NORMAL — Illinois State went "live" for the first time of fall training camp Thursday morning at Hancock Stadium.
In the initial full contact session, the Redbird offense had more life than its defensive counterparts.
"I felt like it was a really good day. It's nice to get out here with full pads," guard Chad Kanugh said. "We've got a very talented offense. We have a lot of weapons we're going to utilize this season."
After all three offensive units picked up at least one first down starting at their own 2-yard line, the scene shifted to a red zone drill with drives starting at the defense's 24.
"I thought our offense did a really good job of finishing drives and finishing plays," said ISU coach Brock Spack. "We scored quite a bit. It was a really productive day."
Among the touchdowns were passes from Brady Davis to Jordan Birch and Taylor Grimes and completions from Jake Kolbe to Braxton Haley and from Trenton Hatfield to Jacob Carl.
Markel Smith reached the end zone on a cut-back 17-yard run and added a 2-yard scoring plunge.
"We had a lot of guys on both sides of the ball showing up," Spack said. "Grimes had a really nice catch and run, and Markel had a nice run. I'm excited where we're at."
The ISU coach is pleased with the development of a first-string offensive line that features Kanugh and Gabe Megginson at the guards, tackles Donavin O'Day and Drew Himmelman and center Garrett Hirsch.
"We are vastly improved up front on offense," Spack said. "The theme of training camp has been how much better we are up front."
Among the defensive highlights was a pass breakup by true freshman cornerback Iverson Brown, who poked away an apparent touchdown toss by Davis to Eric Rogers.
"That was an excellent play by the defender," said Spack. "That's why you recruit length. He got his hand in the basket and punched it out."
Kicking competition: If punter JT Bohlken does not also serve as place-kicker, it appears that battle is down to junior Sam Fenlason and true freshman Trevor Bond.
"It will be curious to see how Fenlason handles longer kicks. He's got a really big leg, but he seems to press a little bit on longer kicks," Spack said. "Bond is going to be a really good player, but he's not strong enough yet. We have a nice competition there."
New entrance: Earth-moving equipment was at work Thursday during practice at Hancock Stadium's southwest entrance.
ISU plans to make the entrance more attractive and safer not only for spectators but for opposing teams that enter through that gate to the field.