Illinois State Has First Scrimmage

Head Coach Denver Johnson and his Illinois State Redbird team is looking to bounce back from an under .500 season last year and return to the FCS Playoffs in 2008 as a member of the new Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly the Gateway). The Birds had its first full scrimmage on Sunday and here is a report from the newspaper in Normal, Ill., "The Pantagraph" and writer Randy Reinhardt.

NORMAL - The Illinois State football team has an explosive top returning rusher in Geno Blow, a recent transfer from the University of Illinois in Walter Mendenhall and a hard-running walk-on in Clifton Gordon among its tailbacks. Senior Parrish Fisher made it clear he's also in the running to do some running for the Redbirds with 116 yards rushing on 15 carries in an intra-squad scrimmage Sunday at Hancock Stadium.

"We've got some good backs. We have four different types of guys, all capable of being productive," said ISU coach Denver Johnson after a 178-play scrimmage that stretched over three hours. "Parrish had a good day. He's trimmed down. He was a little fleshy last year. He worked extremely hard in the winter and summer, and he's very lean right now."

Fisher, who rushed for 289 yards at Kansas State in 2005, covered 192 yards on 38 carries last fall in his first season after transferring to ISU. "Out in space, he's hard to corral," Johnson said. "I'm really pleased with Parrish. He looks like a guy who is trying to go out and have a great senior season."

Freshman Brett Werner-Powell rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries when units of mostly true freshmen opposed each other. Gordon had 78 yards on 16 carries, Blow 71 yards on 10 attempts and Mendenhall 47 yards on 10 tries. Red-shirt freshman Drew Kiel had the best day of the quarterbacks. Kiel, who is battling Preston Earl for the No. 2 job behind starter Kevin Brockway, completed 10 of 14 passes for 253 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown connection to Warren McCarty.

Brockway was 10-of-21 for 98 yards, while Earl completed 11 of 22 for 103 yards. "We're coming along good," said Brockway. "We had some good drives and some not so good drives. It's nothing we can't work on and get better at." McCarty paced the receivers with 125 yards on four catches. Marcus King caught six passes for 65 yards and Eyad Salem five for 78.

"Overall, I was disappointed in the scrimmage," Johnson said. "I saw a lot of good things, but there were too many peaks and valleys. The consistency wasn't there on both sides. It was a potpourri of good and bad." Corner Antonio Adams led the tacklers with 11. Linebackers Josh Howe and Tommie Westbrook added 10 and eight, respectively.

End Brandon Wilson had four tackles for loss and three sacks. Cornerback E.J. Jones registered the lone interception. The Redbirds will hold a public scrimmage on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hancock Stadium as part of the university's Passages orientation for new students. The season opener is Aug. 30 at Marshall.

REDBIRD BITS: Defensive lineman Wesley Williams has quit the team, after playing in ten games and recording 15 tackles and one sack in 2007...ISU is allowed only to have 90 players in camp, by FCS rules, where as Marshall can have 105 in camp in FBS...fans of the Redbirds are hoping for a 6-5 mark in a rebound year, found at redbirdfan.com...Ben Whigham and Reggie Dozier have remained sidelined at camp with ankle injuries, but Ben Graves returned to work on Saturday with a cast on his left thumb...freshman wide receiver Dean Eastman made his first workout at practice 11 on Friday...tailback Cortez Rice left the team earlier in the week...Mario Bailey and Graham Corcoran were held out of Friday's workouts with nagging injuries...Illinois State held its 12th practice Saturday with 18 periods of pouring rain for the morning workout, followed by an afternoon session, and saw fatigue set in, or called in the local paper as the "camp monkey." Coach Denver Johnson: "We had some things (Saturday) that we haven't been having. We had a few offsides. We had a few missed assignments. When you get deep into camp and you're dealing with aches and pains, your legs are dead and your back is hurting, you've got to be mentally tough and mentally sharp. We succumbed to that a little bit (Saturday) morning. It wasn't terrible, but it was more manifestation of that than I would like to see."...that was ISU's last two-a-day of camp.


Herd Haven Top Stories