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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Redbird practice full of firsts          Send a link to a friend

[August 06, 2007]  NORMAL -- There were a few firsts for the Illinois State football team on Saturday, as the Redbirds donned shoulder pads, engaged in contact and worked out on the grass practice field -- all for the first time during this training camp.

"Obviously the first day (with pads) is never like a well-oiled machine, but I was amazed at how well we did some things," head coach Denver Johnson said. "Obviously there were some things that we are going to have to polish and to try to correct, but I was really pleased with Luke (Drone) and I was pleased with the first unit of defense."

With a light rain sprinkling on the Redbirds during the middle of practice, the team worked out for 24, five-minute periods, while wearing shells.

Early on in the practice, the Redbirds worked on their special teams. Following the field goal team segment, the Redbirds spent several periods focusing on their kickoff return coverage. Prior to some scrimmaging, the Redbirds continued to hone their fundamental skills, like the quarterback-running back exchange, pass routes and blocking schemes.

The 7-on-7 drill centered on situations including first-and-10, second-and-10 and third-and-10. Drone completed 6-of-9 passes, while Kevin Brockway was 8-for-9 and Preston Earl was 4-for-6. Eyad Salem and Drew Kempe led all receivers with four catches each.

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In the team period, the Redbird offense worked from third-and-8 and third-and-10 situations. Facing third-and-8, the ISU offense got first-down distances on two of the 18 snaps. Sophomore defensive end Brandon Wilson tipped a Brockway pass to himself for an interception, while freshmen linebacker Mark Martin intercepted a Sam Donatucci toss.

"We've got guys that can run (on defense), and it looks like there is going to be some interesting competition on the defensive side of the ball," Johnson said. "Guys don't have positions locked up by any stretch of the imagination, and it looks like there is going to some interesting competition at corner and safety, obviously at the linebacker position, and even at the defensive line. There is a lot yet to be seen in terms of what the composition of the first unit will be, by the time we get to game time."

With a third-and-4 spot, the offense moved the chains on three of the nine possessions. Kelvyn Hemphill, Tom Nelson and Josh Howe all had pass breakups for the Redbird defense, while Kyle Siskowic recorded a sack.

Illinois State returned to practice on Sunday for the second of two mandatory workouts in shells.

[Text from file received from Todd Kober, assistant athletics director, media relations, Illinois State University]


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