Leatherneck Football Opens Spring Camp


MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University has announced that the Leatherneck football team officially opened spring camp on Tuesday. Over the next month, the group and coaching staff have 14 practices, culminating with the Bruce Craddock Spring Game at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 19 in preparation for the 2024 season.

For first-year head coach Joe Davis and his staff, the energy around the team leading up to the opening of spring camp has been palpable.

“I think excitement is the general thought process here, excitement and enthusiasm,” Davis said. “We had as good of a first eight weeks as we possibly could have as a football program when it comes to weightlifting, speed and conditioning and now we get the chance to put the ball down, play a little bit, coach, teach and I think everyone is excited to do that.”

The camp is the first for Davis as a head coach, but that does not mean the Leatherneck leader does not have a plan in place. With an eager staff and team, the coach is ready to hit the ground running while molding the team.

“The expectations for high-level production are a little bit tempered on the first day, it’s more organization and structure, developing that routine for the players that is going to be so important for us as a new staff and the players getting to know us and us getting to know the players,” Davis said. “I told the team, I think one of the greatest traits this team can have in spring ball is flexibility. We’re still trying to learn who’s who, and who fits where in the new schemes, so having a little open mind and willingness early is going to be key for us.

“Start small and build is going to be the thought process and assume nothing, we want to be great teachers from the ground up. We’re going to talk a lot about mastering the mundane, we’re going to be really, really good at the basics of playing Division I football and how that applies to the schemes and the offense, defense and special teams at Western Illinois. We want to be able to be great at the basics and focus on those things.”

Mastering the mundane and building the basics should be a little easier. With close to 80 players in camp, the staff has a big group with which to work.

“I think we need more in the spring, we’re still working on that, but having a little bit of depth and competition, going back to the mid-year, adding those 17 players, we couldn’t be more excited about that group, we added to the style of play we want to play here, so those numbers are going to be big,” Davis said.

When it comes to camp, Davis is eager to see what he has, taking those small steps, but also challenging his squad right away.

“We’re going to error on the side of being physical here, we’re going to be a tough, physical football team here,” the coach said. “I want to practice that way, I’ve said forever, even as a quarterback coach, if you want to be a good tackling team, you have to tackle in practice, it’s like any other skill that needs to be taught, developed and repped. Certainly among the confines of health and rules and structure of practice, we’re going to be smart with our players but at the end of the day, I want to come out of spring saying this was a physical spring, we were able to hit and tackle and have live periods in practice to see what type of team we have.”

Whether physical or mental, the coaching staff knows players are eager to impress and make their presence known. It is letting his guys go and show that has Davis and his staff ready for spring ball.

“We told the team, don’t worry about your position on a depth chart, there are no depth charts, make your reps count, don’t count your reps and there are guys here in practice one who are going to be playing a different position by the time we get to practice 15,” he said. “We want guys here who are going to lead the league in effort, be coachable, be teachable, have great energy and enthusiasm and if we can check all those boxes within our roster, we’ll find good homes for all these guys.

“I probably would rather pull the reins back on them than have to kick them in the tail. I want them flying around here early in camp. I think we as a coaching staff have done a great job in preparation and organization to make sure the reps reflect where we’re at as a conditioning standpoint right now, we want to build the reps up as we go and as their tolerance for playing increases, we can increase the reps. I think some of that, the coaches can control, I don’t want the players to worry about as much as ‘this is my rep, whether it’s on or 20, I’m going to go as fast and as hard as I can go’.”

Copy Provided By Western Athletic Communications

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