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Middle of Training Camp Report Card: Defense
Over the next several days, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage will be bringing you a mid-training camp report card, giving fans insight straight from head coach Danny Rocco about the progress of some of his players.
Today, we are going to take a look at the Flames' defense, a group which has set 12 program records since Rocco was named head coach. During the past two seasons, Liberty set new program standards for fewest rushing yards allowed. In 2007, the Flames ranked No. 24 nationally by allowing 128.5 yards per game.
Here are Rocco's thoughts on some of the key components to Liberty's defensive efforts during the upcoming 2008 season:
Colin Dugan – Sr., DL
"Colin has got a lot of attributes which add to this defense. He is an extremely competitive and powerful young man. He really loves the game."
"He had a bad shoulder that we were really concerned about early on during training camp, so we pulled him out for almost an entire week. He has been back for the last couple of days and he really looks healthy, strong and fresh."
"He really is the heart and soul of our defense. He can play any defensive line position, as he has got an awful lot of experience in there. He does a great job of playing the nose guard position and we are really expecting him to have a great season for us."
"We are looking for him to be a leader for our defense. But almost as importantly, we need him to be a mentor toward all the young defensive linemen we have on this team."
Nick Hursky – Sr., LB
"I think Nick is having a really good summer and training camp. He probably had the best offseason of his career. Training has been very important to Nick and he has devoted all his time and energy to making this his best year."
"He is certainly off to a really good start, as we have challenged him to learn this defense inside and out and he is kind of getting to that point. The ‘mike' linebacker position in our defense pretty much has to be a coach on the field and my sense is that he is starting to really understand what that is all about."
"He really had a great summer and I can certainly say that he has mastered his position. I challenge these guys to be masters of their positions. Every position is uniquely different, as they each have different skills, attributes, qualities and areas of intelligence and Nick has taken a lot of pride in mastering his role on our team."
"We are expecting him to have a really big year, running our defense and making all the calls for the coaching staff on the field."
Ian Childress – Sr., LB
"Ian is doing a great job as one of our seniors on this year's team. It took Ian a year or two to buy into what we are doing here and to buy into the commitment that was necessary. But he seems to understand it 100 percent."
"Ian's spring and summer were outstanding, as he knows this is his last go around this year. He is as prepared as anyone we have out here on our team."
"I came out at the beginning of training camp and I would say hands down, Ian was the most improved player out here. And I am still holding to that thought as we get halfway through camp. He certainly is one of those guys who has been recognized for what he is doing on the practice field right now to get ready for the season."
Ryan Greiser – Sr., DB
"Ryan has been looking very sharp at his position, and he has given us the ability to utilize his talents in different roles. We can play him at safety some, in our nickel package he is playing at one of our linebacker positions and he does a lot of things on special teams."
"He is extremely versatile and he is one of those safeties who is capable of playing man coverage. We really don't have any restrictions or limitations when it comes to Ryan in the backfield."
"He looks good and he is in great shape. He is playing physical and we are really excited about having him back there for his senior year. He wants this to be his best season. Last year, he had a really good year, but he was so close to making a bunch of impact plays. This year, I'm expecting him to make those plays as a leader on our defense."
Kevin Richard – R-Sr., DL
"I give Kevin a lot of credit, as he has really earned his stripes. He came in here as a walk-on and I was real slow to pull the trigger on him. But we finally gave him a scholarship this past year."
"Here is a guy who started in 11 games before we put him on scholarship, so he has really earned his spot on this football team."
"Kevin was a guy that I stayed on all summer long to get his weight up. Now, he is as fit as I've seen him and as big and solid as he has ever been. I'm really pleased with where he is at heading into the season."
"Our 3-4 defense is unique, as it is hard to train people to play and understand. Kevin has got a lot of experience in there and he really understands how to play the techniques. I'm really pleased with what he has been doing this summer."
Chris Rocco – Jr., DB
(when asked about any defensive players who have impressed the coaching staff during training camp)
"Chris has really stepped into his spot on the team. Last year, Pat Dickerson manned the one safety position, opposite Greiser, and then we would play Chris in our nickel packages."
"He has worked so hard to make himself a very good football player. The things that he needed to work on athletically, he has certainly worked on – his speed and his open-field tackling."
"This kid is brilliant and he really knows how to practice. He is just football smart, as you can see he seems to be a half-step ahead, communicating with the linebackers. We are going to make a few plays this year because Chris and Ryan are back there orchestrating our defensive efforts and I'm excited about that."
Tomorrow, LibertyFlames.com's Countdown to Kickoff coverage returns to one of its newer segments with Behind the Numbers. The informal interview is designed to give fans some insight about the players behind the numbered jerseys, when the web site sits down to interview four players on various subject matters.