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Coach's Corner Set to Return Tomorrow

August 1, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Countdown to Kickoff coverage continues tomorrow with LibertyFlames.com's first segment of the Coach's Corner.

Countdown to Kickoff coverage continues tomorrow with LibertyFlames.com's first segment of the Coach's Corner.

For the second-straight season, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage will feature an in-depth position-by-position breakdown for each of the Flames' player units on the squad leading up to the home opener against North Greenville on Aug. 30.

The regular segments, called the Coach's Corner, will highlight a particular position during each article. The coaching vignettes will include an article on the position, that position's preseason depth chart and an audio interview with the spotlighted unit's position coach.

The Coach's Corner segment will debut tomorrow, opening the 10-part series with a look into the defensive backs. Liberty Head Coach Danny Rocco has called the Flames' backfield one of the most experienced units on his roster, with three out of four starters returning for another go at it this season.

The article will go in depth into Big South all-conference performers Patrick Calvary and Ryan Greiser, along with fellow returning starter Kent Hicks. The audio interview will feature defensive backs coach Marshall Roberts, a five-year veteran on Liberty's coaching staff.

Below is a full schedule for the Coach's Corner segments during this year's August training camp:
Coach's Corner No. 1 – Defensive Backs (Aug. 2)
Coach's Corner No. 2 – Offensive Line (Aug. 5)
Coach's Corner No. 3 – Tight Ends (Aug. 6)
Coach's Corner No. 4 – Linebackers (Aug. 10)
Coach's Corner No. 5 – Wide Receivers (Aug. 13)
Coach's Corner No. 6 – Defensive Line (Aug. 18)
Coach's Corner No. 7 – Special Teams (Aug. 20)
Coach's Corner No. 8 – Defensive Coordinator (Aug. 23)
Coach's Corner No. 9 – Running Backs (Aug. 24)
Coach's Corner No. 10 – Quarterbacks (Aug. 26)

To tease the upcoming Coach's Corner segments, here is a beginning look into a season of "Unfinished Business."

It's not uncommon in the world of collegiate athletics for one to pick up a preseason media guide and catch a slogan pasted on the cover of the annual preview publication.

Youthful programs will often corner the market on phrases that involve "construction" and "building for the future," while themes with the likes of "on the move" frequent the covers of up-and-coming programs.

But how often do you see a team live up to its preseason billing? For those among the record-setting crowds to see Liberty grace the gridiron in 2007, they witnessed their beloved Flames do just that, in a season which saw the program go from "Good2Great."

In 2005, the Flames posted an abysmal 1-10 record, one of the lowest points in the three-decade history of the program. Head coach Danny Rocco, now entering his third year with the team and 25th season as a football coach, was brought in to right the ship.

And he did just that, as the Flames tied for the nation's best turnaround during his first season. Liberty's five-game improvement enabled the Flames to post a 6-5 record and a 2-2 mark in Big South play.

Following the 2006 "Season to Remember," when a stingy Liberty defense allowed a minuscule 15.6 points per game (ranking No. 12 nationally in scoring defense), Liberty's coaching staff deemed the 2007 campaign the year they wanted to move the program from "Good2Great."

Liberty accomplished its feat in diametric fashion in 2007, exploding on the offensive side of the ball to post unheard of numbers. The Flames bested the program's team record for points scored in a season by more than 100 points. Liberty averaged 42.6 points per game, ranking No. 3 nationally in scoring offense.

Liberty outscored its opponents by more than 20 points a game (42.6 points scored to 22.3 points allowed), enabling the Flames to post an 8-3 record. The eight victories marked the fifth time in program history Liberty had reached eight wins in a campaign and the first since 1997.

However, the more important benchmark for the program could be found within half those victories. The Flames' prolific offense stormed through the Big South Conference, seeing Liberty post a perfect 4-0 record en route to the program's first-ever league title.

"I think as you take a look back at last year, our theme for the season was going from Good2Great," remarked Rocco. "I think we were able to take that step, evident in the fact we were able to win our first-ever Big South Conference championship.

"Winning the Big South Conference championship was a great honor and an outstanding accomplishment for this program, which just two years ago was coming off a 1-10 season."

Following Liberty's unblemished mark in the Big South, unprecedented accolades were laid claim to by the team. Rocco repeated as Big South Coach of the Year, while junior running back Rashad Jennings was tabbed the league's Offensive Player of the Year.

As a team, 22 players earned places on the Big South's all-conference teams, setting a new conference standard. The squad also drew attention outside the league, with eight players being named to the VaSID all-state team.

Eight more garnered All-American accolades, including long snapper Dan Pope taking home first-team honors to mark the program's first honoree since 2000. Furthermore, two players moved onto football's highest level, as linebacker Vince Redd (New England Patriots) and offensive lineman Stephen Sene (St. Louis Rams) signed free agent contracts to play in the National Football League.

"What we have been able to accomplish during our first two years here at Liberty is really exciting for our program and our University, as well as for the community," reflected Rocco. "We are at a point where I sense that the support of the administration, the faculty and the student body is at an all-time high. I really feel and sense the same thing from the community, and we have very high hopes and expectations for the upcoming season."

Rocco has properly dubbed both his first two go rounds as the Flames' head coach, steering the direction of the program upward toward play at a championship level, not just a championship season. Lending the question, how has the third-year skipper labeled the pending 2008 campaign?

"I have been saying here in the offseason that our program has some unfinished business," stated Rocco. "I think this team is capable of being even better than last year, but we still have a lot of work to do."

In 2006, Rocco's squad brought a smile to the face of a two-decade veteran of defensive football by keeping points off the board. Last year, the pendulum swung the opposite direction with Liberty erasing offensive records nearly each time it took to the field.

This year, Rocco hopes his 2008 squad will be more poised, stable and well-rounded, finding its equilibrium in all facets of the game.

"What I am hoping for this year is a more balanced football team," remarked Rocco. "I want a team which shows signs it has abilities on offense to be explosive and to continue to be able to control the football with both our power run game and a short high-percentage pass game. Defensively, I think we need to get back to being a little more dominant."

A season of "Unfinished Business" awaits a well-balanced squad of 40 returning letterwinners and 12 starters, mixed in with a solid base of youthful players ready to carry on the rich tradition which is quickly becoming the trademark of the Danny Rocco era at Liberty.