TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State football players and coaches bounced around on a sunny winter day at Memorial Stadium as the first day of spring practice officially initiated the Sycamores into the Mike Sanford era.
Sanford began the installation of a no-huddle offense, while associate head coach Brian Cabral will lead an aggressive, fast-paced defense.
“The tempo’s real nice,” said ISU quarterback Mike Perish, who threw for 1,615 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. “We’ll have the ability to balance our offense a little bit more. Last year, we were a pretty heavy run team [with Shakir Bell racking up 1,475 yards]. We’ll be able to balance it out a little bit more. I’m just excited to keep learning more every day.”
Perish, 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Robert Tonyan Jr., and former Northview standout Trent Lancaster worked in 7-on-7 against defenders with veteran receivers such as Tanner Riley, Demory Lawshe, Donald Spencer and former running back and defensive back Taje High.
The up-tempo offense includes learning hand signals and new routes. The Sycamore quarterbacks are trying to be strong leaders in the team’s quest to get comfortable in the new system.
“It’s a little rough, because we’re getting into our new offense,” Tonyan Jr. said. “We’re just trying to get it down, get our communication on point, get everyone on the same page so we can progress from there.”
Tonyan Jr. showed his quickness and ability to move outside of the pocket several times during live action.
“This year is a lot better for my style of play, get out on the run a little bit when I have to or when I need to. The options I have that coach puts in fits my style of play really well,” Tonyan Jr. said. “The leadership we have with Shakir, FN and the offensive line getting everyone together. As a redshirt freshman, I just kind of have to follow them, progress with me and my skills.”
Perish just hopes to learn as much as possible and keep improving.
“I’ve always got to improve myself. I’m trying to be one of the best players in the country. No matter how good you are, you can never be complacent. You’ve got to keep improving every day,” Perish said.
With Perish, Bell and FN Lutz returning at starting center after missing the 2012 season due to reconstructive knee surgery, Sanford likes his leaders returning on the offensive side. With defensive backs Larry King and Donovan Layne, he likes his defensive leadership.
“It was the first day. We started the process of learning the system,” Sanford said. “We’re not where we need to be; it’s day one. I really like our team, I like the attitude.
“It’s awesome to get out here. Not real warm, but a great sunny day. The attitude is great, the enthusiasm is great. Our guys love football. They play hard, they play fast. I loved what I saw today.”
After some extra solo work following the two-hour practice, Lutz spoke about the team’s enthusiasm to stay hungry for more success following a 7-4 campaign.
“We’ve definitely got a ways to go, but our tempo was good. We were flying around. Everybody’s glad to be back out here. New staff, we’re learning so we had a good day but definitely room for improvement,” said Lutz, who said his knee is 100 percent. “Just have to get back in the flow of things, knock the rust off. It’s been a year, but yeah it felt good. Knee’s holding up good.”
Indiana State gets back to work Thursday, while Friday’s contact practice will conclude the opening week of work. The first scrimmage will be at 3:30 p.m. April 5 at Memorial Stadium.