With training camps more than halfway completed for most of the state's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools, coaches and players are raving about the mild weather as they prepare for their season opening games.
"This has been the coolest August since I’ve been here," third-year Eastern Illinois head coach Kim Dameron said. "That’s a good thing because these kids aren’t out here worried about how hot it is. They’re trying to get better. We’re still monitoring their weight each day. We weigh in and out to make sure they’re not losing too much water during a practice. If we do, we’re replenishing."
Charlie Fisher has been in coaching for over 30 years. The second-year Western Illinois head coach knows full well that Midwest weather can change at any moment.
"Most times in August what we battle are thunderstorms," Fisher said. "I'm a four o'clock practice guy. You're getting a lot of the heat, but you're not getting all of it. I'm a big believer of practicing in the heat to acclimate yourself to it."
An additional factor has been the NCAA's elimination of the traditional two-a-day practices. While the change has extended camps over a longer period of time, it has also allowed for more flexibility with a prime focus on player safety.
Illinois State head coach Brock Spack was concerned with the length of camps now.
"We’re here five weeks. We’re here a whole month," Spack said as his Redbirds opened camp.
When the NCAA decision was made, Spack said that coaches weren't consulted. This year, teams will spend 29 days in camp. Spack indicated that he’d prefer about 18 days.
"I'm sure it will be looked at (in the offseason)," the ISU head coach said.
"It’s better for us long term because we can learn more over the course of time. It’s better for our bodies since we don’t have to do two-a-days," Illinois State defensive back Devontae Harris said.
Western Illinois offensive lineman James Torgerson said, "At first I thought it was worse, making camp a week longer, but it’s been pretty good. We’ve had great weather (so far). The schedule hasn’t been as taxing (as past years)."
ISU defensive lineman Matt McCown said, "It’s not the easiest camp we’ve been through, but the coaches are changing things up. We’re doing a lot more things throughout the day. It’s not killing our bodies by any means. The coaches are being smart about it, but it’s a long process before we play a game."
Yet, some players find irony and humor in the lack of two-a-days.
"It’s weird because in junior college we were going three practices. We were up at five in the morning and didn’t really let up until around 10 o’clock at night. It was brutal," transfer Jack White of Southern Illinois said. "So when I came here and heard there were two-a-days, I was like, ‘I can’t wait.’ Then to come to find out we didn’t even have two-a-days, we have to get to work. One practice a day? We’ve got to give it our all. There’s no room to go backward. We have to keep going forward."
EIU senior offensive lineman Louis Vailopa said, "We had our camp (start) earlier so it kind of balances out. I’m jealous about the younger guys never getting that two-a-day experience. My freshman year we had 24 days of camp and two-a-days. These guys are getting the easier end of the stick. But I like it because it’s less wear on my body."