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Return to Turf Spotlights Night Practice

March 31, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Flames returned to the turf in Williams Stadium, Tuesday night, for their first evening practice.

The Flames returned to the turf in Williams Stadium, Tuesday night, for their first evening practice.

Spring Practice Photo Gallery

It was a night of firsts for the football program, as Liberty donned full pads for the first time this spring on Tuesday evening. The team also held its first night practice on the newly installed FieldTurf, bringing smiles to all, but none larger than to head coach Danny Rocco.

The three-time Big South Coach of the Year's spring practice schedule has been hampered by inclement weather since his squad was slated to begin practice last week. The Flames managed to squeeze in only one practice during the first four days, as the squad was limited to action on the grass practice field next to the Williams Football Operations Center.

However, clear skies over the past 48 hours have given the installation crew ample opportunities to put the finishing touches on the new playing surface, which Liberty greatly utilized this evening.

During the third of five practices where the Flames were scheduled to return to the basics of the game, Liberty's coaches once again emphasized the fundamentals, with a focus on first and second down plays.

With this evening's practice being the first in full pads, the squad ran more team-oriented drills. The offense faced a number of different blitz and pressure packages from the blue-clad defensive players.

"This is always one of the most challenging days of the spring, being our first full day in pads," remarked Rocco following the two-hour evening workout session. "The kids are eager and anxious, and we tend to throw a lot at them on both sides of the football."

Following three practices, the coaching staff is very pleased with the performances out of the cornerbacks, with Donald Manns coming back from surgery, while his backfield teammate Tim Torrence is always catching the eye of the ever-watchful coaching staff.

The Flames will have tomorrow afternoon off, before the squad returns to the turf at Williams Stadium again on Thursday evening. Liberty will run a similar practice plan to this evening's schedule of events, with the only difference being the presence of officials.

Liberty will run roughly 90 scripted plays during its second-straight evening workout session, simulating real in-game situations. The team is slated to be "on the line" once again at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

Coaches Corner with Brandon Streeter, Liberty's offensive coordinator:
During today's Coaches Corner segment, LibertyFlames.com had a chance to visit with Brandon Streeter, who was recently promoted to offensive coordinator during the offseason. The former Clemson quarterback spent his first two years with the Flames overseeing Liberty's quarterbacks and the passing game.

Under his tutelage, quarterback Brock Smith garnered back-to-back Big South first-team all-conference honors, after throwing for a combined 4,846 yards and 38 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons. Smith finished 2008 rated No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency (161.79), while his 148.1 career mark is over 15 points higher than Liberty's second-best quarterback in the statistical category (Robby Justino – 132.6)

How have the first two practices gone handling the offense as Liberty's new offensive coordinator?
"It is going well. I think the coaches are doing a great job of organizing their drills and getting on top of their position players. The players are working hard, just like Coach Rocco said today at the end of practice. We've got a lot to look at on film and learn for the upcoming year, but I think we are heading in the right direction. I just want to make sure that we are talking small steps each practice toward our goals."

When asked to comment on what the team is focusing on during the first several practices, with so many new players in key positions?
"The way that we are doing it, we are doing some heavy installs into our offense early on, as there are a lot of plays going in the first handful of practices. Then, we plan to come back in the second half of the practice season and revisit those plays. Right now, we are putting in our base offense, including our first and second down calls, which requires a lot of thinking with so many alignments. The kids are doing a pretty good job of retaining, and that is why our team meetings are so important. "

When asked what he was looking for from his offensive unit during this spring practice?
"I think the first thing in general as an offense, is that we really need to have leaders step up in every position group. We had several leaders on the offense from last year, who were seniors. Those guys have now left the program, and we need new players to step up and take over those leadership roles.

"Secondly, we need to make sure that we take each position group and move them forward each day. If we can take one step forward every day, we are going to continue to get back. Obviously, there is competition and we have been stressing that since day one. If you look at our team, every position group has got solid competition this spring, as we do not have one chalked-in starter right now. And that is a good thing, as it makes the players work harder, as that carrot is out in front of their nose each practice."

When asked if anyone has stood out over the first few practices or doing winter workouts?
"The other day, I recognized a few guys that really performed well during the first practice. One was Soeren Wendland, as he has done a great job, especially considering that he has made the switch from defensive line to the offensive side of the ball. We threw him into the fire pretty quick. But he has a great attitude and he has worked really hard in trying to learn his new position.

"Aaron Lundy is another guy, who we have moved to center in the offseason. He has looked sharp the first few days of practice, as well.

"The receivers are looking good, but they need to keep working on the mental aspect of their position. We've got a lot of talent in the group, and now we are just looking for some guys to set up and take ownership of their role. The running backs, quarterbacks and tight end positions are wide open with a good amount of competition right now, and we are just looking for consistency during the early part of this spring."