Saturday, April 05, 2014
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Physical play showing through

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[April 05, 2014]  NORMAL Illinois State football fans have become accustomed to hearing about the "bird drill," which is a full-contact drill conducted to assess the team's physicality. Head coach Brock Spack has not seen a need for that through the first four workouts of the spring, as his Redbird team has been plenty physical and tough in its workouts at Hancock Stadium.

The first two workouts of the spring session were acclimation dates, without full pads and contact, but the last two have been spirited, and the clash of the pads has been present this week. As the spring workouts continue, Spack looks forward to seeing if this team is as physical as they have shown early on.

"We haven't seen the need for a lot of full-contact work," Spack said. "Some teams you need to (do) drills like that to improve their physicality and toughness. However, this team has a few more veterans on it and doesn't seem to need a lot of motivation with drills like that. We will find new ways to get them pumped up and continue to evaluate them, and if we need to do more contact work, we can do that."

The blitz drill set the tone for the day, with linebackers Andre Allen and Soniel Estime making the big plays. On the second play of the drill, Allen came off the end and brought down running back Marshaun Coprich in the backfield. After that stop, quarterback Blake Winkler got on a roll and completed five of six pass attempts. Adam Pittser then came in and was intercepted by Estime, as he dove in the flat to take a pass away from Jamal Towns.

For the first time this spring, the team also had some goal-line work. The offense was tasked with coming out of their own end zone at the 3-yard line, needing two first downs to win the drill. The first-team unit succeeded, but the second- and third-team units struggled against the strong defense.

A prolonged 7-on-7 period followed, with Winkler finishing 6-for-9 and Pittser going 4-for-6 during the drill. Receivers Lechein Neblett, Scott Kuehn and Cameron Meredith had three receptions each; with Meredith scoring the long play of the day on a 45-yard touchdown. Tight end James O'Shaughnessy was also targeted several times and had two long gains on his two receptions.

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The team period followed, with each unit tasked to drive the field, starting at the offense's 42-yard line. The first-team offense struggled on its attempt, with Alex Donnelly and Teddy Corwin forcing tackles for loss on the first two running plays of the drive. A pass interference call on third down kept the drive going, but two short rushes and a fumble on third down put an end to the drive.

The second drive also stalled, with the offense picking up just one first down, on a reverse by Meredith. A pass breakup by Mike Banks and a tackle for loss by Davontae Harris forced a long third-down attempt, but a swing pass to Towns was 3 yards short to end the run.

The team will return to practice Saturday at 10 a.m. at Hancock Stadium.

[Text from news release received from Illinois State University]


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