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2013 Training Camp Position Preview: TE & FB
Throughout Liberty's preseason training camp, LibertyFlames.com will preview each position on the Flames' team, providing insight into the development of each group's players leading up to the Flames' season opener against Kent State on Aug. 29.
Today, we continue our position-by-position preview by looking at the Flames' tight ends and fullbacks position, including insight from offensive coordinator/tight ends and fullback coach Aaron Stamn, tight end Brandon Apon and fullback Nicky Fualaau.
Two games into the year, head coach Turner Gill handed the Flames' offensive play calling over to Aaron Stamn, Liberty's offensive coordinator and tight ends/fullbacks coach.
Stamn not only helped with the development of starting quarterback Josh Woodrum, but he looked out for his "own players," finding a way to make his tight ends viable options for the Flames rookie signal caller.
Senior Justin Gunn finished the year ranked fifth on the team in receptions (18) and second in receiving yards (334 yards), while he tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions. Gunn's increased productivity in 2012 garnered him an invitation to the FCS Senior Scout Bowl game.
Brandon Apon, Gunn's understudy, also had a banner year in 2012. He scored one two of the five times he touched the football and finished with career high numbers in receiving yards (98) and tied for career high numbers in receptions (5) and touchdowns (2).
With the emergence of Gunn and Apon in 2012, Stamn was able to utilize a two tight end formation at time as part of Liberty's developing offensive scheme.
With Gunn graduating, Liberty will look to Peter Gagliardi to step into the role that could have been his last year. After being used as a fullback his first two seasons with the Flames, Liberty's new coaching staff transitioned Gagliardi into the tight end position leading into the 2012 season, but Gagliardi suffered from injuries during the year that limited his playing time to one game.
Apon and a healthy Gagliardi, along with upcoming players like Kendall Couamin, Dexter Herman, Garrett Long and Cannon Smith, will look to continue to give Stamn options as he looks to develop Liberty's offensive schemes in 2013.
Tight End Depth Chart
Brandon Apon (Sr., 6-4, 255)
Canon Smith (R-Fr., 6-4, 255)
Garrett Long (Jr., 6-4, 235)
Peter Gagliardi (Sr., 6-2, 240)
Kendall Couamin (R-Fr., 6-2, 225)
Dexter Herman (Jr., 6-2, 235)
Michael Johnson and Nicky Fualaau will look to pave the way for Liberty's running backs in 2013 as they emerged from spring practice as Liberty's leading fullbacks.
Johnson sits atop the depth chart following a solid set of workouts during spring practice. He played in seven games in 2012, recording a 17-yard reception at Presbyterian College and two special teams tackles.
Fualaau manned the fullback position most of 2012, seeing playing time in all 11 games and starting six contests. The redshirt sophomore had limited statistics last year, but did score two out of the three times he touched the football. He has a one-yard rushing touchdown against Presbyterian College and a five-yard reception for a score against Charleston Southern.
Thomas Kennedy, a local product out of Lord Botetourt High School in Daleville, Va., was added as a preferred walk-on in May and could also add depth at fullback.
Fullback Depth Chart
Michael Johnson (Jr., 6-3, 235)
Nicky Fualaau (R-So., 6-0, 220)
Thomas Kennedy (Fr., 5-11, 230)
Full Training Camp Position Preview Schedule:
Aug. 1 – Wide Receivers
Aug. 5 – Defensive Line
Aug. 7 – Quarterbacks
Aug. 10 – Tight Ends/Fullbacks
Aug. 12 – Linebackers
Aug. 14 – Safeties
Aug. 19 – Cornerbacks
Aug. 21 – Offensive Line
Aug. 23 – Special Teams
Aug. 25 – Running Backs