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Date Posted: 00:17:34 08/03/03 Sun
Author: Starter
Subject: First Football Practice... Anyone go???

WESTERN ILLINOIS OPENS CENTENNIAL SEASON WITH FIRST PRACTICE

Newcomers, veterans report for challenges of preseason camp

August 2, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill.— Saturday, August 2, 2003 (Practice #1)
Preseason camp for the centennial edition of Leatherneck football opened this morning with a conditioning check at 8:30 and the first official practice of the 2003 season at 9:30.

“I was very impressed with the overall conditioning reports of our players,” remarked head coach Don Patterson. There are always a few exceptions, but overall our guys paid a big price to get ready for this season.”

St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz observed the conditioning check with Patterson and was impressed with “a lot of well-conditioned lean athletes.”

Due to new NCAA legislation, both newcomers and veterans reported to camp on the same day. In past years, newcomers had four days of practices and meetings to get accustomed to a new system prior to the arrival of the returning players. The new process, however, has not slowed the coaching staff’s approach.

“We can’t afford to go at a pace that’s ideal for the newcomers,” said Patterson. “We won’t be slowing things down just because we have some new players. We still have to install our schemes in a way that’s challenging to our veterans."

Day one’s schedule was designed to challenge both new and returning players, both mentally and physically.

“Especially with the guys that haven’t been here before, we want to find out how quickly they learn and how well they retain the teaching. We’re going to challenge them mentally to see who will hold up when they get a little tired. I was especially pleased with our veterans,” continued Patterson. “They know what’s expected of them, they were helping out our new guys, and they returned in great shape. A lot of key players are poised for an outstanding season.”

At the conclusion of practice, Rams linebacker Jason McWilliams addressed his former teammates with a short inspirational message on living up to the challenge of being picked to win the conference.

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[> Second Practice -- Starter, 13:09:58 08/04/03 Mon

WESTERN ILLINOIS FOOTBALL HITS THE PRACTICE FIELD FOR DAY 2 OF PRESEASON CAMP
An enthusiastic squad preps for Western's 100th season of football
August 3, 2003
by Shana Daniels

MACOMB, Ill.— Western Illinois football continued its preseason camp today with specialty work at 2:15 p.m. on Hanson Field. The Leathernecks then hit the practice fields for a dose of new offense and defense.

“We're going to challenge them mentally, and in that regard we’re going to install quite a bit of new offense and defense from one practice to the next,” said Western Illinois football head coach Don Patterson. “We certainly got a lot done today with minimal mistakes. It was a much sharper practice today. We didn’t have any false starts on offense and their attention to detail was better today than what it was yesterday.”

Western returns 42 lettermen for the 2003 centennial season, 16 of which were starters.

“I see a great amount of enthusiasm on the part of the team. We have quality depth in a number of positions. We have three outstanding running backs (Travis Glasford, Attley Lawson and Charles Hayden), all of which look very good. All three guys are already well schooled in our offense and growing more confident in what they need to do with each passing day.”

“I really like the mood and attitude of the team. They’re not worried about how long practice is going to last, they’re just focused on taking as much away from practice as they can. That’s something we always strive for, but it’s not something we always achieve and we certainly achieved that today.”

The Leathernecks continue preseason camp tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. on the practice fields behind Brophy Hall.


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[> [> Third Practice -- Starter, 13:12:19 08/04/03 Mon

INTENSITY, HARD-HITTING DESCRIBES FIRST DAY IN PADS
Coaches able to implement pressure defense in practice #3
August 4, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill. - The intensity picked up for Western Illinois’ first practice in shoulder pads Monday, as the coaches saw strong indications of a team well-prepared for physical play in 2003.

“Even though we weren’t in full gear yet, we were still very impressed with a good, physical, hard-hitting team,” remarked coach Don Patterson. “We had players flying around the ball. It was a very intense workout.”

