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Offense Shines in 'Best Practice of the Year'

April 5, 2008
|  Lynchburg Va.
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Senior quarterback Brock Smith leads the charge for Liberty in its first scrimmage of the spring season.

Senior quarterback Brock Smith leads the charge for Liberty in its first scrimmage of the spring season.

Rain attempted to put a damper on Liberty's seventh spring football practice, then ceased just before the Flames took the Williams Stadium field Saturday morning. After the defense gained the upper hand on Friday, it was the offense's turn to shine, as all three of Liberty's quarterbacks displayed solid performances during the team's first official scrimmage of the spring season.

Refusing to be shown up two straight days, the offense made its way to the field first before being joined by those donning blue jerseys. Coach Scott Wachenheim led the offensive line in several drills, focusing primarily on footwork, while the quarterbacks each took turns warming up their passing arms.

During the 11-on-11 drills, all three of Liberty's throwers shared equal time, leading the white jerseys on the offensive side of the ball.

"We are trying to spread the reps out a little bit," stated head coach Danny Rocco, commenting on the shared practice time of his quarterbacks. "I don't feel that Brock (Smith) has any competition for his spot, but we are trying to let Spencer (Landis) and Mike Brown rotate. For the most part, all three of them had good days. We'll go back and watch the film and put some grades on them."

Redshirt senior wideout Jonathan Crawford proved to be quite the playmaker on the day, catching numerous passes from both Smith and Landis. On one play in particular, Crawford broke loose from his defender downfield, making a diving catch on a 40-yard pass from Smith.

Although few interceptions were thrown on the day, redshirt senior Kent Hicks managed to pick off a pass from Smith during the second session of 11-on-11 drills.

"I thought defensively, Kent Hicks had his best day of the spring. He was a little more active; he was around the ball, had a couple of interceptions and played more physical in the run game," noted Rocco on the senior cornerback. "I thought offensively, Crawford had an outstanding day, putting together a great spring practice."

During the final half hour of practice, the team participated in its first full-contact scrimmage of the spring. The scrimmage consisted of three parts, beginning with a match-up between the first-string offense and defense. On the very first play of the scrimmage, the defense forced senior running back Rashad Jennings to fumble the football after catching a short pass. The white jerseys seemed unfazed by the defensive performance, capping off an 11-play, 70-yard drive as Smith connected with Crawford on a 20-yard touchdown pass to close out the first part of the scrimmage.

Landis stepped up next to lead Liberty's second-string offense, producing a similar result. The 10-play, 70-yard drive concluded with a handoff to Shay Nicholson, who proceeded to carry the ball the final 30 yards for the touchdown.

The third-string defense came up big in the red zone during the final third of the scrimmage. With Brown manning the offense, the white jerseys failed to reach the end zone, finishing just one yard shy of the touchdown, resulting in a field goal scenario.

"Whereas yesterday, I thought the defense really outplayed the offense, today the offense outplayed the defense in the scrimmage aspect of the practice," stated Rocco.

The Flames will receive a two-day rest from spring practice before gearing up for a Tuesday session under the lights. Liberty's eighth of 15 practices is slated to start at 7 p.m.

Flames Facts

Besides taking snaps and running several draws, Brown served another role during practice. What was his responsibility? The redshirt freshman acted as a holder while kickers David Drake and Ben Shipps made field goal attepmts.

Jennings also experienced a somewhat versatile practice. Apart from receiving handoffs during practice, the running back also made several receptions and threw an impressive block in the latter part of the 11-on-11 drills. The block allowed junior wide receiver Aaron Hewlett to maneuver around the defense, picking up considerable yardage on the play.

Referees attended today's practice session for the first time this spring. Four flags were assessed on the day, including a holding call during the 11-on-11 drills and a false start by the offense toward the end of the scrimmage.

Redshirt senior tight end Corey Rasberry received a significant amount of attention on the day. In addition to leading the entire team in jumping jacks, the tight end was also featured in an article by the News & Advance.

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 assistant coach/defensive line coach Chad Wilt.

On the youthfulness of his defensive line:
"We've got a young group of guys and a couple of seniors, but behind them a lot of guys who are inexperienced. Every day for them is a challenge to take a step forward. You are always pushing yourself, always finding one piece of your game to work on that day, and the young guys have done that."

On the defensive line's veteran leadership:
"They are blue-collar guys. They come to work everyday. They are very consistent, and that is another thing that I like to challenge the guys with. Colin Dugan and Kevin Richard are the epitome of that. They are guys who come out and you know the effort you're going to get. They are going to do the right things, technique-wise. Everything you ask them to do, they are going to try and do it."

On who has the potential to step up for the team:
"Trey Jacobs has a chance to really be a special football player. Terry Adams has shown an ability to be dynamic in his pass rush and has the ability to change directions and be extremely disruptive. Soeren Wendland, I really see him turning into one of those guys similar to Colin and Kevin, being a consistent, everyday type of guy. Each one of these guys is stepping up, making strides in their performance and taking their game to a place we really believe we can win with."