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Flames Begin to Review as Practice Nears End

April 10, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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During today's practice report, LibertyFlames.com visits with Charlie Skalaski, the Flames recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.

During today's practice report, LibertyFlames.com visits with Charlie Skalaski, the Flames recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.

After storms flew through the area earlier in the day, the Flames took to the turf at Williams Stadium, Friday afternoon, for their 10th of 15 practices this spring. The two-hour workout session was the first of three practices where Liberty will review the first two-thirds of this year's spring practice installation, while inserting some two-minute and special-needs plays.

The afternoon practice was spotlighted by two different sets of 7-on-7 drills, beginning with a first and second-down review section approximately 40 minutes after their "on the line" drills to open the day.

Roughly 45 minutes later, Liberty turned its focus to red zone and two-minute situations, beginning with a "Team Teach" two-minute drill to wind down the workout session. The two-time defending Big South championship squad followed with a 7-on-7 and team period, which focused on red zone plays.

"The hardest thing about today was that they were out here last night," commented head coach Danny Rocco in reference to the difficult nature of today's practice. "It was tough, as we got off the field around 9:30 last night, now we are back on the field this afternoon. To lighten the practice load, we did not scrimmage today."

"We have a lot of information in right now," added Rocco. "Today, we covered almost all the bases, as we covered our first and second plays, our base offense and defense, we had a third and long period and we had a red zone period. Finally, today was the first time we have installed our two-minute drills."

"There are a lot of bullets flying around out here right now and for the most part, I think we had a pretty good day," wrapped up Rocco. "I think tomorrow is going to be critical, as we are wrapping up a certain segment of our spring workouts. I challenged the kids here at the end of practice to come out here tomorrow and really work, as we have our most extensive scrimmage of the spring."

The Flames will wrap up three-straight days of practice tomorrow morning, when they return to Williams Stadium for their third Saturday morning practice. Spotlighting tomorrow's practice will be a portion of the workout where Liberty will scrimmage for 50-60 plays, with officials overseeing the drills. This will be the first time the Flames have scrimmaged with a majority of its offensive and defensive plays in place.

Following the two-hour session, which kicks off at 10:30 a.m., the players will have the opportunity to leave campus for a few days. Liberty will not return to the practice field until Tuesday evening, as the team takes advantage of no University classes on Monday, because of the Easter holiday.

Coaches Corner with Charlie Skalaski
As part of LibertyFlame.com's continual coverage of the Flames 2009 spring practice sessions, the web site has been periodically sitting down with various assistant coaches and players to give readers a different perspective than just the one of head coach Danny Rocco.

Today, LibertyFlames.com had an opportunity to sit down with Charlie Skalaski, Liberty's recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach. Skalaski, the second-longest tenured assistant coach on staff, has his work cut out for him this season, after four starting wide receivers have graduated over the past two seasons.

In 2007, the dynamic duo of Wynton Jackson and Brandon Turner trilled fans at Williams Stadium, as the pair helped the Flames secure their first-ever Big South title. Liberty shattered scoring records in 2007 and ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring, thanks in part to six touchdown receptions and 641 receiving yards from Jackson, followed by 536 receiving yards and a trio of scores from Turner.

Last year, Skalaski quickly "replaced" Jackson and Turner with their understudies in Dominic Bolden and Jonathan Crawford. The pair ended up being one of the most prolific wideout tandems in program history. Bolden caught 56 passes for 1,056 yards and nine touchdowns, followed by Crawford's 47 receptions for 713 yards and six touchdowns.

For the second-consecutive go-around, Skalaski will look to change out his starters, this year trying to do so with a much younger class, as his wide receiving group is comprised of mostly underclassmen.

When asked to comment on the play of his wide receivers since spring practice began nearly three weeks ago:
"We are young and it is showing that we are young. I'm not disappointed with the effort, but we have got a long way to go when it comes to bettering our execution, as we look to be more physical. This group reminds me of four years ago when we had some young upstarts in Wynton Jackson and Brandon Turner. We are progressing each practice, and that is what I'm looking for right now, I just want us to get better each time we are out on the field."

When asked to speak about if any of his younger players are starting to step forward and separate themselves from the rest of the crowd:
"I would be lying if I said anyone has separated themselves from the pack, because I don't think that any one truly has. The guy who has been the most consistent, both in terms of production and knowing what to do, is B.J. Hayes and that is not surprising, as he has played the most of this group. At times there have been some really good things from Chris Summers, but he has got to become more consistent. After that, it really is a dog fight, so I wouldn't feel comfortable naming anyone who has stepped forward."

When asked to speak about this year's change of going from a known starting quarterback in Brock Smith to a rotation of three quarterbacks vying for time this spring and how that effects his wide receivers:
"We have had the luxury of having Brock Smith as our starting quarterback for basically the last three and a half seasons. For all the nice things that accompany that in terms of physical skills, more importantly is the mental part of the game. Brock had a great chemistry with the receivers, as they had springs and summers together to workout. I don't believe at this point the rotation of quarterbacks is presenting any type of problems for us. But certainly the lack of familiarity is something we are working through this spring."

When asked to comment on whether this year's younger class of wide receivers provides any type of new skill sets that previous classes did not:
"No, to be honest with you, this group is along the same path as previous years. Last year, we had Dominic Bolden, who had tremendous speed, and Jonathan Crawford, who was certainly someone who had great hands and was very physical. This year, we are hoping that a guy like Ervin Garner, who is a speedster, can maybe fill the role left open by Dominic, but that remains to be seen. Someone like Jimmy Eden is a real technician when it comes to running routes and catching the football. Chris Summers is the kind of guy who needs to bring that all-around game, as he is big enough to be a physical blocker. At this point, no one has stepped up to be our go-to receiver at this time, I'm not frustrated by that, as this group is right about where I thought they would be."

When asked to forecast what areas he wanted to focus on during the remaining week-plus of spring practice:
"The biggest thing that I want to focus on is that it is now time for this group to show some advancement and growth. Our offense is pretty demanding of our receivers, because they not only need to know where they line up in the formation, but they also needed to know where their alignment is because we are very alignment specific in our offense. It has been a long journey this spring, but we are getting better as we make fewer mistakes each time we take the field. My goal for this last week is that we be mentally sharp, knowing where to line up, and then just more consistency. We can't keep having one guy have a great day today and then drop balls tomorrow."