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Flames Complete Spirited Eighth Practice

April 8, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Running back Alfonso Wells (30) and outside linebacker Pat Bannon (51) square off during Liberty's spring practice.

Running back Alfonso Wells (30) and outside linebacker Pat Bannon (51) square off during Liberty's spring practice.

Coming off its best practice of the spring season on Saturday, the Liberty Flames football team returned to the field for its eighth practice Tuesday night. With temperatures in the mid 50s, the Flames appeared energized for another practice under the Williams Stadium lights. While the team continued to work on first, second and third-down scenarios, head coach Danny Rocco also exposed his players to short pass and goal-line situations.

"We really had a spirited workout tonight. I thought we were making some progress, Rocco stated. "I am really challenging this team to be as physically tough as it can possibly be, as we attempt to be physically dominant. The guys gave us great effort from beginning to end."

The Flames broke out the gym equipment in the first hour of practice. Coach Robert Wimberly's linebackers worked on their speed and blocking techniques using medicine balls. Meanwhile, coach Frank Hickson led the running backs in a series of footwork drills. The session required each back to maneuver his feet in between five bags without making contact with them.

Toward the end of the first hour, the receiving corps and the defensive backs faced off in one-on-one drills. Each receiver started at the 20-yard line and carried the ball toward the end zone, while the defensive back attempted to make the tackle. Several minutes later, the two units squared off again, this time without the presence of the pigskin. During the final one-on-one match up, senior free safety Chris Rocco pushed his offensive counterpart back behind the starting line, resulting in several cheers from fellow blue-jerseyed defensive players.

Redshirt freshman Mike Brown made himself known during the passing and 11-on-11 drills, completing a high percentage of passes on the night. Brown capped off a solid practice with a 35-yard pass to Eugene Rogers, who made the catch just before reaching the sideline. Junior running back Wes Cheek stole the show, however, busting through the defensive line for big runs on several occasions.

"When Cheek gets opportunities and touches, he performs very well. He's an extremely versatile and valuable player for us," Rocco noted, commenting on the running back's abilities. "He can block in pass protection, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can be the tailback if Rashad (Jennings) is out of the game. He has a lot of value, a lot of versatility and I think it was evident tonight."

The Flames concluded their practice with a goal-line scrimmage. The white jerseys came out of the gate first with a touchdown by Jennings. Two plays later, corner back Kent Hicks put a hit on Will Quarles, preventing the tight end from reaching the end zone. At the end of nine plays, Hicks and the rest of the defense edged out the white jerseys 5-4, thanks in part to consecutive stops in the final three plays.

"When you get into the second half of spring ball, players have a tendency to count the days instead of making the days count," Rocco expressed. "We're going to make all of our days count, so we can finish up here in two weeks with a really solid chance to be in position to have a good football team."

Rocco's team will hit the weights on Wednesday, followed by three successive practices leading into the weekend. The Flames will suit up for another practice under the lights on Thursday. Start time at Williams Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

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 associate head/offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim.

On the line's senior leadership:
"Britt Stone is a guy who leads by example. He is more of a quiet leader, but he always has words of wisdom for the guys. Zach Davis has also done a great job leading by example with his work ethic, on and off the field. He was here all last summer and did not miss a workout. He continues to impress."

On Mike Godsil's status as he recovers from ankle surgery:
"Mike started spring practice and went through the first few practices. Then his leg got sore, so we held him out. Tonight, he was back out there and he looks just fine. He's going to have a little soreness he has to battle through, but he should be fine when we start summer camp this year."

On some of the younger talent:
"Josh Weaver is our starting right tackle. Josh is a very talented player. His physical talent is better than his mental confidence right now. I think Josh is going to be a really good player, and he is having a really good spring. Bryan Mosier played a lot of snaps last year in a backup role. He was actually per snap the most productive lineman as far as getting knockdowns and pancake blocks. He's also having a really good spring."

On improvements for the future:
"We're looking to improve our footwork. We're not playing with a good solid base. We're working on playing with our eyes, getting our eyes on the right targets and landmarks. Right now guys don't really see what they're hitting. The final thing we have to work on is finishing a block. It's one thing to know what to do, it's one thing to hit right, but then developing a nasty attitude and finishing that block is something we strive to be better at."