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Big Plays and Special Teams Highlight Liberty's First Night Practice of the Spring

April 12, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Flames spent a portion of Thursday evening's practice running several different special teams plays.

The Flames spent a portion of Thursday evening's practice running several different special teams plays.

For the first time this spring practice season, the Flames flipped the light switches on at Williams Stadium as Liberty held its 11th practice session under the stars on Thursday evening.

The night practice gave the Flames' coaching staff an opportunity to put a seasoned squad into another practice situation. Liberty's practices this spring session have ranged from near-perfect conditions that included an 80-degree spring afternoon to Wednesday's practice where the squad battled steady rains and 40-degree temperatures.

All in all, head coach Danny Rocco was pleased with the evening practice session. "I think the most encouraging thing that I saw this evening was a lot of big plays. Offensively, we threw the ball down field a lot, and defensively, we got our hands on a lot of balls."

Early during the two-hour practice, the Flames coaching staff focused on ball security and ball disruption drills, bringing to the forefront the importance of ball possession.

During the latter part of practice, Liberty ran 12-play sets, interchanging first- and second-team units on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, with a full set of officials overseeing the drills.

Sprinkled in between the 12-play sets, the Flames ran eight-minute sets of designed special teams plays with an emphasis on punt protection and kick coverage drills.

Towards the end of practice, Liberty ran a two-minute drill session for the second time this year where Liberty's offense was able to quickly move the ball downfield.

"I told them (the team) at the end of practice tonight that our standards have risen higher," remembered Rocco of his post-practice huddle conversation. "Since we got here last spring, we have been trying to pull this team along. But now, they are starting to pull themselves along. The players are taking ownership of how practice is run and how well they perform. They are now holding themselves accountable for how practice is run."

Liberty will have its final Saturday practice of the spring season before the annual Spring Game this Saturday when the Flames return to the gridiron at Williams Stadium for practice No. 12, starting at 11 a.m.

Flame Facts from Tonight's Practice:
• This evening's practice was one of the more well-attended practices of the year, with fans in the stands enjoying the crisp spring evening.
• The crowd included several future Flame fans as Thursday marked the beginning of Liberty's final College for a Weekend session of the academic year.
• Defensive standouts for the Flames on the evening included Virginia Tech transfer Ken Hicks, who picked off a pass and local product Pierre Tinsley, who recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
• Liberty's coaching staff commented after the practice session that quarterback Brock Smith continued to show his growth during the spring season. The signal caller completed his first eight pass attempts of the evening.
• During the final two 12-play sets run by the first- and second-team units, Smith completed a 25-yard pass play to Wynton Jackson over the middle, threading the needle between defenders and threw a 45-yard sideline pass to Dominic Bolden for a touchdown.
• Back-up quarterback Spencer Landis also completed several deep passes during his time under center, including a 30-yard pass play over the middle to Jon Crawford.
• During Liberty's punt protection coverage drills, walk-on punter Dan Sterckz took all the snaps, drilling several solid punts downfield.
• Liberty's coaching staff had planned to run several field goal situation drills as the last session of the evening practice; however, the practice was cut short after the field goal unit had a 37-yard attempt blocked on what would prove to be the final play of the evening.
• During Liberty's practice session on Saturday, the Flames are going to focus on opponent preparation. Liberty's offense will run 20 plays against a "show team" which will run a defensive scheme from one of the Flames' 2007 opponents, followed by the same 20-play scenario for the defensive unit.
• The Flames are also set to run a recap of their first and second down practice sessions from earlier during the spring season.