Weatherbie Settling In At ULM

FAYETTEVILLE -- Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie knows what it's like to travel to Little Rock for a "home" game.

Weatherbie was the Arkansas quarterbacks coach in 1990 and the offensive coordinator in 1991 under Jack Crowe and remembers packing up for what was then a more inconvenient journey down U.S. 71 to Little Rock.

His Indians will travel to Little Rock this Saturday, also for a "home" game under an agreement with Arkansas that will allow ULM to count the attendance at War Memorial Stadium toward its home total to help preserve its Division I-A status.

"It took us three hours plus to get to a game (in Little Rock), so it felt like a road game then, too," Weatherbie said. "I don't think that affects us much."

Weatherbie was 1-11 at Monroe last year after taking the job in May, 2003, with just three months to prepare for the season.

The Indians lost six games by a touchdown or less while knocking off Sun Belt and in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette 45-42 for their lone win.

"I think Charlie's done a great job," said Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle, whose Ragin' Cajuns lost 24-17 to Arkansas in 2002 and play Kansas State this Saturday. "They've sure got some players. We're all real similar in the fact we have to go into games like Arkansas and Kansas State and Missouri where we have to play lights out.

"You have to play a perfect football game to beat those teams."

The Indians are becoming more of Weatherbie's team after a full offseason of spring football and recruiting.

"It makes a big difference," he said of a full year at Monroe. "You got your coaching staff pretty much intact, you get to go through spring ball and a recruiting class. It makes it an easier transition and gives you more of an opportunity to install a philosophy to our players and our team."

Weatherbie has turned around programs at Utah State, Air Force and Navy with ULM being his latest project.

He's used a variety of offensive philosophies depending on his personnel over the years and has settled in with a multiple offense at Monroe.

His three teams at Utah State averaged 250 yards passing and threw for 51 touchdowns while his Navy teams were among the tops nationally in rushing, leading the country in 1999.

The Indians opened their season Sept. 4 with a 31-0 loss to Auburn and had an open date last weekend.

With just a game's worth of stats to glance at, getting a read on the Indians isn't easy.

Quarterback Steven Jyles, who completed 201 of 306 passes last year (65.7 percent) with 12 interceptions to 14 touchdowns, returns to guide an offense that favors the short passing game and hitting the tailback out of the backfield.

Jyles was 16 of 22 against Auburn, but for only 95 yards with a long of 22, an average of just 5.9 yard per completion.

Kevin Payne of Junction City is the Indians' top returning rusher and receiver after earning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in 2003 with 1,464 yards of offense.

Payne rushed for 976 yards and 6 touchdowns on 248 attempts, a 3.9 yard average, and caught 41 passes for 488 yards and 3 more scores.

Nine players caught passes from Jyles against Auburn.

"Offensively, I'm excited about what we're doing," Weatherbie said. "I think it gives us an opportunity to be successful whoever we play, not just in the conference. I'm looking forward to some great things out of what we're doing on the offensive side."

On defense, the Indians return nine starters and Weatherbie said his scheme is similar to what Arkansas likes to run in its multiple defensive sets.

The defense held Auburn to 31 points while Mississippi State gave up 45 to the Tigers a week later.

Leading returning tackler linebacker John Winchester had 13 tackles against Auburn and defensive end Brandon Guillory had 10 to lead the Indians defense.

"There's probably not a lot of secrets over there on that side of the ball for this week's game," Weatherbie said.

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