CHARLESTON – Knowing the weather eventually becomes more challenging here than his home in Florida, Stephen Bravo-Brown warmed up quickly to the Eastern Illinois offense.
“They use my personnel a lot more at Eastern,” the South Florida transfer said. “They will use five receivers. I have an opportunity to be in the game more with the offense here.”
This appears to be more than just a guess.
“He did his research on some offensive coordinators,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “He actually contacted Coach (Greg) Stevens.”
While looking for an offense suited for him after having seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown last year at South Florida, Bravo-Brown talks anything but like a selfish football player.
Among the standouts in Saturday's scrimmage, he was not touting himself after catching Jalen Whitlow's pass for a 15-yard touchdown or any others for that matter.
“A lot of the plays are great schematics,” Bravo-Brown said. “Coach Stevens does a great job. The linemen did a good job giving us time. It was a great throw by Jalen. Everyone did their job and I just did mine.”
Bravo-Brown later took a reverse handoff from Whitlow and turned it into a 30-yard run.
“Yeah, I enjoy that,” the 5-foot-10-178-pounder said. “It was a good job by my teammates. Without them I wouldn't get a yard.”
Of course, that kind of play is just one mixed into the EIU playbook under the new coordinator Stevens.
“This offense the running game is a lot more complicated but it's also more effective,” Bravo-Brown said. “That helps the receivers.”
Now Bravo-Brown figures to be among EIU receivers perhaps collectively making up for the loss of national record-setter Erik Lora, who is in the Minnesota Vikings preseason camp.
“He's a very impressive young man,” Dameron said. “He has his degree and does some good things with the football.”
Bravo-Brown graduated with a psychology degree at South Florida but redshirted in 2012 so has a year of college football eligibility remaining.
Once he contacted EIU from researching the coordinators, Dameron did not have to look far to research Bravo-Brown.
Skip Holtz, the head coach at Louisiana Tech where Dameron was the defensive coordinator last year, had been at South Florida so provided recommendations.
“I wanted to go somewhere different and have a different lifestyle,” Bravo-Brown said. “I'm glad I made the move. I've enjoyed it so far.”
Bravo-Brown is making the move from Football Bowl Subdivision South Florida program that was 2-10 last year to Football Championship EIU that was 12-2.
Now he is talking about going for a national championship with the Panthers and then football beyond college.
“My goal is to go to the NFL,” Bravo-Brown said. “That goes with being a good teammate.”
Things to fix
While Bravo-Brown had some good plays, he quickly brought up some shortcomings as he learns multiple receiver positions.
“It was pretty good,” he said of Saturday's scrimmage. “I made a few mistakes, quite a few mistakes actually.”
That may have been the case for most of the Panthers in this situational scrimmage day in which the offense started from its own 1-yard line and eventually at other parts of the field.
“We put ourselves in a lot of situations we could find ourselves in,” Dameron said. “ It's good to get those on film and find our mistakes.”
Mistakes were noted by officials working the scrimmage.
“I told them to call everything,” Dameron said.
They called plenty of things, some that are likely to be corrected by EIU before its Aug. 28 opener at Minnesota.
“We had too many motion penalties and things of that nature but I thought we did a good job rolling people in,” Dameron said. “Some of the older guys didn't get quite as much work as they have been so we could look at our younger guys.”
Among those auditioning were three place-kickers for each field goal situation – senior Cody Meyer of Tri-County, junior Taylor Kerr and freshman Nick Bruno.
Each had conversions and misses from hash marks at 33 yards and 21 yards before all three connected on 44-yarders at the end of the practice.
“I'm hoping one will step up and not miss anything,” Dameron said. “We'll figure that out pretty quickly.”
Whitlow had perhaps the better scrimmage the previous Saturday of EIU's two front-running quarterbacks but the Kentucky transfer had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Kamu Grugier-Hill and another picked off by freshman Bradley Dewberry on Saturday.
Senior Andrew Manley, who transferred a year ago from New Mexico State, consistently moved the offense and on a fourth-down-and-8 fired a 78-yard touchdown pass to Keiondre Gober.
This just adds to the plans that neither FBS transfer is going to be left out of things this season.
“We have to be able to play both of them, and that's not a bad thing,” Dameron said. “ Some people think it is but I don't. They just both have to become more consistent just like everyone else on the football team.”
Ice Bucket Challenge
Most of the scrimmage was played in a light but steady rain welcomed by Dameron as it had the Panthers practicing with a wet football.
But as unusually cool August temperatures continue, the weather was not ideal for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Still, keeping in mind the cause of raising awareness for ALS, commonly know as Lou Gehrig's disease, EIU joined a nation-wide campaign of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Coaches are being doused by ice water and making a donation while challenging others to do the same.
UT Martin coach Matt Simpson had made the challenge to other Ohio Valley Conferences and on Saturday EIU put on tape for the Internet players dumping ice water on Dameron, who challenged three of his coaching friends.
Redshirt freshman safety Vince Speller also got into the act being doused by ice water and sending a challenge to one of his friends playing for Minnesota.