If we had everybody down on the field, the periods get long and you tend to have a lot of guys standing around doing nothing. By splitting them up, we can take a good look at them and keep them moving, which is important at this stage in camp without having pads on."

Down on the main field, senior Matt Brown and sophomore Cameron Meredith took the snaps during the 7-on-7 period. Brown was consistent as usual, going 7-for-10 with six completions to Neblett and one to James O'Shaughnessy for a big gain over the middle. Meredith was bit shaky, completing just 4-of-9 passes including a pair of completions to Corey Shandrick. The defense also made its fair share of plays, highlighted by an interception return for a touchdown by Tevin Allen. Pat Meehan, Dominic Clarke, Dontae McCoy and Matt Goldsmith also added breakups during the drill.

The whistle then blew and the team session commenced, with Brown once again connecting with Neblett to start things off. However, he was sacked on the ensuing play when Nate Palmer caught him in the backfield for the first of his two sacks during the drill. Brown answered back with a pair of strong completions to Harden to cap off his first rotation. The remainder of the drill was run focused, as Darrelynn Dunn and Cameron Hunt shared the bulk of the carries.

The defense ended the day strong with a tackle-for-loss by Clarke on an attempted screen pass, a sack by Rickey Simpson, a breakup by Mike Banks and tackle for loss by Austin Davis on four of the last six plays before the horn sounded to end practice.

The Redbirds will return to the field Monday for practice beginning at 3 p.m., following their annual photo and Social Media Day festivities in the morning.

 
   
 


NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team took to the field at Hancock Stadium Saturday afternoon for the first practice of fall training camp, dodging rain drops and battling heavy winds during a two-hour workout.

 
Saturday marked the first of 19 fall practices, culminating in the Red-White fall scrimmage and fan fair, Aug. 18, at Hancock Stadium.
 
"Day one is just about getting back into the routine and developing that sense of urgency," head coach Brock Spack said. "I think we are ahead of where we have been in the past. A lot of the older guys are a little rusty and the new guys are uneasy, but that is all part of it. We need to make sure we have 95 guys moving in the right direction and prepared to play big-time football. The guys have done a great job with offseason workouts, but there is nothing like that first football practice. We are not quite ready to play a game today, but we are getting closer."
 
The early emphasis Saturday was on individual drills and footwork. Players, donned in helmets, jersey tops and shorts, were divided by position to meet with their respective coaches. The quarterbacks and running backs worked on footwork, while the receivers ran routes. The defense spent time working on read-and-react drills, while linesmen focused on improving their quickness. Heavy, sustained winds made punting, field goal practice and return drills particularly difficult.
 
In 7-on-7 drills, both sides of the football were given their first opportunity to face competition this year. Senior quarterback Matt Brown completed his first five passes, finding sophomore wide out Lechein Neblett twice. On his second set of reps, Brown was nearly intercepted on two separate plays by sophomore defensive back Tevin Allen, before once more finding Neblett over the middle for a 20-yard gain. Backup quarterback Cameron Meredith maintained an efficient opening practice, completing 7-10 passes including an impressive 25-yard gain through double coverage to tight end Brian Athey.
 
After completing three-of-his-first-four passes, redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Pittser was intercepted by Dontae McCoy, causing an eruption of cheers from the defensive sideline.
 
2012 marks the second season that Spack will also handle the defensive coordinator and play calling duties, and he is preaching an aggressive defensive.
 
"We really are emphasizing turnovers here in camp," Spack said. "If you can get that turnover ratio to be on your side, it is a very valid statistic towards winnings championships. It is on area that we are going to emphasize a lot of our time on."
 
In 11-on-11 drills, the defense shined. Senior defensive lineman Nate Palmer dropped Neblett in the backfield for a loss on his first reception of the drill. On the following play, sophomore defensive back Mike Banks nearly intercepted a pass, cleanly knocking the ball away from the intended receiver. Redshirt freshman linebacker Alex Donnelly added one tackle-for-loss before redshirt freshman lineman Will Davis closed the day with one sack and one hurry. Running backs Nick Bellamy and Darrelynn Dunn equally shared rush duties.
 
Practice concluded with brief, individual meetings on the field with players and coaches. Illinois State returns to the field Sunday for a two-hour practice beginning at 3:30 p.m at Hancock Stadium.
 
 
   
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