TERRE HAUTE —
It was a little bit of old and a lot of new as Indiana State’s football team began practice Friday.
The old? Including special teamers, there were 13 starters on the field for the Sycamores — including All-MVFC preseason picks Shakir Bell, Aaron Archie, Jacolby Washington, Ben Obaseki and Lucas Hileman.
The new? There was plenty of that to spare. The 6-5 campaign in 2011 was defined by the final year of the first class of recruits Trent Miles brought to the program when he was named coach in 2007.
Now new faces abound. There are 29 true freshmen on ISU’s first published roster of the season. There are 20 redshirt freshmen whom have never played a down in a varsity game.
There are also several veterans who have played, but that have never played as many downs as they are projected to this season. There are also starters who have played, but who have to take on a much larger leadership position within their unit.
It all adds up to an interesting mix for the Sycamores.
“I thought some of the older guys did a good job trying to teach some of the [younger] guys some things. I heard a lot of leadership trying to go on,” Miles said.
All eyes are on the ISU quarterback job after Ronnie Fouch starred at the position for two years. Western Michigan transfer Mike Perish is the presumed successor to Fouch.
Of the four quarterbacks who took part in drills on the hot practice field Friday night — Robert Tonyan Jr., Trent Lancaster and Travis Johnson were the others — Perish was the most accurate, but there’s a long way to go until ISU’s opener Sept. 1 at Indiana.
“I can lead this team on the field, but to do that, I know I have to work hard. I’m trying to prove myself,” Perish said.
Miles wasn’t worried as much about the quarterbacks Friday as he was the receivers. He lamented the many drops he saw. On the other hand, he liked what he saw of the defense. ISU had some 7-on-7 drills to see how the units stacked up against one another.
“We had too many drops. We didn’t catch the ball. We can’t drop two and catch three … we have to catch all five. It’s the first day, but we’re going to demand out of them everyday,” Miles said. “The defense flies around. We don’t have any pads on yet, so we’ll see what happens when they go on, but barring any injury, we think we can do some damage this year.”
The biggest injury question entering the season is the status of All-MVFC preseason center FN Lutz. The senior worked out with athletic trainer Mitch Wasik in several mobility drills. The coaching staff will be make a determination on his 2012 status later on in preseason practice.
There were other new sites at practice as well. It was the debut for assistant coaches Ronnie Lee (running backs/special teams), Eric Brown (outside linebackers), Mike Mickens (defensive backs) and Steve Watson (wide receivers).
Watson is a familiar name to longtime NFL fans. Watson played for Denver from 1979-87 and was a Pro Bowler in 1981. He was Craig Morton’s last primary receiver and John Elway’s first. He caught 353 passes for 6,112 yards and 36 touchdowns in Denver.
“The stories he’s told us so far have said it all for us. He’s a great guy. He has so much experience. We’re taking it all in and learning as much as we can,” ISU wide receiver Demory Lawshe said.
It was also the debut for former men’s basketball player Myles Walker. The former Sycamore center lined up with the defensive line. The plan is for Walker to play defensive end.
ISU resumes practice at 6 p.m. today. ISU will practice everyday until its first scrimmage on Aug. 11.
The fall Blue-White game will take place on Aug. 18. The final scrimmage of preseason scrimmage is Aug. 23.