One of the major questions entering fall training camp for the Redbird football team was focused around the quarterback position.
But on Aug. 14, junior Jared Barnett was named the starting quarterback for the season opener against Ball State. The backup quarterback role is still unknown with the battle between Adam Pittser and Blake Winkler.
The ’Birds participated in their first fully padded practice of the fall on Aug. 6 in a session featuring over 60 plays.
“I was very impressed with the offense’s performance during the team period,” head coach Brock Spack said. “Teams have to [be] able to get their backs off their own goal line to be successful, and they had a championship-level performance down there today. Defensively, I think we lacked intensity and that was evident by not being able to get off the field. I think that means we have a dangerous offense, but we will have to see how the defense responds because we will do it all over again tomorrow to see if they learned anything.”
With ISU’s first two opponents, Ball State and Eastern Illinois, employing a no-huddle offense, Spack opted to have his offense go no-huddle during fall camp, which began on Aug. 9, to help the defense prepare.
“We typically don’t feature the no-huddle in our system, unless we are in a two-minute situation,” Spack said. “It’s just not something that fits into our offensive philosophy. But the first two teams we play will run it almost exclusively, and that’s why it was important for us to run it on offense and give our defense a look at it and a change of pace. That experience is key because it forces the players to work on communicating, getting lined up correctly and playing fast.”
The ISU football squad ran more 130 plays during a two-hour period in the first intra-squad scrimmage of the fall on Aug. 10, in preparation for the Red-White Scrimmage a week later. Barnett finished 10-of-19 with 113 passing yards and five touchdowns. Cameron Meredith headed the receiving corps with four receptions for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Jamal Towns picked up 121 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“I think we were able to get a lot of good work in … [It] was an opportunity to see what some of the younger players could do and how they can help us fill out the roster,” Spack said. “I thought the defense was very strong early on, but the offense was very efficient once we moved into the red zone and goal line work.”
The Redbirds participated in their first workout under the Hancock Stadium lights on Aug. 14. The practice consisted of 11-on-11 drills and a 7-on-7 competition.
“The kids were competing and having fun,” Spack said. “[On Aug. 13], the offense got the better of the defense, so I think those guys wanted to come out [the next day] and make a statement. It’s good news. If one team dominates day in and day out, then you have problems. That shows that you might not be good on one side of the football. We are a young team, particularly on defense, and you’re going to take your lumps, but we are going to get them ready to play.”
In their second-to-last practice of fall camp on Friday morning, Spack opted to have a kicking scrimmage to stress the importance of a strong special teams unit.
“Momentum plays in the kicking game can change the entire flow of a college football game,” Spack said. “We see all the time games won and lost because of mistakes or strong execution on kicking plays and coverage units. It’s hard to really give the players a strong look at that until you practice it full speed, so that’s why we held the scrimmage this morning and focused on our fits and assignments in the kicking game.”
The Redbirds return to practice Tuesday in preparation for ISU’s season opener against Ball State on Aug. 29.