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Second-year coach Charlie Weatherbie wants to construct a more resilient Louisiana-Monroe football team.
Turnovers killed the Indians last year, with mistakes snowballing into losses. Weatherbie wants to cut down on miscues, but he also wants a team that can move on mentally when it does make a mistake.
Tough teams make the stop defensively on third and short. They also convert on third and short offensively. Successful third-down plays stop opposing drives and keep offensive marches alive. They demoralize a foe.
Tough teams can take the football in the last two minutes and mount a game-winning drive. They block out the doubts and make plays when they count.
Tough football players use past failures as motivation to improve. They believe they can make a difference.
As ULM reports today and begins practice on Friday, Indian players can expect a heavy emphasis on all of the above in preparation for the 2004 season.
Camp competition: RB Jason Schule finished the spring listed as the starter ahead of Kevin Payne. But Payne, who ran for 976 yards while earning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors, isn't likely to go away without a fight.
Numbers crunch: Even with talented skill players last year, ULM ranked last in the Sun Belt with 19.9 ppg. New offensive coordinator Todd Berry's job is to help the Indians find the end zone with more frequency.
On the cusp: Senior DE Brandon Guillory has been around a few years, but this is the year he becomes a headliner. Guillory has the speed to create havoc off the edge while 6-3 junior Shelton Williams was the talk of spring practice at FS. Both players are former WRs.
Instant impact: ULM signed PK Ragan Walters with the understanding that he'd be the starter. It's a pressure-filed job, but one the freshman will have to handle with consistency.
Shallow pool: The Indians went through spring practice with just eight offensive linemen. A pair of redshirt freshmen are expected to start at OG. The thin numbers also mean several incoming freshmen will be asked to play immediately.
On the mend: When WR Drouzon Quillen suffered a season-ending knee injury last August, it left a gaping hole in the offense. After going through a limited spring practice, Quillen has been cleared medically to take part fully in spring practice.
RB Erroll Hogan (knee) and DE Marbrae Wilson (knee) missed last season, but they are ready to return. Wilson is a former starter who hasn't played since tearing his ACL in the fourth game of 2002.
ULM took a chance on former West Monroe DT D.J. Ernst, but he was unable to return to the team after back surgery.
ULM had a relatively healthy spring and didn't have any players facing surgery or major rehab in April.
Gone with the wind: DT LeKeith Robinson and S Louis Thomas quit the team in the off-season. ULM also lost a few signees as junior college defensive lineman Thomas Chambliss and offensive lineman Rene Encarnicion failed to qualify academically. Anther signee, DT Josh Mitchell is not expected to be an academic qualifier.
Camp chatter: "We're going to be a faster, quicker, stronger team. We're going to be in better shape. When it comes time for the fourth quarter, we're going to be able to play with the same kind of zeal and effort that we showed in the first quarter. That will be a key in our success." - Weatherbie.
- By Paul J. Letlow<a href='http://www.thenewsstar.com/sports/html/AC2EA59A-52E6-47A5-8D1D-2DF727C55970.shtml' target='_blank'>LINK</a>
He's hoping for one last blast
ULM's Winchester eyes big senior year
Paul Letlow

August 11, 2004

Senior linebacker John Winchester was smiling as he jogged off the practice field Tuesday evening.

Although it was the end of another hot and humid effort that left him drenched in sweat, Winchester says he's savoring the beginning of his final college season.

"This is my last season of this," Winchester said. "I've got to enjoy it."

A steady force for ULM's defense the last three seasons, Winchester is adding to his duties with the team.

"I've got to be more of a team leader," said Winchester, a toned 6-3, 246 pounds after a long summer in the weight room. "I thought I was in the past but I've got to be even more of a leader this year. People depend on me to make pays and I've got stand up and deliver."

One of the goals for the defense this season is to produce more turnovers. The Indians recovered just seven fumbles and made seven interceptions last year.

"Forcing turnovers is the name of the game," Winchester said. "We like to attack every play and create turnovers. That's the best thing we can do. We want to get the ball back to the offense and score as many points as possible."

Winchester said it seems strange not having fellow standout linebacker Maurice Sonnier alongside him this preseason. Sonnier was a senior last year and the pair played as a tandem for most of the last three years.

"It's definitely been different out there," said Winchester, who ranked second behind Sonnier in tackles with 91 in 2003. "I've played alongside Mo the last three years, but we've got a good group of guys coming up. I'm hoping to mold together with them as soon as possible so we can have a great year."

Winchester said Josh Alexander, Harry Bradley and L.B. Jeter are all progressing at the linebacker position.

"We have some other young guys who are also stepping up and will get playing time, but those are the main guys," Winchester said. "You get better as you get experience. As the season goes on, I expect them to get better and I expect myself to get better."

