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Indians enthusiastic about improving on last year's 1-11 mark
Paul Letlow

August 5, 2004

There's a feeling around Louisiana-Monroe's Malone Stadium that the football team is capable of making an eye-popping turnaround.

Although the Indians were a disheartening 1-11 in 2003, the team lost seven games by seven points or less. If ULM can ever cut down on its mistakes and catch a few lucky breaks, the winning habit could return.

"We're ready to get it going," senior offensive tackle Bruce Hampton said. "We've been ready since the end of last season. It's about time we turned this program around. We're going to do it this year. We've got too much talent not to."

Several factors bolster the enthusiasm level as ULM veterans and newcomers report today and prepare for their first practice together at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

n The Indians have more than 20 seniors this year, a vast improvement from the dwindling clusters of upperclassmen that have come through in recent years.

n ULM also enters training camp with an array of established players. Quarterback Steven Jyles, left tackle Bruce Hampton and running back Kevin Payne are proven talents on offense. Safety Chris Harris and linebacker John Winchester are familiar defensive stars while punter Joel Stelly and return specialist Charles Estes were among the nation's best statistically last year.

n Second-year coach Charlie Weatherbie has also brought in four new full-time assistants, shuffled some duties and upgraded the overall staff experience level. New offensive coordinator Todd Berry is the former head coach at Army with a track record of success as an assistant at East Carolina while defensive coordinator Bob Trott's resume includes a stint at Clemson and a tour with Bill Parcells in the NFL.

New strength coach Kim Sword has also run the team through a rugged off-season that should have them better prepared.

"We've hired some really fine coaches who are great additions to our program," Weatherbie said. "But one of the key cogs to the wheel is our strength coach, Kim Sword, and what he's done with these guys since January."

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