Redbirds eager to kick off football season

2014-08-26T20:34:00Z Redbirds eager to kick off football seasonRandy Reinhardt rreinhardt@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

NORMAL — Three Missouri Valley Football Conference teams open their seasons Thursday with six more suiting up for their first game on Saturday.

That leaves Illinois State, which is still in "training camp mode," according to Coach Brock Spack, to wait not so patiently for its Sept. 6 opener against Mississippi Valley State at Hancock Stadium.

"All of us are getting anxious. We want to play this week," defensive tackle Bradon Prate said Tuesday. "You can only go so long practicing against each other. We've got all that pent up frustration getting ready to play a game."

Spack, who started practice a week later than his Valley rivals because of the delayed opener, is fine with continuing to practice until launching "game week" mode in a few days.

"It does feel strange," said Spack. "But I think it's been pretty good for our team. They got a little time off after summer conditioning. That reenergized our batteries, and we've had a good camp so far. I know they would rather be playing probably, but it all works out."

The Redbirds were originally scheduled to face Ball State at home this week. But when the Cardinals bought out the game, ISU had the first two weeks available. Mississippi Valley State was only available for the second weekend.

No hurry: Spack repeated Tuesday that the battle for the starting quarterback job between junior Tre Roberson and sophomore Blake Winkler is ongoing.

"I'm not going to name one for a while yet. They are both playing very well," Spack said. "I think we can win with both players. I know we can. We'll wait and see. I might not say anything until game time."

Spack reiterated the desire to redshirt promising freshman quarterback Jake Kolbe.

"I think he will be an excellent quarterback here," said the Redbird coach. "He's a very gifted thrower, he has a great mind for the game and he runs pretty well. He needs to get stronger physically, and he knows that."

Freshmen impressing: Among several true freshmen who are pushing for immediate playing time are defensive ends Matt Swaine and Donavin O'Day. Swaine is 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, while O'Day is 6-6, 235.

"Those kids are really good players. This freshman class is as good as advertised," Spack said. "Swaine looks like a basketball guy, but he's pretty tough and he comes from a great program. We think we can hold Donavin out. We'll see how we hold up. Swaine will probably be a traveling redshirt (only play if needed)."

News and notes: Defensive end David Perkins (concussion like symptoms) and tailback Jeffrey Lewis (quadriceps) have both returned to practice and are expected to be available for the opener.

Second string middle linebacker Brent Spack, the coach's son, sat out practice Tuesday because of a sore back.

"He's got a back issue. It's going to flare up from time to time," Brock Spack said. "It's precautionary."

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