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Opening Day Blog: Training Camp Begins
As part of its continual Countdown to Kickoff coverage, LibertyFlames.com is out at today's practice, blogging live from inside the press box.
In an effort to try and keep up with the great blogging traditions set when LibertyFlames.com was covering the Big South and NCAA track and field events, we also will be fielding questions during today's practice. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments, questions and/or suggestions.
The most recent posts will be located just below this italicized message. You may need to refresh the page periodically to view the latest updates.
5:40 p.m. – As part of LibertyFlames.com's ongoing Countdown to Kickoff coverage, the web site will be releasing its 2009 Football Media Guide tomorrow, giving viewers a chance to get the latest and most in-depth preseason information on the program. Below is a preview of the 2009 Football Media Guide cover, with photographic work by Les Schofer and design work by Brian Wallace, which has already been nationally recognized by the University Photographers' Association of America.
5:35 p.m. – Just a reminder that the Flames return to Williams Stadium tomorrow evening at 6:45 p.m., for their second practice of training camp. Practice will run roughly two hours.
4:57 p.m. – Rocco brings practice to a close, gathering the team at the 50-yard line and praising them for a solid first practice of the year. Following interviews with Chris Lang (Lynchburg News and Advance) and Justin Feldkamp (WSET), Rocco had the following to say about his first practice of 2009:
"I thought today went well overall. On the first day, there are always a limited number of things that I'm focused on. First, I want to be able to determine what type of condition the team is in, and I was really pleased with that.
"We had our best turnout this summer at our volunteer workouts since I've here. It was evident in the way they ran in the running tests this morning and practice this afternoon. You always want to see where you are in your conditioning and your core strength. I feel real good where we are at, and I feel that we are right where we need to be at this stage in that area.
"The second is in the area of recall, as you want to know what kind of recall and execution your team has. We have not practiced since spring ball. Obviously, the players are not going to have everything down pat at the tempo you want, but they came out here with good understanding and recall for what we wanted to install today.
"It certainly didn't feel like it was the first day of practice, as we came out here and executed at a pretty high level without pads on.
"The third thing for me is that I always want to get a taste of the new talent, whether it is the transfer athletes or the incoming freshmen. We had a bunch of rookies on the field here for the first time. Today, we were just trying to determine first impressions and see what they can do.
"We have to make some pretty quick decisions here. Unlike the NFL, where they have a lengthy camp and an extended preseason with four games, we are two weeks away from deciding our roster for the West Virginia game and then beginning our preparation for that contest. We've got to make some decisions early as to who we think is capable of performing and helping us this year. I was pleased with what I saw in that freshman group, as a lot of those kids excite me."
4:54 p.m. – Looks like work both on and off the field is starting to wrap up for the day. The video board installation crew has called it quits for the day, as the skies in the greater Lynchburg area have started to darken. They were able to install three full video board panels before ending today's work. Rocco has just ended the 11x11 drill and we are heading down to get some post-practice quotes and help the media out with their interview requests. LibertyFlames.com's post-practice quotes will be posted shortly thereafter.
4:48 p.m. – Thanks for the shout out by the Liberty Football official Twitter.com account. Be sure to follow Liberty Football's Twitter (click here) and Facebook (click here) pages to get an inside look into the program.
4:39 p.m. – Rocco is getting his first look at full 11x11 drills. Flames new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Brandon Streeter is calling a good mixture of run and pass plays, giving both sides of the field an opportunity to showcase some of their talents as the first day of practice starts to wind down.
4:24 p.m. – Chris Lang (Lynchburg News and Advance) is not the only member of the media out at today's practice, as Justin Feldkamp from WSET (Lynchburg's ABC Channel 13) is now roaming the sidelines. Feldkamp is getting some highlights and will try to grab head coach Danny Rocco for a few minutes after today's practice ends, before heading back for this evening's 6 p.m. news broadcast.
4:17 p.m. – LibertyFlames.com is not the only group out at today's practice blogging, as Chris Lang, from the Lynchburg News and Advance, is also keeping the blog world updated from inside the press box (click here to read his blog). Lang does a great job covering the Flames year round and will be out at most practices, providing routine blog posts and articles for the News and Advance throughout training camp.
4:07 p.m. – Rocco blows the whistle again, calling for a water break. Players head over to an area set up by Liberty's Sports Medicine staff, where the players can get out of the sun under a tent and rehydrate with water. The players and coaches have caught a break today with practice temperature right around 80 degrees. However, the "dog days of summer" are slated to return this weekend, as Weather.com's weekend forecast is calling for highs of 92 degrees on Saturday and 94 degrees on Sunday.
