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Flames Complete 'Pretty Good' First Practice
On a windy Thursday evening, the Liberty football team took the field for the first time during the 2008 spring practice season, under the Williams Stadium lights. Flames head coach Danny Rocco labeled the defending Big South champions' initial practice, which lasted just over two hours, "pretty good."
"At the end of practice, I told our guys that today felt like a first day," noted Rocco, the two-time Big South Coach of the Year. "However, it was a good first day. I've been trying to emphasize to our players that we need to get off to a fast start. We have practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so we have three in a row coming at us real quick."
Much of the practice session consisted of positional work, with the team coming together twice for series of plays. The defensive unit held the Flames' offense in check for much of the time, spearheaded by the linebackers and defensive line.
"I thought our linebacking corps did a good job tonight," stated Rocco. "They were running all over the field. I also thought our defensive line was very active."
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Kyle O'Donnell, playing with the first-string defense, made an immediate impact. The Pennsylvania native picked off Brock Smith's second pass attempt of the evening, over the middle of the field.
Senior nose guard Colin Dugan nearly nabbed an interception of his own, during the practice-concluding series of plays.
Rocco also had positive things to say about the passing game.
"Our receivers and quarterbacks are well ahead of where they were at this point last year," Rocco asserted. "It might not have shown through in the full team sessions, but Brock Smith, Spencer Landis and Mike Brown all played with a nice rhythm. I also believe we have more options at receiver this year."
Senior Dominic Bolden was Smith's favorite target on Thursday, and the senior duo hooked up for the practice's prettiest completion, on the first team's next-to-last play. The left-hander threaded a 25-yard pass through traffic, and Bolden caught it over his shoulder on the sideline.
The squad will have its second of 15 spring practices Friday at 4 p.m. at Williams Stadium.
Rashad Jennings caused a bit of confusion for the fans in attendance Thursday evening. The senior running back was not wearing his customary No. 3, but instead wore a white No. 23 jersey. Who was wearing No. 3 on Thursday? The answer would be junior wide receiver Eugene Rogers.
Junior Wes Cheek was wearing a number of hats on Thursday. He is serving as the Flames' primary punter during the spring, in addition to participating in the running back drills and working on pass patterns out of the backfield.
One of the people Cheek was punting the ball to has also taken on a number of roles since transferring to Liberty from Concord. Wide receiver Aaron Hewlett got a number of reps as punt returner on Thursday. The quick, diminutive player also ran the 60-meter dash for the Flames at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships in February.
Approximately 50 people took in at least part of Thursday's practice. Included in the crowd were Liberty Director of Athletics Jeff Barber, Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance Mike Hagen and two members of Liberty's 2007 Big South championship volleyball team, Brittany Pacella and Ashley Webber.
The lights at Williams Stadium were not the only fluorescent bulbs illuminating campus Thursday evening, as the new lighting system at nearby Worthington Stadium was being tested out. The Liberty baseball team will host No. 18 Coastal Carolina Friday at 7 p.m., in the Flames' first-ever night game at Worthington Stadium.