Looking tanned, relaxed and full of good cheer, ULM football coach Charlie Weatherbie met the media Wednesday as players reported to campus. Weatherbie, entering his seventh year with the program, has been comparing the Warhawks to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. ULM is picked seventh in the preseason Sun Belt poll after last year's 4-8 finish.
"Mine That Warhawk," Weatherbie said. "That's what I'm calling it. Yeah, 50-to-1 odds for that horse to win and it won."
Weatherbie likes this year's team, based on its returning experience across the board. "I believe we have a chance to have a real fine football team," Weatherbie said.
Players began arriving before 8 a.m. to check in. ULM's Wednesday schedule included compliance meetings, physicals and equipment issue.
On Thursday, players will gather at 6 a.m. for conditioning tests. After meetings and walkthroughs, the first practice begins at 4 p.m. "It's real exciting for me, especially being my last year," cornerback Otis Stamps said. "You've got new goals, a new season. You just want to win. Like coach always says, we need to go bowling this year."
Coach Weatherbie was non-specific when asked which newcomers have a chance to contributed as first-year players. "You always look to the skilled areas first," Weatherbie said. "Defensive back, receiver, running back. I feel like we've got some really good young kids coming in in those areas. But you never know where they're going to break into the lineup.
"There's going to be a ton of competition. We're going to have a ton of good players out there." Defensive line is an area that could provide early job opportunities.
More than one coach mentioned tight end Emmanuel Jefferies as another talent who could break in as a freshman.
Big things are expected from new left tackle Mitch Doyle, who is making the move from tight end. Film review by the coaching staff revealed that Doyle was one of the most effective blockers on the field last season. Now he should have an even greater impact at the point of attack.
THE NFL EXPERIENCE
Responding to a question about his revamped coaching staff, Weatherbie noted that he spent time last week visiting the Atlanta Falcons training camp.
"One of the things I noticed that they did at that camp was that nothing was routine," Weatherbie said. "Everything was a little bit different at their practice, every day. It kind of makes the guys think a little bit and makes them wonder what's coming next and keeps them on edge.
"I think that's what a new staff does. A new staff gives them a new energy and something new to look forward to."
ON THE MEND
After sitting out spring drills with shoulder woes, linebacker Cardia Jackson should be ready to work his way into full-contact practice during camp, head athletic trainer Phil Shaw said. Shaw also proclaimed defensive end Jameson Jordan (shoulder) ready to go.
Linebacker Lincston Jones has yet to play for the Warhawks as he has fought through a rash of injuries. Jones suffered a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles since arriving on campus, but he's expected back in the mix this fall.
As noted before safety James Truxillo is also back after suffering a knee injury against Arkansas early last season.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS
While former quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster was known for his quick feet, presumptive 2009 starter Trey Revell consistently clocked slightly faster than his predecessor in the 40-yard dash. Both are in the 4.6 range, coaches say.
Revell's arm is also expected to be an upgrade at the position. "He has physical abilities as good as anybody I've had and I've coached at the quarterback position," Weatherbie said. "Being 6-3, 225, he runs a 4.65 and has a cannon for an arm.
"I've been to some professional camps here the last three or four years and I haven't seen anybody that has any stronger arm than what he's got." Weatherbie said Revell's accuracy and decision-making are the two areas where he needs to prove himself.
"We're hoping and praying that we can continue to bring him along where he can help us be a very successful football team," Weatherbie said.
Players have been spotted wearing t-shirts with a "Sold Out" slogan on it. "One of slogans this year was to be ‘Sold Out,' Weatherbie said. "Sold out to one another, sold out and committed to what we're fighting for – that's to win the Sun Belt Conference championship and win the New Orleans Bowl. When you talk about being sold out, you're there for one another, working together and spurring one another along."
EYES ON TEXAS
The Warhawks open the season at Texas on Sept. 5. Weatherbie said that he voted the Longhorns No. 1 in the coaches' poll.
"They are a very talented team," Weatherbie said. "Colt McCoy is back at quarterback, they've got great defense. The defensive line is probably the strength of their defense. They've probably got seven or eight guys on their defensive line who are draftable. They're a very good defensive team and a very tough team to beat. We'll see where we stand after that ballgame. That will give us a good measuring stick."
Cornerback Otis Stamps also perked up when asked about the daunting opener in Austin. "Who wouldn't be excited?" Stamps said. "Going up against Colt McCoy, guys like Jordan Shipley and the rest of the guys. Texas itself is exciting. I'm ready for it. We're going to get prepared for ‘em."
ULM will announce game times for all of the games on the schedule on Friday. Kickoff at Texas is 6 p.m.… The first player to report on Wednesday was defensive lineman Troy Evans. Not far behind him was backup quarterback Zach Rhodes. … ULM will work out around 4 p.m. for its first few practices before two-a-days begin next week. Then, the Warhawks will start at 9 a.m., and then practice under the lights with 7 p.m. sessions.