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Flames Look Sharp in Afternoon Practice

March 28, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Liberty's running back work on a drill during the Flames' second spring practice session of the year.

Liberty's running back work on a drill during the Flames' second spring practice session of the year.

Practicing in near-perfect conditions, the Flames held their second-straight spring practice session at Williams Stadium on Friday afternoon. Under lower 70-degree temperatures, Liberty had its last practice in just helmets, as the squad will dress in full pads for the first time tomorrow morning.

The coaching staff's practice plan included continued emphasis on the basics, working most of the day on first and second down-type plays. Liberty's offense concentrated on its base pass and run plays, while the defensive side of the ball reviewed its base fronts and coverages.

Liberty's quarterbacks stood out on the afternoon, completing nearly 90 percent of their pass attempts during 11-on-11 drills (23-of-29). Each part of Liberty's trio of quarterbacks had three different sets during the drills, with Brock Smith leading the group. The senior was a combined 9-for-12 during his time under center.

Junior Spencer Landis followed closely behind by finding 8-of-10 wide receivers, while redshirt freshman Mike Brown completed 6-of-7 pass attempts to go along with several lengthy scampers by the agile signal caller.

"I think some of the guys who really stood out today were Brock Smith, Spencer Landis and Mike Brown," commented head coach Danny Rocco. "This is the best we have looked at this stage of practice at throwing and catching the football. These guys have really shown the ability to understand the offense and make their reads."

Besides base offense and defense drills, Liberty also spent a considerable time on Friday afternoon working out its special teams units. Today's emphasis surrounded punt protection and kickoff return coverage. Those fielding the returns included Patrick Calvary, Dominic Bolden, Kent Hicks, B.J. Hayes and Aaron Hewlett.

The Flames will have an early wake-up call tomorrow, as breakfast will be served for the team at the Williams Football Operations Center at 8 a.m. Team meetings begin at 8:30 a.m., with their third-straight, two-hour practice session to kickoff at 10 a.m. Tomorrow will be the first of three Saturday morning practices for Liberty during its 15-day spring practice campaign.

Flames Facts:
Rashad Jennings continued to sport his new uniform number, 23, when the rising senior led the squad's stretching session, concluding with jumping jacks to open the day.

Midway through the afternoon practice session, the offensive and defensive lines tangled at midfield. The white jerseys seemed to dominate the drill, continually pushing the defensive line back once the whistle was blown. The lone standout for those wearing blue uniforms was junior defensive lineman Derek Lisko, who was wearing No. 45.

Despite a stellar day from the offensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Tom Clark will have some positive video highlights to show during tomorrow morning's film session. Michael Connolly nearly missed intercepting a Spencer Landis pass during the 11-on-11 sessions, while both Calvary and Chad Brown recorded break-ups during a seven-on-seven drill.

Trey Jacobs closed out the afternoon practice with the defensive unit's lone sack, quickly getting to Brown to force a blown whistle.

Speaking of whistles, Jennings would have had two touchdowns runs on the afternoon had Rocco not called both plays dead. The first was one during the 11-on-11 session, as the senior swept to the outside and tiptoed down the sidelines to find a wide-opened field.

Rocco is really encouraged by the depth on this year's squad, commenting "there are a lot of open positions out here right now and the competition is good. There are some young guys who are really starting to push for playing time, as they try to find their way onto the field."

Rocco has been using Zach Terrell in a "slash" position so far this spring, as the senior is coming out of the backfield to catch as many balls as he is handed for running plays.

Rocco gave his squad a taste of tomorrow's full-pad practice, calling for "live action 11-on-11" drills two hours into the practice. The eager group was so excited to "go live" they nearly forgot there were without full pads, until Rocco whistled them into a huddle to close out the afternoon session.

Coach's Corner:
Periodically during this year's spring practice, LibertyFlames.com will be bringing insight from one of the assistant coaches on staff. During this brief one-on-one session, the assistant will preview his position players and what the 15-day practice session holds for his crew.

Today, LibertyFlames.com sat down and chatted with running backs coach Frank Hickson.

On points of emphasis during this spring practice session:
"We just want to get better. As a team, Coach Rocco wants us to focus on getting better. Yesterday was a great first practice and I think we made some steps towards improving today."

On who has stood out over the first two practices:
"From the running backs perspective, I was pleased to see Terry Williams looks to be much healthy this spring. He is better than we have seen him here (at Liberty) and he is one who is motivated to continue to improve.

Wes Cheek continues to be what I call a ‘mainstay'. He is one that we can continue to count on, knowing he will be there for us. He has shown some good things for the first two practices.

We haven't put the pads on yet, but what we have seen, I am very pleased with the running backs in general. One other of note that I think is looking good is Shay Nicholson. He is a special talent and he is learning his position very well."

On his position's depth this spring:
"We have been blessed with some talent this year, and I especially have been blessed with talent at the running back position during my four years at Liberty. I think that Rashad Jennings has a chance to make a statement about himself and also about Liberty football during his senior season. I think he has got a chance to show the world who he really is and what he is capable of doing."