4:04 p.m. – Rocco gets his first look at part of the Flames' punt and punt return units. Mike Larsson and Matt Bevins share punting duties, kicking to such returners as B.J. Hayes, Ervin Garner, Mike Brown, Aaron Hewlett, Kevin Fogg and Ron Hobby. In 2008, Liberty ranked No. 12 nationally by averaging 14.61 yards per punt return, while Dominic Bolden individually ranked No. 3 in the statistical category, returning kicks an average of 18.12 yards per attempt.
3:53 p.m. – Rocco calls the team together for some 7x7 drills, allowing Liberty's quarterbacks some time to work out with the Flames' receivers. Beecher, Mike Brown, Landis and Tyler Brennan all looked sharp, darting passes to such wideouts as Chris Summers, Cody Fridgen, Pat Kelly and Ervin Garner.
3:38 p.m. – Speaking of the quarterbacks, that position is certainly going to be one to watch during the month of August. Redshirt sophomore Mike Brown was named Rocco's starting quarterback heading into the Spring Game in April, as the Charlottesville, Va., native won the position over senior Spencer Landis. However, today is the first day Tommy Beecher has been able to practice with the Flames. Beecher graduated from South Carolina last year and was the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks heading into the 2008 season. He has since transferred to Liberty and is taking classes at the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and will be part of the Flames' roster for 2009, as he begins work on his master's degree.
3:27 p.m. – Quarterbacks Tommy Beecher (left) and Mike Brown (right), pictured below, are practicing without pads today, as part of the NCAA-mandated acclimation period. The acclimation period went into effect by the NCAA in 2004 with the intent to lessen injuries and heat-related illnesses. The period is free of full contact and multi-practice days that were common in college football prior to the legislation. Liberty will have its first practice in full pads next Monday afternoon.
3:18 p.m. – The wide receivers take "center stage" as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Charlie Skalaski has his group working several different sets of drills at midfield. The first had players running a 15-yard diagonal sprint overtop of the Liberty Flames logo, before receiving mild contact from Chuck Duffey. Duffey is a new addition to Skalaski's wide receiving corps, as the Lakeland, Fla., native made the move from cornerback to wide receiver last spring. He is very familiar with the wide receiver role, as he was a third-team all-state honoree back during his prep days at Lakeland Kathleen High School.
3:07 p.m. – Taking full advantage of the Flames' additional practice area, cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Marshall Roberts takes the defensive backs to the grass practice field adjacent to the Williams Football Operations Center. The Flames' defensive backfield is one of the more experienced units on Rocco's squad, returning seniors like Donald Manns, Chris Rocco and Tim Torrence. Chris Rocco and Torrence were honored last week at Big South Media Day, as the pair, along with Josh Weaver, Bryan Mosier and Trey Jacobs, were all named to the Big South preseason all-conference team.
2:55 p.m. – Rocco is not the only one excited about what is taking place at Liberty Mountain, as Director of Athletics Jeff Barber just took the field and meets Rocco at the 50-yard line. The two are discussing the continued installation of the Flames' new video board (pictured below). The newest accessory to Williams Stadium will give Liberty one of the largest video boards in all of NCAA FCS football. Be sure to check out LibertyFlames.com's Summer Facility Upgrades page, which has a full gallery of the installation process, including additional updated photos of today's work.
2:45 p.m. – Rocco calls the entire team together again for their stretching exercises under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Bill Gillespie. This is not the first time Gillespie has worked with the players today, as he had the entire team on the field at 7 a.m., earlier this morning. During the early morning instructional period, Gillespie informed Liberty's newbies on how this portion of the Flames' normal daily practice routine works.
2:32 p.m. – Associate head coach Pete Sundheim has his group of running backs doing some high stepping, as his group practices their footwork. Fullback Derek Bishop leads the clan, which includes returners B.J. Hayes and Danny Broggin, alongside newcomers Chase Barnett, Chauncey Holloway and Aldreakis Allen.
2:15 p.m. – It's official! Rocco blows the whistle and the team breaks up into their various position groups around the field for their opening drills.
2:03 p.m. – Most of the remaining players are starting to take the field via a detour. Thanks to the construction on Liberty's new video board, located atop the Williams Football Operations Center, players are having to enter the field out the side door from the locker room.
1:52 p.m. – Opposite the kickers, the tight ends start to work out under new tight ends coach Ernie McCook. Several familiar faces work out under the guidance of the former Shepherd assistant coach, as he works out with Will Quarles, Dominique Jones and Tommy Shaver.
1:46 p.m. – Backing up his previous statements that this is the most excited he has been for a football season in his 26 years of coaching, three-time Big South Coach of the Year Danny Rocco takes the field.
1:40 p.m. – As is the case for most practices, the kickers are the first on the field first. Matt Bevins, Mike Larsson, Ben Shipps and Paul Young are working out on the north end of the stadium with new long snapper Robby Cramer. Cramer has got big shoes to fill, as he looks to replace Liberty's two-time All-American long snapper Dan Pope, who graduated last year.