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Football Returns to Turf for Second Practice

March 26, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty's defense

Liberty's defense "stops" SirChauncey Holloway on a running play up the middle during Friday afternoon's practice.

Battling conditions more fitting of a practice during the latter part of the fall, Liberty's football program returned to Williams Stadium for their second practice of the spring season, Friday afternoon.

Just as the Flames started to come out of the Williams Football Operation Center from their team meetings, the weather conditions started to worsen. During the two-hour practice session, the Flames not only battled each other, but also stiff winds and intermittent rain showers in upper 40-degree weather.

"Today, I really saw a little more of the same as we saw last night," commented head coach Danny Rocco. "Today's practice just kind of reinforces the thoughts that I had yesterday about the speed and athleticism of this football team, which was very encouraging to me."

"I was also encouraged with the fitness level of our program, as Coach (Bill) Gillespie did a great job with these guys in the offseason to get them ready for spring football. This is a very fit team, and you can tell, as we don't look sloppy out there. Right now, I'm very excited about our team speed."

With the less than ideal conditions, Rocco openly admitted that the offense struggled early during their first several drills. "We went out there today and out of nowhere, there were just some very stiff winds and pretty decent heavy rain at times. Our offense just did not have the focus that it needed to begin the day."

During the first several periods, Liberty's offense lost control of the ball at times. This was something that last year's team hardly ever did, which allowed Liberty to finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country in turnover margin.

"Early on, our offense was not executing very well, but our defense unit was certainly flying around and making the plays they needed to," said Rocco.

Following a mid-practice break, Liberty's offense took a turn for the better and started to settle in, showing signs of progress on the afternoon. "I think us having a better second half of practice offensively, shows that this group has some leadership. They did not let it get away from them, like it can sometimes. I got on them pretty hard during the first half of practice and I was happy to see them respond and ‘right the ship'."

Today, the Flames wrapped up their second and last practice without pads, which allowed the coaching staff to start to evaluate some of the new talent on the team and players in new positions.

"My focus during the first two practices of the spring is to see what kind of shape we are in," added Rocco. "It is during these early workouts that I start to see what this year's team is going to look like. Are we fit, are we conditioned, are we physical and do we have some stamina – these are the questions that I'm looking to have answered during these early practices."

"The second thing is that I want to look at the speed of how practice is running," continued Rocco. "I'm very pleased at the speed that I see our players practicing at right now."

"Finally, I'm looking at the execution of plays, and as excepted the execution is not where it needs to be, but it is very early in the spring season. It is not where it needs to be, but you can already tell that this is a football team that has players who have excelled and played at very high levels."

"All we can ever refer to is our own personal experience and I remember our first spring here at Liberty. I really thought I was going to lose my patience and my temper," reflected Rocco. "We really did not look like a very good football team. Everything was complicated and confusing and I didn't see the energy that I wanted to see. "

"But you can tell with this team, they are much more experienced. As you watch, this group does not look like we have only been practicing for two days, because of the level of experience that returned from the previous team."

The player's wake-up calls will come early tomorrow, as the Flames will return to the Williams Football Operations Center at 8 a.m. for breakfast, with team meetings to follow at 8:30 a.m. After a review of today's practice footage, the Flames will be "on the line" for their first practice in full pads at 10:20 a.m.

"We will certainly learn more tomorrow in our first practice in full pads," closed Rocco. "We won't do any real live scrimmage situation, but we will run a few more plays which will give us a better look at what this team can do down the road."