Panthers’ defense is looking better after fall camp as they are ready to hit the field next week


Rob Le Cates

Assistant Defensive Line Coach, Adam Morris talks to players after a practice drill during football practice Tuesday afternoon at O’Brien Field. Morris was hired in February 2021 and will start his second season this year in 2022.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The EIU football team’s defense has had positive growth at fall camp as they prepare to open the season next Thursday at Northern Illinois.

Head coach Chris Wilkerson said that the team always has room to improve and that the defensive staff is reteaching some of the fundamentals and evaluating their schemes from last year. He said that the staff has done a phenomenal job in reteaching some of the fundamentals as well as evaluating some of the schemes that they did well last year.

“It was a very productive preseason,” Wilkerson said. “We had a very competitive, spirited preseason and we have improved a lot as a football team.”

Defensive coordinator Adam Gristick said that fall camp went well and that he saw a lot of progress from the team during that time.

“I’d definitely say we got better. That was the most important aspect,” Gristick said. “We left better than we started. We’re definitely excited to go play a game, that’s for sure.”

When asked about fall camp, Safety Jordan Vincent said that getting the new players acclimated was important to the team’s chemistry.

“During football camp, I would say, just getting the chemistry down. We got a lot of new players in different positions from quarterbacks, receivers, defensive line, linebackers, so just building their chemistry.”

Gristick said that the defensive staff’s focus right now is getting the best 11 players out on the field and that it has been tough. When asked about who the players to watch were, he could not just name a few. He said that the defense as a whole will play with a lot of passion and emotion this season.

“A bunch of guys on the interior that we feel really good about, so I’m excited to see them play against another team,” Gristick said.

Some of the new faces that Gristick is looking forward to seeing play this season are transfers Braylon Willis, Foday Jalloh, and Alex Oyawale.

Vincent, who was named a captain, is also excited about the new football staff and new players and the team as a whole this season. He said that the camaraderie and chemistry with the team has changed and that the offense and defense are more cohesive.

“Coach Wilkerson brings a different charisma or a different swag to the program that really allows the players to embrace themselves and embrace one other. That’s been the biggest thing.”

As the team closed out on fall camp and gets ready to officially begin their season, they feel confident on both sides of the ball under a new regime. Wilkerson has liked what he has seen from both his staff and his players.

“Everything we do we want to make sure that we’re going to be the best we can,” Wilkerson said.