Split Practice a Big Hit

Two-year-old NCAA rules forbid bringing rookies into August football practice any earlier then the veterans and Gary Darnell's creative solution was a big success. With the whole team now practicing together the benefits are quite apparent.

As recently as two seasons ago most all division 1 football teams brought their freshmen into fall training camp a few days early to get them used to college practice, used to their coaches and give them a basic understanding of the new systems they were learning. Since then the NCAA has made rules that forbid bringing in freshmen early so the Broncos decided to split practices the first week of camp working the veterans in the morning and the freshmen in the afternoon.

"With the [recent] NCAA rules it doesn't work that way unless you force the issue," said WMU head coach Gary Darnell referring to the freshmen not getting a chance to adjust to the college level before practicing together.

The Broncos have been practicing together since this past Saturday, but was Darnell's solution a success?

"That was one of the best things we ever did," said Darnell. "First of all we could focus on the older guys when it was their time, and it gave the younger guys a chance to meld in with the coaching staff. We got huge dividends. I think the freshmen are more integrated to the team then at any time since [I've] been here."

In fact Darnell feels the entire team is ahead of where it has been in years past because, "the mid level players and the entry level players performance is much, much higher then it was a year ago. If you take the top 22 [player's] performance it doesn't make much of a difference because those guys will always play well, it's the younger guys bringing their level up that helps the team."

Split practice isn't the only reason the team is ahead of where it was last year. "We're not quite as sophisticated this fall as we have been in previous falls," said Darnell. "We just simplified it a little bit just to make sure guys could get some confidence early on in the season."

Freshmen Not Redshirted?

Bronco fans could see some true freshmen take the field again this season. "I could see five or six guys just depending on how a few things work out in the next week or so," said Darnell. "By seasons end I wouldn't be surprised to see five or six guys that have played this year." Who these freshmen are the coach wouldn't say. Highly touted freshmen like quarterback Alex Engram and running back Mark Bonds have been impressive but the most likely candidates to play are cornerbacks like Scooter McIntosh and Blake Sims.

A Scouts Take:

Monday morning's practice session was under the watchful eyes of a pair of Baltimore Raven's scouts. Who were they looking at? Well junior receiver Greg Jennings of course, but they kept an even closer eye on seniors Tyrone Walker (wide receiver), Adam Anderson (punter) and Ernest Osborne (defensive end).

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