Apr 17, 2007

Firing up: Flames set for spring game

by Jared Pierce, Asst. Sports Editor
As electrical lineman showed off their pole-climbing skills in the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo at Liberty on an overcast Saturday morning, a completely different sort of linemen displayed their talents at Williams Stadium. The Liberty University football team held its one of its last practices before next week’s spring game on April 21. The team worked on two-minute drills, red zone situations and special teams, among other things.

The sparsely attended practice was Liberty’s 12th of the spring. The offense looked solid with few dropped passes and quick bursts up the middle from juniors Rashad Jennings and Zach Terrell. Junior Brock Smith will start as quarterback this season and he noted the Flames quick-strike ability.

“We are an explosive offense this season,” said Smith. “Last year we ran the ball a lot and this season we are passing more.”

Throughout the practice, the team looked comfortable with the plays being run and, more importantly, with each other. The defense was quick to the ball, as nearly any receiver had a man near him as soon as the ball was caught.

Practice ended with every player, except those involved with the play, standing behind field goal kicker David Drake as he attempted a 45-yard field goal. The kick was wide right, which did not sit well with Rocco.

Rocco rhetorically asked the team, “How many games did we lose last year on missed field goals?” To answer his question, the Flames lost three games last season by a field goal or less.

According to Rocco, this is a much more improved team over last season. In particular, the passing game has seen great improvement.

“Brock has had a fantastic spring,” said Rocco. “At this time last year, he wasn’t with us due to an illness. Now he has 11 games under his belt. We have made more big plays this spring and have great talent on the perimeter.”

Smith, who is entering his junior season, finished the 2006 season with 1,376 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

“I’m making the right reads and the defense is really slowing down for me,” said Smith.
“The team is finally letting me become a leader, which gives me a lot of confidence.”

Smith is also comfortable with his receivers. Seniors Wynton Jackson and Brandon Turner, who combined to gain 1,123 yards and five touchdowns last season, lead the talented group of receivers.

At the start of spring, most of the Flames first-string receivers were down with hamstring injuries.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Smith. "We got the chance to work with the second and third team receivers a lot while they were down,” he said.

This is also the first time Liberty fans will get a chance to see Virginia transfer Vince Redd, who sat out last season. The 6-6 Redd will play linebacker for the Flames and has been one of the defensive stars this spring. Redd has refused to speak to reporters until the start of the 2007 season.

Next Saturday’s game will be the final time the team is together until next season. It will be a time to put into action what they learned and polish plays for next season.

“We have about 90 percent of  (the plays) we will play with,” said Rocco.

“Next week will be a chance to review and clean things up,” he said.

The game will be held at Williams Field on Saturday, April 21 at 3 p.m.

Contact Jared Pierce at jpierce2@liberty.edu.
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