CHARLESTON – Don't read too much into the fact that when No. 1 units took the practice field on Thursday, Jalen Whitlow was the Eastern Illinois quarterback.
Especially, you Minnesota football coaches.
Friend or foe, don't expect an announcement as to whether senior Andrew Manley, who quarterbacked New Mexico State to a 28-21 win over Minnesota in 2011 before transferring to EIU last year, or Whitlow, who transferred from Kentucky this summer, has won this preseason competition.
“No, we'll let the University of Minnesota football team figure that out,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said.
That revelation may not be until EIU's offense takes the field for the Aug. 28 opener at Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.
In practice, someone has to take the first snap and on Thursday that was Whitlow.
“For right now he's been going with that group,” Dameron said. “Andrew went with that group earlier. I really don't want to make a decision yet. They both are going to get time. Plus, I don't want the other team to know who we're going to start.
“I don't have any less of an opinion of Andrew Manley than before. We're going to need both of those guys.”
Opinions could be formed a bit more with a 3:30 p.m. Saturday situational scrimmage with college officials.
Injured for now
Another case of don't-decide-the-opening-day-lineup-by-who-is-practicing-right-now would be on defense.
All-Ohio Valley Conference linebacker Robert Haynes has spent parts of practices on the sidelines for more than a week now nursing an injury.
“'He's such a competitor and we know what he can do,” defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said.
Other such precautionary moves are being exercised with linebacker Kamu Granger-Hill and defensive linemen Fedney Delphonse and Dan Chism.
“We just want to get them ready for game day,” Wommack said.
“I think we're in good shape. We have those nagging injures. Once we get them on the field we should be all right.”
On offense, redshirt freshman running back Malik Harrison has been sidelined by a concussion.
“We've been very safe with him,” Dameron said. I hate to see a young player not be able to get out there and show what he can do.
“I'm a little frustrated because we have guys who have some nicks keeping them off the field.”
Those able are getting ready for the season not just one opponent quite yet.
“The middle of next week we'll start getting ready for Minnesota,” Wommack said. “As coaches we have been doing that but with the players it's all about us right now.”
Dameron closed practice on Thursday praising players for previous months.
The 57 Panthers who were in summer school compiled a team grade point average of 2.83.
Those players also gained an average of 6.3 pounds, a figure that included some players who were losing weight as requested.
“Really, it's about getting their bodies right,” Dameron said. “That's what the summer is all about.”