Fall Camp Report: Rookies

WMU football had a dilemma. How can the coaches give the incoming freshman one-on-one attention and teach them the basics of the college game without slowing down the veterans? Simple; split the team and have the veterans practice in the morning and the freshmen in the afternoon for the first week of camp, and just two days into practice this method is working quite well.

As most fans already know the learning curve from high school athletics to the major college level is a large jump. In order to make the jump freshmen need to learn the basics of the college game: running routes, the playbook, the fast pace of practice, and what it takes to be successful in major college football.

Tuesday's practice started out with the freshmen working closely with their position coaches. Head coach Gary Darnell called this "football 101." He said they were focused on "just getting them headed off in the right direction, give them a comfort zone and an idea of what to do."

The receivers studied under coach Brian Rock the basics of running routes and making efficient cuts. "How we do things, how we get things done" were the words heard from coach Rock several times during practice. "It doesn't matter how pretty that catch was, you need to run the right routes and do things right."

"These kids need to learn that they're no longer in high school, they are at Western Michigan University, and they need to learn how we get things done in major college football," added Darnell. "It's no longer enough to get things done, they have to be done right."

Many receivers stood out as being quite skilled such as Brandon Ledbetter and Jamarko Simmons, but the real highlight was London Fryar, son of NFL great Irving Fryar. Fryar ran all routes flawlessly and was the only receiver able to consistently catch QB Alex Engram's rocket passes.

The quarterbacks spent much of their time working on timing one, three, and five step drops as well as taking charge of the offense during full team drills. Coach Molnar was very adamant about making fundamentally sound passes, not just firing the ball as hard as possible.

On the defensive side of the ball coach J.C. Harper spent the bulk of their time working on formations, reading the offense and proper coverage. Standing out were Scooter McIntosh and Blake Sims at cornerback and Zach Davidson at defensive end.

About 20 minutes was dedicated to special teams work, and specifically punt coverage. Coach Bob Diaco led the unit in learning coverage patterns, who the "crazies" are, protecting the punter and timing when moving down field. Highly touted running back Mark Bonds was a clear leader during these drills showing no hesitation in taking an immediate leadership roll.

Practice ended with Bonds again taking the leadership roll and being the only player to volunteer to lead the freshmen in riling the team up with loud cheering before breaking practice.


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