Spring Report #7: ISU Defense Has Fun Under the Sun
Kelvyn Hemphill
Kelvyn Hemphill

April 5, 2008

NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State football team donned shorts instead of padded pants for a Saturday afternoon practice under the spring sun Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium. Even though the `Birds were dressed in shells and didn't have full contact, the 24 five-minute period practice was just as productive as the previous spring sessions.

"We had another good day of practice; very spirited and very intense," said head coach Denver Johnson. "We started out a little lackadaisical in the first drills and had to start over again from the top, but I liked how the players reacted. We finished the day off with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm. This weather out here didn't hurt anyone's spirits either."

The Redbird defense showed how work in drills can translate into game situations. The entire defensive unit spent time in the tip drill, where one defender tips as pass into the air for another to intercept it, early on in practice and utilized that technique against the offense, intercepting four passes off tips.

The Redbird wide receivers squared off against the secondary in a one-on-one drill midway through practice. The wide receivers came out on top with 26 receptions in 44 reps. Warren McCarty led the wideouts with six catches and no drops. Drew Kempe and Kevett Mickle each had four catches and Kelvin Chandler, Jake Rourke and Eyad Salem each had three grabs. Tom Nelson broke up two passes in the drill and Josh Mitchell came down with an interception off of a tip.



ISU ran an extended seven-on-seven drill of 40 total plays. Kevin Brockway completed 6-of-11 passes and threw an interception in the drill, connecting with Chandler and Mickle twice. Earl was 7-for-10 and also threw a pick. Kiel completed 5-of-8 pass attempts with no miscues.

The Redbird defense shined in the seven-on-seven drill with two interceptions, three pass breakups and forced the quarterback to scramble four times due to good coverage. Chris Garrett intercepted the first pass of the drill after it was tipped by Nelson. Kelvyn Hemphill grabbed a ball out of the air that was tipped by Phillip Murphy. Jason Tate, Antonio Adams and Hemphill all recorded pass breakups as well.

To close out practice, the sides went 11-on-11 for a series of 28 plays. Brockway led the way with a 7-for-8 passing performance, followed by Kiel, who was 2-for-4, and Earl, who was 1-for-3. Parrish Fisher worked well out of the backfield, carrying the ball three times and catching a pass. The defense came up big once again, as Tommie Westbrook made a diving interception off a pass that was tipped by several players.

The kickers started out the day by focusing on field goals. After each kicker made a an extra point, the ball was pushed back to the 25-yard line for the first set of field goal attempts from 42 yards out. Each kicker had two attempts from that range, with Steven Fetzer and Kevin Mazur making one apiece. The Redbirds went five yard further back after that and tried their feet at 47-yard attempts. All three missed their first two attempts and as the clock expired on that period, Johnson required one to be made before the team could move onto to its next set of drills. Tyler Funk booted on through much to the pleasure of his teammates.

The Redbird punters got some work in on the Hancock turf as well. With the ball snapped from the ISU 45-yard line, Bobby Kelsey received the most reps with seven punts. He put six of them inside of the 20-yard line, including three inside the 10-yard line and two inside the five-yard line. Mazur and Levi Dyer each had two punts and put one each inside of the five-yard line.