Indians open practices today

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Southeast officially begins preparations for its Sept. 2 opener.

By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian

Southeast Missouri State University's football coaching staff always tries to keep a watchful eye on the heat when practice begins each year.

But as the Indians prepare for today's opening workout -- set for 5:30 p.m. at Houck Stadium -- they appear to have caught a break as cooler than normal temperatures are expected to greet the team.

"Hot weather is always a concern, but it looks like things should be nice for at least a while," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "But you never know when it's going to get really hot and you have to always be careful when it does."

NCAA guidelines regarding preseason workouts that were put into place last year are designed to help eliminate potential heat-related problems.

The first five days of practice are designated "heat acclimation" days, with the first two in helmets only, the next two in helmets and shoulder pads and the fifth in full gear but with no contact. Teams can practice only once per day during those first five days. Also, after that initial five-day period, squads are prohibited from holding two-a-day workouts on consecutive days.

"They've just tried to be more cautious," Billings said. "It's fine with us because we don't believe in the drive-em-into-the-dirt kind of thing. I'm not a big believer in beating each other up in practice and doing too much physically. We do a lot of mental work. We want to have our best players on the field for the games."

Billings said he, his coaches and the Southeast training staff are always on the lookout for possible heat-related problems with their players during preseason practice.

"The trainers do a great job, and we have plenty of breaks. We always make sure they get plenty of fluids and that they're eating right," he said.

Billings expects most of his players to report in solid shape, particularly the more than 50 who stayed in Cape Girardeau over the summer for the Indians' voluntary conditioning program.

"The ones that stayed here, we know are in good shape," Billings said. "We hope most of the other kids also come back in good shape."

Players report to camp

Billings and his staff welcomed about 90 players to camp Friday. He's looking forward to seeing them on the practice field for the first time today.

"This is always an exciting time of the year," Billings said. "We're anxious to get started."

The Indians return 16 starters from last year's squad that lost its first five games but recovered for a 5-7 overall record, including a 5-3 Ohio Valley Conference mark that resulted in a third-place tie among nine teams. Southeast was recently picked fourth in the OVC's official preseason poll based on voting by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

"Fourth is about where I expected we would be picked," Billings said. "I think the league is stronger from top to bottom this season, and any of the top five or six schools could win the title. I really think we have the ingredients to have a good football team. If we can survive our early schedule that is the toughest in school history, I think we can contend in the OVC."

Southeast begins the season with three straight road games, including two against Division I-A opponents.

The Indians open on Sept. 2 against Southern Illinois, which is ranked by Athlon Magazine as the nation's No. 1 Division I-AA team. They then tackle Division I-A foes Bowling Green (Sept. 11) and Central Michigan (Sept. 18). Southeast has just four home dates on its 11-game schedule.

"It's a really tough early schedule, but hopefully it'll help us get ready for the OVC," Billings said.

Even though the Indians enter the start of practice with experienced players filling most positions, they are not without their concerns, led by depth along both lines.

"We feel good about the linemen we have, but we don't have much depth. That's our No. 1 concern," Billings said.

Overall, though, Billings likes the look of the 2004 Indians as he begins his fifth season as their coach.

"Our offense should be able to score some points, and I think our defense might be the best since I have been at Southeast," he said.

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