NORMAL — A physical Illinois State football practice was punctuated by a set of 100-yard sprints Tuesday morning at Hancock Stadium.
A locker room left in an untidy condition that displeased the Redbird coaches was the cause of the extra running.
“We had a rugged day today. It gets tough,” ISU coach Brock Spack said. “We did several live scenarios in practice that were tough. There was a lot of adversity out there. You find the cream rises to the top.”
The Redbirds practiced in full pads Tuesday and will play a public scrimmage Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hancock Stadium.
“Coach Spack’s motto is tempo, technique and toughness. We’re trying to get tougher every day,” said junior tight end Robert Gillum. “Every game is going to be a physical game. Every time it's a pads day we’ve got to be very physical.”
Gillum understood the reasoning behind the extra conditioning.
“We’ve got to deal with consequences. We did something we weren’t supposed to do,” he said. “We’ve got to look after stuff like that. It’s a little bit on everybody. We allowed it. We’ve got to deal with it.”
Junior cornerback Devin Taylor said the Aug. 31 season opener at Northern Illinois is too far away to tone down hard-hitting practices.
“It’s getting tough but we’ve got to fight through it and keep building chemistry,” said Taylor. “Everybody is still fighting for a spot. It’s very competitive out there.”
Gillum and Taylor are both pleased with ISU’s development over the first 10 days of camp.
“It’s a very young offense, but very good. The coaches are constantly telling us we have way more plays in than we did last year,” Gillum said. “So that’s a good thing. We’re really smart. We’re progressing well.”
“Everybody is learning their responsibility very well knowing their assignments,” said Taylor. “When all 11 click as one, I feel like we can be unstoppable.”
Nagging injuries: Two key players — top returning receiver Andrew Edgar and linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh — remain sidelined with hamstring injuries.
“We’ve got to get them healthy, but you can’t punish guys who have been here all training camp,” Spack said. “Out of sight, out of mind. We move on. We’ve got plenty of players here who can play.”
Spack said Edgar and Vandenburgh are “putting themselves in jeopardy” of missing the season opener.
“If you’re not practicing, you’re not going to be on the bus,” said the ISU coach. “I don’t care who you are.”
Edgar caught 44 passes for 746 yards last season. Vandenburgh had 22 tackles.
White shines: True freshman tailback Nigel White received several carries Tuesday and impressed Spack.
“We’re pretty happy with where he’s at. He’s slick and smooth, quick and sudden,” Spack said. “He can catch and he’s pretty tough. He comes from a great football program (St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).”
Kicker competition: Spack said ISU’s place-kicking competition is “neck and neck” between senior Sam Fenlason and sophomore Aiden Bresnahan.
The Redbirds converted just 7 of 15 field goal attempts last season.
Washington injured: First string linebacker DeMarco Washington suffered an apparent shoulder injury in practice Tuesday. The severity of the injury has yet to be determined.