LOVETT LIMPING: Junior quarterback Darnell LoVett had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee on Tuesday and is expected to miss the next seven to 10 days of practice. LoVett, a transfer from Pasadena (Ca.) City College, should be back on the field some time next week.

"He thought it was his hamstring because that's where it was hurting, the back of his knee," ULM coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "Actually it was the cartilage. But he's doing well."

ULM ADDS A QB: Quarterback Pat McMahon, a transfer from Louisiana Tech, is working out with the Indians. Weatherbie said McMahon, who left the Tech team in the fall of 2002, will gain his eligibility in mid-September.

McMahon (6-1, 215) is a native of Westfield, N.J., who passed for 1,370 yards and 12 touchdowns in a run-oriented offense at St. Joseph's High School. Rivals.com rated him as one of the top 20 dropback quarterbacks in the country at the time. During McMahon's junior year, St. Joseph's was ranked No. 7 in the nation and by USA Today.

McMahon joins a replenished quarterback pool that now includes starter Steven Jyles, LoVett, redshirt freshman Jesse Blair and true freshmen Ryne Miller and Kinsmon Lancaster.

"I think we've got six guys here that can throw the football," Weatherbie said. "All of them have Division I-A arms. I'm excited about what we've got out there to work with."

Jyles and Blair were the only scholarship quarterbacks available for ULM during spring practice.

PRACTICE SCHEDULE: ULM will practice in full pads for the first time this afternoon. After practicing twice on Friday, the Indians will conduct their first scrimmage Saturday afternoon during the 3-6:30 p.m. session.

"It's been basketball on grass for the last four practices," Weatherbie said. "It's time to get some collision into it."

ARROWHEADS: ULM has planned a "football fashion show" for the media at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Indians will show off their new Nike football uniforms. ... ULM president Jim Cofer, wearing starched white shirt and tie, watched practice for about 30 minutes. ... Miller, the freshman quarterback listed at 6-3, 230 pounds, can throw a baseball 92 mph according to Weatherbie. Miller, a prep baseball standout from Richland High School in Roanoke, Texas, is wearing No. 25 during preseason drills.
Weatherbie chats with ESPN, Kiper
Paul Letlow

August 16, 2004

Mel Kiper Jr., talked football with Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie Saturday morning during a live national interview on ESPN Radio.

"He pulled off an amazing thing, taking Utah State and Navy to bowl games in a three-year period," Kiper's co-host Andy Pollin noted during the broadcast. "Neither one had thought much about bowl trips prior to Charlie to coming there. Now things went south at Navy a few years ago, but he's a guy who can turn it around. That's a program that needs to be turned around. They've been awful for a long time."

Weatherbie was one of three Sun Belt Conference coaches invited to talk about their teams as ESPN previewed the league. Troy University's Larry Blakeney and Utah State's Mick Dennehy were also interviewed during the show.

"You've had only seven wins in four years, but I know the success you've had in other places," Pollin told Weatherbie. "You're going to turn it around quickly."

Kiper spoke highly of ULM's offensive playmakers.

"Not many teams can talk about a Steven Jyles, a quarterback coming back as a junior, a Kevin Payne, a running back that's only a sophomore," Kiper said. "With Jyles, Payne and (backup quarterback) Darnell LoVett, you've got to feel that you're as well-stocked at running back and quarterback as most teams in the Sun Belt," Kiper said.

Kiper asked Weatherbie about the benefits and difficulties of opening the year against Auburn and Arkansas.

"I think it is going to give us a benchmark to see where our team is," Weatherbie said. "Auburn, we know they'll have a heck of a football team. They had a great team last year. We'll have to go in and play real well and not give them anything to be in the game.

"Arkansas, we play them in Little Rock. We know they lost 20 starters last year. They've got one returning starter on offense and three on defense. We think the chances might be greater than Auburn."

Kiper said the key for ULM improving this season starts with the defense.

"The defense was horrible (last year), but it does have nine senior starters," Kiper said. "That's where the improvement has to be if this team is going to win four, five, maybe six games and improve on that 1-11 year from 2003."

ARROWHEADS: Offensive lineman Bruce Hampton and strong safety Shaune Maynard graduated on Saturday. Hampton, a former walk-on from New Iberia, majored in computer information systems. Maynard, a Jennings product, majored in criminal justice. ... ULM is scheduled to practice twice today, the second two-a-day session of the preseason. According to the team practice schedule, the Indians will be on the field at 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., then return to action from 6:15 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. ... The Indians will conclude this week on the road with a Saturday scrimmage in Shreveport at Independence Stadium. The team will bus to Shreveport and visit a hospital before arriving at the stadium at 11:30 a.m. The scrimmage, open to the public, is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. ... ULM Fan Day is planned for Saturday, Aug. 28.
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