The pads allowed the coaches to work on blitz pick-up, giving the defense a chance to implement several stunts and giving the offense an opportunity to work on picking them up.

“Even on day one (in pads), we wanted to expose the players to what it’s like to handle a pressure defense,” said Patterson. “Under nearly ideal practice conditions, it was a very productive day. I liked the enthusiasm I saw for contact. And I’m happy to report that we got through the first day with no significant injuries.”


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[> [> [> Fourth Practice -- Starter, 10:22:26 08/06/03 Wed

LEATHERNECK DEFENSIVE LINE IMPRESSES STAFF
Competition for linebacker spots wide open
August 5, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill.— Tuesday, August 5, 2003 (Practice #4)
Shortly after the interviews and photographs surrounding media day were completed, players donned their shells for one final day of single-session workouts, this time on Hanson Field.

“The drills have been quite competitive,” said coach Don Patterson. “The intensity has been high this week and we’re learning some good lessons in playing penalty-free football.”

One segment that particularly impressed the staff today was the defensive line. Having lost just one starter (Brian Ceaser) from a corp that rotated 8-10 players through the lineup each game, “There are an abundance of guys who have a lot of experience out there. We had a good session today of pass protection vs. pressure,” Patterson continued. “You’ve got Mike O’Brien, who is just a force inside, and we have a hard time blocking him consistently. Then there’s Jon Kowalyshen off the edge who really keeps our tackles moving. He’s got great quickness for a guy his size. And you’ve got Chad Daun on the other edge. You can just go right down the line, and deep into the lineup, and you can see why our offense has to work so hard each day. It goes way beyond the four starters. I’m really enthusiastic about the potential production we could have from these guys.”

“We’ve got some good battles going, too. We lost two linebackers to graduation, and we have several guys to pick from to replace them.”
Phil Archer from Minnesota, Matt Lingley from Washington and Tim Martz from Colorado State join veterans Drew Kocsis, Pat Crosby, Jason Riddle and Shannon Fitzhugh in the battle for several linebacker spots.

“We’re as anxious as anyone to see who it’s going to be. Each of the guys have their own strengths and the competition is wide open. It may take a while to solve. We may not know until after the first or second game.”

Two-a-days begin Wednesday with morning and afternoon sessions in full uniform.


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[> [> [> [> Battle for Back-up QB -- Starter, 17:22:00 08/08/03 Fri

BATTLE FOR BACK-UP QB
Cooperative weather helps accelerate learning environment
August 7, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill.— Thursday, August 7, 2003 (Practices #6-7)
The first day of two-a-days proved successful for Western Illinois head coach Don Patterson, as the weather cooperated and the staff got a good look at a tight battle for back-up quarterback.

“I wouldn’t be unhappy with any of our four backups right now,” said Patterson. “(Junior) Jared Burks has made some good progress over the last six months, and (redshirt-freshman) Steve LaFalce has a very bright future with us.”

Both are in the running to play behind 2002 Gateway Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year Russ Michna, who threw for over 3,000 yards as a junior.

“Matt O’Toole, a true freshman, hasn’t disappointed us either. We made a good choice in recruiting him. He is going to be a good player. All of our QB’s are bright, quick learners and quick thinkers. That’s not by accident, that’s by design. We try to recruit guys who can grasp our offense quickly.”

Michna is beginning his fifth year under Patterson, serving as a backup behind Mark Zanders and Sam Clemons.

Pleasant weather during camp has helped keep injuries down and productivity up.

“The weather has been extremely conducive to our workouts,” Patterson continued. “We’ve been able to get a lot accomplished and fatigue hasn’t been a factor. Players are less likely to focus and learn when the weather starts becoming a problem, but our workouts have been very productive and the guys are doing a great job of retaining what they’ve learned.”

A single morning workout will be held Friday, on Hanson Field, and the first scrimmage will be conducted on the practice fields on Saturday morning.


