Spring fever for Catamount football

Just months after wrapping up a 1-10 season, the Catamounts took the field for the annual Spring Game on Saturday, Apr. 20 for chapter two of the Mark Speir era. With temperatures in the mid-60’s, trees blooming on the mountains, and a good crowd on hand, it was picture perfect weather to get a sneak peak at the 2013 Western Carolina Catamounts.

Head Coach Mark Speir addresses team at the conclusion of the Spring Game.

With Eddie Sullivan and Troy Mitchell splitting time under center last season, the 2013 quarterback issue was still a doubt. It appeared that Coach Speir is leaning in the direction of Sullivan as he trotted onto the field with the first-team offense for the opening series of the game.

The performance put forth by the Catamount offense was anything but a work of art, as Sullivan appeared to be the only bright spot. Sullivan completed 13 of his 16 passes while tossing three touchdowns. The rest of the quarterback committee seemed to struggle, including Troy Mitchell. Mitchell saw substantial amount of playing time during the 2012 campaign, including a start against rival Appalachian State.

The offensive line didn’t provide much aid for the struggling quarterbacks as the Catamount ground attack remained bottled up for most of the day. Backfield exchanges also seemed to be an issue as the Catamounts fell victims to several fumbled snaps. The kicking game pretty much summed up the day for the offense as they only managed to connect on one field goal out of the five attempts. Soon-to-be freshman Blake Metcalf was the only Catamount special teams player who managed to put the ball through the uprights.

The Catamount defense didn’t fair much better than their counterpart. However the defense was able to cash in on the offensive struggles as they laid several helmet cracking hits on the Catamount receivers. Defensive back Ace Clark was the story on defense. The ball-hawking defensive stud had his nose in every play, recording several tackles and blocking a field goal attempt.

Despite the lack of execution on both sides of the ball, the overall effort of the team did not disappoint as they continued to compete.

“You have to compete with everything you have,” said Head Coach Mark Speir when he addressed the team as a whole at the conclusion of the game. “The hustle was there. The effort was there. Those are the kinds of things that you must have to win the game.”

Although the execution on both sides seemed to be lacking, there is no question that things are headed in the right direction for this program under the leadership of Speir and athletic director Randy Eaton.

“We’ve come miles in just a year, we’ve come miles,” said Speir in the team huddle. “But we have miles to go.”

The anticipation is building amongst fans as the 2013 season is fast approaching. The Catamounts journey will be anything but easy as they will open the season on Thursday, Aug. 29, when they travel to Middle Tennessee State. Following that matchup, they will head to Blacksburg to take on the Hokies of Virginia Tech.

See audio slideshow for analysis of the 2013 WCU Spring Game by Kevin Bullock (photos and slideshow by Philip Jackson).