Aug 28, 2007

Ready to Rumble

by William Armstrong, Sports Reporter

“Good2Great” is a philosophy Head Coach Danny Rocco has implemented since he came to Liberty University. The Rocco Era began last season, a season that had the crowds at Williams Stadium buzzing with anticipation at each and every jam-packed game. Rocco thinks this year’s team has what it takes to go above and beyond his philosophy.


“A lot of the things we had to do are already done in terms of preparation, offseason training and academic success. A lot of things go into play when you’re trying to take that step from going good to great,” said Rocco.


Coming off a season in which the Flames tied for the nation’s biggest turnaround with a final record of 6-5, Rocco hopes the team will improve on that record and be contenders for the Big South Championship. 


With year one of the Rocco Era in the books, the team should come in with more confidence and knowledge of what they have to do. 
 “I think he’s doing a great job —we’re trying to go from good to great,” said senior offensive lineman Stephen Sene.  “Rocco always says, ‘Good is the enemy of great.’  That’s something we really take to heart. If we do that in camp, hopefully we can carry that into the season.”


If the Flames can play together, the offense could be a force. The team finished ranked alongside the nation’s top 20 Division I-AA teams in eight statistical categories, including turnovers lost (8) and sacks given up per game (1).


“Offensively, sometimes early in the year the timing isn’t real good in the passing game, and if you run the football that’s something you can have success with. I think these guys can be a group we can rally around,” said Rocco. 


Last year the team rushed for 2,025 yards, 23 touchdowns, and ranked 18th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 185. Juniors Rashad Jennings and Zach Terrell both led the way on the ground, with Jennings earning 1,020 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Terrell chipped in 693 yards and a team-best 13 touchdowns. 


A major part of the running game is the offensive line, which looks to be in good condition heading into the season. Liberty returns numerous contributors from last year, highlighted by Sene, senior Eddie Pinigis, junior Mike Godsil and redshirt junior Britt Stone.


“Our offensive line is the heart and soul of our motto. (They are) a big, physical experienced group,” said Rocco. “We like to run the football, and the offensive line is the epitome of what we like to get done around here. I think they can help us set the tempo early in the year.”


Rocco once remarked that for a team to have a great season, the quarterback must play well. Junior Brock Smith provided the spark necessary to ignite the Flames offense by throwing for 1,376 yards and seven touchdowns. 


“Brock made a lot of improvement and has shown a lot of maturity. One of the things that happened with Brock in the offseason is he was nominated as a captain of this football team.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Flames are returning from a season in which they broke a Liberty record of fewest points allowed, 172, and ranked 12th in the nation in scoring defense with 15.6 points allowed per game. 

 

“We planted some seeds last season and have started to think and act like a championship team. We’re very excited about it and very pleased with it. We finished camp and I really believe that we’re exactly where we need to be. As far as specific goals that we set up and accomplished in camp, I think we’re right on target,” said Rocco.

The buzz that the Flames have created seems to be spreading across the nation. When Lindy’s College Football preview magazine hit the shelves, Liberty was ranked 25th. In addition, the Flames were tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Big South Conference and 11 players were placed on the Big South Preseason All-Conference team.

The Flames will kick off the 2007 season on Saturday night at Williams Stadium, as they play host to visiting Tusculum at 7 p.m.

Contact William Armstrong at wsarmstrong@liberty.edu.

 


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