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[> [> [> [> [> Preparing for first scrimmage -- Starter, 11:23:03 08/09/03 Sat

LEATHERNECKS PREPARE FOR FIRST SCRIMMAGE
Langan continues improvement 'right where he left off'
August 8, 2003
by Jason Kaufman

MACOMB, Ill.— Friday, August 8, 2003 (Practice #8)
Western Illinois enjoyed a light workout this morning, one day after the first two-a-day session and the day before the fall’s first scrimmage.

“The players always hear me talk of the point of diminishing returns,” said head coach Don Patterson. “We want to always be just short of that point, so today we gave them a break from the significant heavy contact they gave us yesterday. We wanted to provide them with every chance to have a good scrimmage (Saturday).”

“I was impressed today with (freshman punter) Kris Coffee,” Patterson continued. “As a true freshman in his first camp, he seems to have improved his consistency over the last few workouts. His performance has given us strong reason to be optimistic about our kicking game.”
Junior placekicker Justin Langan, however, has also improved his punting skills over the summer and is not out of the running as a possibility to handle both punting and placekicking duties.

“Langan has picked up right where he left off,” Patterson remarked of Langan’s All-America sophomore season. “He’s been working with the Rams’ practice uprights the last several days, which are significantly narrower than regulation uprights, and he has been hitting them very consistently. We haven’t really tested his distance at this point yet.”

Part of Langan’s consistency this fall can be attributed to a reliable holder in Steve LaFalce and a reliable long-snapper in Jon Kowalyshen.
Saturday’s scrimmage, which begins at 9:00 a.m. on the practice fields behind Brophy Hall, will help the coaches get their first strong feel for who may fill in some holes, including two at middle linebacker.


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[> [> [> [> [> [> Practices 9-10 -- Starter, 20:50:38 08/09/03 Sat

DEFENSE APPEARS NEAR TOP FORM IN FIRST SCRIMMAGE
Just 19 days until kickoff

MACOMB, Ill.— Saturday, August 9, 2003 (Practices #9-10)
Western Illinois’ first scrimmage of the fall was fast-paced and hard-hitting, as the Leathernecks took 66 snaps in just under an hour with the offense in white and the defense in purple. The intensity on both sides of the ball showed a lot of enthusiasm for the first official snap of the season, but the defense looked to be close to top form.

“The tradition of the Leatherneck defense as a tough, hard-hitting unit will definitely continue this year,” said head coach Don Patterson. “Over the last four years, many people in the Gateway have told us that they know they’re going to face a physical Leatherneck defense, and this year won’t be any different. Today they just had great pursuit. There were a lot of purple jerseys around the ball on every snap, and they did a great job of not staying blocked.”

The scout team offense plays a large role in preparing the defense each week. Running backs Uhlon Rich and Evan McCallister stood out in today’s scrimmage.

“Rich and Evan ran very hard today,” said Patterson. Not only that, but they ran very well. They made good choices, spun out of tackles, and gave our defense a good picture to work with.”

“We always say that every last player has a role on our team. The scout team does a tremendous job of testing our defense.”

A lighter workout in shells will be held this afternoon, addressing some issues from this morning’s scrimmage.

“I feel really good about the progress we’ve made this week,” Patterson remarked. “We’ve given them a lot of football to digest. The new guys, I’m sure, are a little stressed to learn it all, but they’ve all had good attitudes, the accomplishments have been up and we’re right on schedule to be ready for the opener in 19 days.”


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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Practice #11 -- Starter, 18:53:12 08/10/03 Sun

FIRST WEEK OF WESTERN PRESEASON CAMP COMES TO A CLOSE
High team morale makes for a successful end to the first full week of preseason practices

MACOMB, Ill. - Sunday, August 10, 2003 (Practice #11)
After a Western Illinois’ first scrimmage of its 2003 preseason camp yesterday morning, the Leathernecks took the early evening to enjoy a lighter session in practice No. 10. The Leathernecks followed Saturday’s reward with some free time Sunday morning before hitting the practice fields this afternoon.

