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LU Holds Walk Through in Tune Up for Saturday
Working out in just helmets and jerseys, Liberty's less than two-hour practice was treated like a normal game-week Friday practice, with no contact and walk-through plays.
"We did very little offense versus defense today, as we went with much more of a walk-through tempo to the practice," commented head coach Danny Rocco. "The only thing we really worked on was a seven-on-seven pass skeleton."
"I think we are right where we need to be," continued Rocco, as the skipper reflected on the entire spring session. "Every now and then, you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. Obviously tomorrow's game is very important to our kids. We need to be as productive and efficient as we can be and still come out of the game healthy."
"We are hoping to have a great crowd tomorrow of more than 4,000 fans," concluded Rocco. "We need to create an exciting atmosphere that is rewarding for both the players and the fans, so we can end on a positive note. Then we can take the next step for our program, which is to head into our summer conditioning to get ready for training camp in August."
Liberty will conclude this year's spring practice session when the team hosts its annual spring game. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. at Williams Stadium. The event is free of charge and open to students and the general public.
Gates open at 11 a.m., where attendees can enjoy the Kidz Zone and an autograph session with the football players. Lunch on the grounds will be served, starting at Noon. The lunch is a meal swipe for Liberty students, while any else can purchase the meal for $5.
Just like last year, Liberty will use a unique scoring system to calculate a spring game winner. Both the offense and defense will be awarded points for different game situations, like the offense picking up a first down or the defense sacking the quarterback.
Last year, Liberty's white-jerseyed players shined during the two-hour event, rolling up a 45-25 victory over the defense. The display was a prelude to the 2007 season, when Liberty ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring, racking up a program and Big South record 469 points.
Temperatures during this year's spring practice have swung more than 50 degrees. Liberty's benefitted from some nearly perfect days early in the season, practicing in the mid 70s, all the way down to highs of 30 for some of their early Saturday morning work outs. Today's practice time temperature topped out at a spring season-high 84 degrees.
Today's practice was the team's third without pads, as Liberty opened the 15 practice spring season with back-to-back practices without pads.
Following today's practice, the entire football program will reassemble over at the Kirkley Hotel, just over a mile away from Liberty's campus for its annual spring awards banquet.
During the evening dinner extravaganza, several different awards will be distributed, while Liberty's senior class and letterwinners will be honored.
The major prizes handed out at the awards ceremony will be the program's Luke 2:52 and Samkon Gado awards.
The Luke 2:52 award is annually given to the football player who best exemplifies Liberty's mission as a program with regards to Whole Person Development. Previous award winners include Brock Farel (2006) and Don Carlos McWhorter (2007).
The Samkon Gado award is given to the student-athlete who, in the coaching staff's opinion, has shown the most improvement during the spring. Chris Stokes was the award's inaugural recipient in 2006, while Brock Smith and Nick Hursky shared the honor in 2007.
The Flames will also honor 51 letterwinners from the year, including one of the largest senior classes in recent history as 22 players finished up their final season with the program in 2007.
This year's senior class honorees include:
Stevie Ray Lloyd
However, the Flame faithful should not despair, as the proverbial "barn" is not being left completely empty by the 20-plus departing players. Liberty returns 39 letterwinners to the 2008 roster, including the likes of quarterback Brock Smith and running backs Rashad Jennings and Zach Terrell.
The list continues with linemen Mike Godsil, Britt Stone, Kevin Richard and Colin Dugan. Rounding out a portion of the group includes linebacker Nick Hursky and defensive back Ryan Greiser, giving Liberty a plethora of talented weapons in which to use to defend their Big South championship.
Finally, the evening will culminate with an award ceremony decades in the making, as head coach Danny Rocco will present to the 2007 Liberty Flames football program their 2007 Big South champion rings.
The 90-plus players along with coaching/support staff members have patiently waited 153 days since Nov. 17, 2007, when Liberty's blanked Gardner-Webb, 31-0, in Boiling Springs, N.C., to claim the program's first-ever Big South championship.
Claiming a championship ring was the singular focus of each player and coaching/support staff member since Liberty joined the Big South in 2002. Now, the 2008 squad will have the daunting task of "Unfinished Business," where they will give their all to defend the title duly won by last year's squad.
Rocco's Reflections on Tonight's Banquet:
"We have our banquet tonight and we are really excited about it. I just told the players here what a great honor it is to be in a position to have a banquet of this magnitude. It is an honor to be able to have an appreciate dinner for the seniors and everything they have done for our program over the last four years. We need to honor their commitment, blood, sweat and tears which they have poured into this thing.
"Finally, our kids have been earning for their championship rings forever. I told them to wear them with pride and a certain appreciation for all that when into winning that. If they do that, they will never forget how special this season was."