News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

April 10, 2014

ISU football set for first spring scrimmage

TERRE HAUTE — It may not look like much from a spectator standpoint, but there’s some importance attached to today’s spring football scrimmage at Indiana State’s Memorial Stadium.

Thanks to a limited number of available offensive linemen — a group that will at least double in numbers in the fall with the addition of recruits and currently injured players — the Sycamores won’t have a full-scale scrimmage, but will still intersperse scrimmage plays (with officials) among other practice drills.

“We’re thin,” coach Mike Sanford admitted after practice Thursday. “The scrimmage will be part of practice — probably 30 or 40 plays altogether. We only have five to seven healthy offensive linemen, so we can’t go [in a scrimmage format] for long stretches of time.”

While the healthy blockers will obviously get plenty of scrimmage reps today, it’s the players who will be sharing time at positions with considerably more depth who will benefit more.

“You go as hard as you can,” said junior outside linebacker Connor Underwood. “There are a number of new guys who have to prove they can play; when it’s full-go you can find out who the true players are.”

Underwood, already arguably the best pass rusher in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, has already proven himself, although it’s certain he’ll be at full-go today whenever he’s on the field.

And with the obvious exception of the offensive line, there are position battles at a number of spots that Sanford wasn’t able to enjoy during his first spring experience a year ago.

Transfer Patrick Coyne has an injury that will keep him off the field today, but incumbent Mike Perish will still be challenged at quarterback by sophomore Trent Lancaster and redshirt freshman Matt Adam.

Former quarterback Robert Tonyan Jr. has been impressive in his new receiver position — “He has a chance to really make a contribution,” Sanford said — where there are plenty of other candidates that include Gary Owens, A.J. Johnson, Chris O’Leary, Sampson Levingston and Kyani Harris.

And there’s more depth at running back, where returning starter Buck Logan and LeMonte Booker, another returnee, are in a battle with transfer Deionte Buckley. Redshirt freshman Dimitri Taylor has also been impressive.

Defensively, transfer lineman Kris Davis is unavailable for the spring because of a slight knee injury, but Sanford is looking forward to watching newcomers Jordan Wallace and Nick Cody fight for spots today, and is happy about improved depth at safety.

Buckley, Davis and Wallace, incidentally, are former teammates at Warren Central who have transferred from Cincinnati, Miami of Ohio and Indiana respectively.

Underwood indicated he’s been impressed by the newcomers — and by the spring in general.

“Improvement is the No. 1 thing,” he said. “The offense is doing a lot of the same things, but it’s really improved and we [defensive players] can tell that every day. Defensively we’re transitioning, with a lot of new concepts, and we’re focusing on getting to the ball. And we’ll be one of the most conditioned teams in the nation.”

Today’s practice and scrimmage sessions are open to the public, Sanford said; fans wishing to attend are asked to enter the stadium through tne northwest gate.

And what is the coach hoping to see?

“I want to see competition, and improvement in guys knowing what to do,” Sanford said. “Improvement and execution on both sides of the ball.”

The coach also noted that he’ll be looking today for two things that he realizes are basically mutually exclusive.

“I want to see the defense get turnovers,” he quipped, “and I want to see the offense avoid turnovers.”

 

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