“Practice No.10 was scaled back in that we weren’t out there very long and it was our way of rewarding the players for a very productive week,” said coach Don Patterson. “It was our tenth out of 20 workouts before school starts, and we just thought it would be a good way to cap off the end of the first full week of camp with a light workout in the cooler part of the day.”

“We used the afternoon to critique the morning scrimmage, had an early dinner, and then used the last few hours of daylight for a lighter workout, so morale was very high last night.”

Western took to the practice fields Sunday afternoon after a morning of much needed rest and relaxation.

“I’ve always felt that it’s important to give the players the opportunity to attend religious services of their choice and for that reason alone, we kept the morning free to them until 2:15 p.m. for specialty work. We f

“I think players appreciate and acknowledge these types of reward in return we had a good workout today. It was pretty warm, but we got a lot done and we even finished a few minutes early simply because we did them right the first time. We didn’t have to repeat hardly any of them.”

“They understand that we only have nine more practices until school starts and they’re ready to get the most use out them. Tomorrow we continue with the 2-1-2-1 rotation, so they know that tomorrow will not be an easy day but they appreciate and welcome the challenge.”

The Leathernecks hold practice No. 12 tomorrow at 8:15 a.m.


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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Practice #12 & 13 -- Starter, 11:11:43 08/12/03 Tue

WESTERN FOOTBALL PRESEASON CAMP REACHES DAY TEN
Leathernecks work on redzone offense and defense in third double session of camp

MACOMB, Ill.- Monday, August 11, 2003 (Practices #12 & #13)
The Western Illinois football team used its 12th and 13th practices of the preseason to focus on redzone offense and defense. Today’s session was the Leathernecks third two-a-day practice of the 2003 camp.

“Today was a double session and we spent both practices on redzone offense and redzone defense,” said head coach Don Patterson. “We spent a fair amount of time installing the schemes we like to use both offensively and defensively down there and now the players have a better understanding of what exactly how the game change. When you’re going in the field gets smaller and there are things that are not as easy as for you to do and there are things that are more logical for you to do on both offense and defense.”

“It was time well spent. It was really informative for the players. Some of them probably never even thought so much about redzone offense until today, because if they are coming from a high school or junior college it might not have been emphasized like we do. We know we have to be good in that going-in zone of the field as we call it and that means the defense has to force long field goal attempts and force turnovers. The bottom line is to either generate a turnover or hold them on downs, or force a long field goal attempt that maybe gets blocked or missed.”

“Offensively we know it’s hard to win games just by making field goals, and even though we have a great field goal kicker (Justin Langan) he even understands that our goal is to put points up six at a time instead of three at a time.”

“Even though we’re more than two weeks away from playing a game, today was really the first day of redzone work and we’ll have other days to do the same. It’s a part of the field that some coaches neglect a little bit and we’re going to be sure that we’re not guilty of that.”

Western Illinois opens the 2003 season Thursday, August 28 with Wayne State under the lights at Hanson Field. The Leathernecks will hold a single practice tomorrow morning beginning at 8:40 a.m.


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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Practice #14 -- Starter, 20:30:43 08/12/03 Tue

HALL HAVING PRODUCTIVE CAMP, MARTZ GETS TWO PICKS TODAY
Return specialists in abundance for 2003

MACOMB, Ill. - Tuesday, August 12, 2003 (Practice #14)
“We had a very spirited workout today,” Western Illinois head coach Don Patterson remarked after his team completed its single morning workout Tuesday in temperatures that resembled late September.

Both the offense and defense had its share of time in the spotlight, including several 30-plus yard catches by wide receiver Terrence Hall and a pair of interceptions by linebacker Tim Martz.

“Terrence is having an outstanding camp,” said Patterson, “and Martz certainly shined today with his two picks.”

The Leathernecks will enjoy the luxury of at least two return specialists this season in second-team all-conference member Reggie Gray and newcomer James Norris, who returned eight punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in his two-year career at Los Angeles Valley College.

