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Flames Excel Versus Simulated Opponents' Formations

April 14, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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A-back Zach Terrell finds some running room in the middle of the field.

A-back Zach Terrell finds some running room in the middle of the field.

On a cool, overcast Saturday morning at Williams Stadium, the Liberty Flames' offense got the chance to run plays against a traditional 4-3 defense, while the defense squared off with a simulation of VMI's option offense. Both Liberty units excelled in these situations, highlighting the 12th of 15 scheduled spring practices. 

After implementing its own playbook through the first 11 practice sessions, head coach Danny Rocco believed his team was ready for a change of pace on Saturday. "I felt this football team was far enough along that we could move forward and introduce some things which will be reintroduced during summer camp." 

Rocco knows the Flames will face a lot of 4-3 defenses during the 2007 season, so the offense ran 20 plays versus the alignment on Saturday. The offensive line was able to open sizable holes against the four-man front with regularity, allowing Rashad Jennings to break a couple of sizable gains on runs up the middle and Zach Terrell to find open space on a pair of misdirection hand-offs. 

VMI rushed for 324 yards against the Flames during the final game of the 2006 campaign, so the defensive unit practiced against several of the Keydets' favorite sets. For the most part, Liberty kept most of the option and reverse plays bottled up, although second-team quarterback Spencer Landis gained some positive yardage on keepers around the end. 

During the latter half of practice, the Flames simulated a number of different game situations, including first and second down, third and long, third and medium, third and short, red zone and the two-minute drill. 

Rocco was particularly pleased with the offense's production in the two-minute situations. "Every time we've run the two-minute drill this spring, our offense has achieved. Whether it's a touchdown or a field goal, they've been successful. That has been very positive." 

Signal caller Brock Smith scored a 15-yard touchdown on a draw up the middle during the two-minute drill. Sophomore David Drake also nailed a 40-yard field goal to cap another successful drive. 

With only two practices and the Spring Game remaining on the Flames' spring schedule, Rocco wants his team to finish strong. "I tell these guys every year that what you're going to remember is the last week of practice. You may have had a good spring, but what you'll remember most are the last three or four practices." 

The Flames' next practice is scheduled for 4:15 p.m., Wednesday afternoon at Williams Stadium. At this point, Liberty will start to scale back its play selection a bit. 

"We'd never go into a game with as much offense and defense as we have available to us right now," Rocco explained. "We'll trim things back so we can execute and be crisp come Saturday afternoon." 

Flame Facts from Today's Practice 

After a wet, cool early morning in Lynchburg, only a few hearty fans were present for the start of practice. However, the precipitation held off for the duration of practice, and attendance picked up as the two-hour session progressed. Many spectators stopped and peered in at the luxury suites, which recently arrived atop the main concourse.

Smith continued to look sharp in the passing game. He was 6-of-7 during the 7-on-7 session early in practice, with his only incompletion being a deep ball to Dominic Bolden. Smith later helped the first-team offense convert on 7-of-8 third-down situations. Highlighting the sequence was a 30-yard completion to Bolden, over the middle and in traffic, on a third and nine play.

The defense earned the praise of the coaching staff after forcing a turnover on an apparent big play for the offense. Landis hooked up with senior tight end Corey Rasberry for a 25-yard completion, but Rasberry was hit hard and fumbled the ball away to the opportunistic Flames' D. Chuck Duffey nearly came up with another takeaway, having an interception opportunity go in and out of his hands as part of the 7-on-7 sequence.

Sophomore Dan Strerckz took most of the reps at punter, but sophomore running back Wesley Cheek also saw some action at the position during a couple drills.

Drake had an up-and-down practice. Although he put the previously mentioned 40-yard field goal right down the middle, he missed a 46-yarder short and to the right on the final play of practice in a simulated end-of-game scenario.