TERRE HAUTE —
Rain threatened all afternoon Friday but never showed up to disrupt Indiana State University football practice at Memorial Stadium, something coach Mike Sanford appreciated when the session was over.
“We got a lot accomplished today,” the Sycamores’ first-year head coach noted. “We’re installing more of our offense every day, and we got quite a bit in today.”
ISU’s potential starters seem to be picking up the nuances of their new system quickly, the coach indicated. For others, that’s still a work in progress.
“The ones established a pretty good pace today,” Sanford said. “The twos … were probably thinking a little bit too much. They need to establish better pace.”
If “pace” looks like an important word, it is. Another key word might be “tempo.” And a word most football players dread, particularly in the dog days of August, doesn’t have to come up at all as a result.
“You’ll notice we don’t condition,” Sanford pointed out. “We practice at a tempo where we’re conditioning during practice.”
“It’s definitely a lot faster pace [at practice],” quarterback Mike Perish agreed Friday. “We practice at the exact same speed we’ll be playing at a game … so we don’t need to condition — do any running — after practice.”
Fast-paced practices and fast-paced offense would seem to go hand in hand, and that’s true of the Sycamores — to a point, at least — the coach and the quarterbacks agreed Friday.
“[Practice] is definitely faster — and very, very efficient,” Trent Lancaster said. “We’re in and out of drills in a hurry. We get more reps in fewer amounts of time.”
“The no-huddle [offense] takes at least 15 seconds off the play clock,” Perish said, “and it’s a fast style of no-huddle too. It’s a lot of fun.”
“It’s smoother, because we got used to [the pace] throughout the spring,” said Robert Tonyan Jr. “[The offense] is a lot quicker with the no-huddle, and we have the guys to do it and the speed to do it.”
Not so fast, Sanford indicated, almost literally. While he wants and expects his team to be able to play fast, that won’t be its only speed.
“We’ll have a variety of different tempos,” the coach said, “and we’ll try to use different tempos to create an advantage for us.”
“We’ll have the ability to go up-tempo,” Lancaster predicated, “but we’ll have multiple tempos too. We’ll battle the other team’s weaknesses.”
All three quarterbacks have done good things in building the offense, Sanford indicated. While Perish, a junior, has the advantage of incumbency, he’s being pushed by Tonyan for playing time and Lancaster, the Northview graduate, is not being overlooked. Both Tonyan and Lancaster are redshirt freshmen.
“I like these guys,” Sanford said enthusiastically. “There’s competition for No. 1 between Perish and Tonyan, and I feel very good about Trent Lancaster. I’m also pleased with [California freshman] Matt Adam.
“At some point we’ll name a starter,” Sanford continued, “but there’s a very good chance we could play two quarterbacks … the No. 2 is better prepared, if the No. 1 should happen to go down, if he’s already played.”
“It’ll be a pretty competitive camp,” Tonyan said. “We give each other the best we have … all three of us are very talented.”
“I just go to work every day,” Lancaster said. “[The other quarterbacks] help me out; we help out each other. We’re all good friends and we’re all great teammates. At the end of the day we’re all better for it.”
“I just try to get better every day,” Perish said. “My goal is not only to start, but to be all-conference and All-America … and our team goals are bigger than anything I have for myself.”