“A lot of teams struggle to find one return guy, but we’re lucky to have faith in both of ours. Reggie definitely hasn’t lost anything from his game last year. Fielding a punt is possibly the hardest skill in football, and he’s a great fielder. And James is quick, he’s elusive, and he’s sure-handed. At the end of the year, I’m confident we’ll have great production out of our return men.”

Coach Patterson took the afternoon to visit the St. Louis Rams’ final afternoon practice before they leave Macomb Wednesday.

“We value the relationship we have with the Rams, and I was happy to have the chance to get away for a little while and visit with them at practice. We take great pride in being the summer home of the Rams and we’ll do anything we can to support them.”


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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Practice #15 & 16 -- Starter, 15:09:03 08/15/03 Fri

RAMS' MARTZ ADDRESSES TEAM AFTER MORNING WORKOUT
Goal line schemes installed for season opener

MACOMB, Ill. - Wednesday, August 13, 2003 (Practicse #15 and 16)

Before the St. Louis Rams ended training camp and left Macomb this morning, head coach Mike Martz took advantage of an invitation from Western Illinois coach Don Patterson to address the Leathernecks. Martz' address after the first of Western's two practices today focused on enjoying the high expectations placed on the team.

The Leathernecks used today's double session to install the offensive and defensive goal line schemes, specifically the goal line offense for the season opener against Wayne State.

"Offensively, today was more of an assignment workout," said Patterson, "in that we wanted to teach the players exactly how to carry out their assignments. It was less than full-contact and more of making sure everyone knows what their role is. Defensively, the guys were challenged in a spirited, hard-hitting drill against the offensive scout team."

The length of this year's camp along with consistently physical and competitive workouts have taken a slight toll on a number of players.

"Because of a wide assortment of bumps and bruises, and because we're doing well to be on schedule, we've eliminated a portion of the heavy contact, and we've been able to shorten some of the workouts by about 20 minutes," Patterson continued. "We don't have Western Illinois on our schedule. In other words, we're determined not to beat ourselves up. We play a very physical game, and there's a fine line between preparing your players for that type of contact while avoiding injury. We're in good shape, though. No one has been ruled out for the season opener."


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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Practice #18 & 19 -- Starter, 14:10:46 08/16/03 Sat

TEMPERATURES RISE FOR LAST TWO-A-DAY SESSION
Mock game provides experience in a variety of specialty situations

MACOMB, Ill. - Friday, August 15, 2003 (Practices #18 and 19)
Two-a-day practices in 90-plus degree temperatures and Midwest humidity – this is what Western Illinois Football is supposed to be like in mid-August. The Leathernecks contended with the elements for the first time this fall, much to the liking of the staff.

“Our players probably weren’t happy for the heat,” remarked head coach Don Patterson, “but I know the coaches’ were. History says that it will probably be pretty warm on August 28 (the season opener) and on September 13 (in Baton Rouge, La., vs. LSU), so we need to be used to it.”

The Leathernecks spent the morning session ironing out a variety of special situations that may come up at some point in the season. “Today’s practices were more mental than they were physical. We worked on a list of situations that may or may not be needed, but if we go over them in the classroom and we go over them on the practice field, then hopefully we’ll be prepared.”

The staff put together a “mock game” for the afternoon session. “We had the entire game scripted out,” Patterson continued, “and basically created a game with different scenarios. The offense might complete a 30-yard pass, but we’d call it back and tell them it was second-and-four because that was the next play in our script.”

Tomorrow’s workout, the last before classes begin on Monday, will be a very limited scrimmage. “Basically the players have to meet two criteria to play tomorrow. First, they must be in great shape physically. And second, there has to be a close competition at that particular position. There will be several proven players who wont’ see much work from a live standpoint tomorrow.”

Sunday is a scheduled off-day, and the regular-season afternoon practice schedule begins Monday with the start of classes.


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