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Chancellor's Cookout Preludes Practice

August 20, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his wife, Becki, welcome Liberty's largest freshmen class to campus at the Chancellor's Cookout prior to Liberty's practice on Thursday evening.
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Photo Gallery of Chancellor's Cookout

Liberty University hosted its annual Chancellor's Cookout, Thursday evening, prior to Liberty's final scrimmage-oriented practice of training camp. Afterward, the Flames worked out under the lights at Williams Stadium.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., officially welcomed Liberty's largest freshmen class in University history, treating them to dinner on the grounds at the stadium. The freshmen have ruled the campus the past few days, as returning students will hit Liberty Mountain this weekend before classes begin on Monday.

During the annual cookout event, Chancellor Falwell addressed the fresh faces to Liberty's campus and told them about the importance of athletics to the overall collegiate experience.

Following Chancellor Falwell's address, Liberty University Director of Athletics Jeff Barber also spoke to the almost packed west side of Williams Stadium, thanking them for coming out and giving them a bit of Liberty Athletics history.

The remaining amount of time prior to practice was spent teaching the new faces to Lynchburg how to be a Liberty Flames football fan, as Liberty Athletics instructed the freshmen on the Flames game day traditions.

Toward the end of the event, which included segments featuring Liberty's cheerleaders and the Spirit of the Mountain marching band, head football coach Danny Rocco addressed the crowd.

The three-time Big South Coach of the Year thanked the freshmen for attending and told them how important it was to support their fellow students by attending each home game. Rocco also had each of his freshmen introduce themselves to the crowd.

Just prior to Rocco blowing the first whistle to open up the evening workout, the final segment on the evening's schedule allowed the freshmen to experience the culmination of Liberty pregame routine – the team's entrance to the field. Just as they would on game day, the Flames burst from the Liberty Flames tunnel stationed outside the Williams Football Operation Center, taking to the field with enthusiasm for their final scrimmage of training camp.

Following some warm-up drills, Rocco dedicated most of practice to live 11-on-11 drills, running roughly 90 plays. Below are just a few of the statistical highlights:

• Freshman Aldreakis Allen was Liberty's leading rusher. The rookie carried the ball nine times for roughly 66 yards. His second to last run saw the freshman take a handoff from quarterback Tommy Beecher and find a hole on the left side of the offensive line, scoring from 12 yards out.
• Aaron Hewlett had one of the nicer runs on the evening, as the wide receiver was part of a reserve play which led to a 25-yard touchdown. Beecher took the snap and originally handed the ball off to Mike Brown on the near side of the field. However, Brown quickly gave the ball to Hewlett, who used his speed to outrun the remaining defenders on the far side of the field and find the end zone.
• Tommy Beecher completed 9-of-11 pass attempts, while Mike Brown was 4-of-6 during his time under center. Redshirt freshman Tyler Brennan also took a considerable amount of snaps, finishing the evening 16-of-20.
• Beecher, Brown and Brennan equally distributed the football to 13 different receivers on the night. One of the highlights of the evening was a deep pass from Brennan to Pat Kelly on the far side of the field, as the freshman was just able to avoid a defender and keep himself in bounds for a 30-yard pick up.
• Special teams wise, Mike Larsson was once again consistently punting 40-plus yards when called upon during punting drills. Matt Bevins and Ben Shipps also looked sharp, sending nearly all their field goal attempts, which ranged from 25 to 39 yards, straight through the uprights.
• Several defensive players also left their mark on practice, beginning with linebacker Wes Cheek. The defensive team captain nearly picked off a Mike Brown pass, when the quarterback tried to throw a screen pass out of the shotgun.
• Terry Adams would have had two sacks on the evening, had the quarterbacks been live during the scrimmage. Mike Connolly almost had another interception on a Mike Brown pass over the middle of the field.

After practice, Rocco had the following to say about this evening's scrimmage:

"I thought tonight went pretty well. We came out here with a little more energy, as it was in the evening and it was a bit cooler. We had an amazing show of support here with the freshmen and from our administration in attendance for the beginning of practice."

"The event created a certain buzz and energy that allowed us to be focused. The team seemed to come out and really enjoy the overall evening. I told the kids after practice that when you get into the middle of (training) camp, you get into a routine and the daily grind of camp keeps you from focusing on an actual event that is down the road."

"Tonight, I think our kids came to realization that we have a game coming up pretty soon. That seemed to get them more excited tonight and I thought we practiced with much more energy this evening."

"As compared to last Saturday's scrimmage, I thought our offense executed much better this evening. I thought we made more big plays, as we had more chunks of yardage in the run game. Plus, we really started to make some plays in the passing game."

"Tommy Beecher made a couple of nice throws and Mike Brown really looked sharp, with some solid throws and a few catch and run plays. I think we showed the ability tonight to have some balance in our offense, run and pass, plus have the capability to have some big plays."

As training camp winds down with just two practices remaining, the Flames will hold a standard practice tomorrow morning, beginning at roughly 9:20 a.m., inside Williams Stadium. During the early morning workout, Liberty will focus on a review of first and second down plays, plus a significant amount of Red Zone drills.

On Saturday, the Flames will once again return to the turf in the morning at 9:20 a.m., wrapping up training camp with a special teams orientated practice. Liberty will have officials on hand during the two-hour workout, which will feature all facets of the kicking games, plus time spent on unique situations, such as overtime.