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Football Takes Field on Saturday in Full Pads

March 27, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Head coach Danny Rocco talks with his team following Liberty's practice on Saturday, Liberty's first in full pads.

Head coach Danny Rocco talks with his team following Liberty's practice on Saturday, Liberty's first in full pads.

Following two acclimation period practices without pads, Liberty finally hit the turf at Williams Stadium, Saturday morning, for their first practice of the spring season in full gear.

Head coach Danny Rocco was certainly pleased to see better weather conditions than those the team battled Thursday and Friday afternoons, but the morning session did leave him wanting more.

Following the two-hour workout, Rocco challenged his squad and detailed some of his expectation. He also spoke about the raised level of expectation surrounding the program. He pointing directly to the Williams Stadium expansion that continued throughout practice to show them what is now expected, as they move toward becoming a program of national prominence.

"We were not as physical today as I wanted us to be. I'm at the point in my career where I've got pretty high expectations for what this practice should look like with this being the first one in full pads," commented Rocco. "I thought that we had good energy and they moved around by showing their athleticism, but I didn't see the physical play I was hoping to see."

"We do a number of different drills during our first day in full pads that are conducive to developing toughness and a mindset of physical play," continued Rocco. "We did those drills on the front end of practice today and I didn't get what I was expecting."

"As we have done here of late, the second half of practice really picked up and by the end, I think we were playing with pretty good tempo and a little better physicality," conclude Rocco. "This is going to be a big point of emphasis this spring, as I want us to become a more physical team, especially on the offensive and defensive lines."

Following the two-hour practice, had a chance to catch up with Rocco and get his feelings about his program following the first three workouts of the spring. Below are just three of the subjects Rocco touched upon:

Liberty's focus today during their first practice in full pads:
"Because today was our first day in full pads, today was more about the fits on our plays. We have been running some of our base first and second down offenses and defenses without pads, and it looked good. We are just trying to get our timing down in those different types of situations, but until you put the pads on you truly don't have a good measure of the play's success."

"We basically went through the installation of those base offenses and defense today, and now we can start to build upon that. Today, I was happy to see it live and at a faster tempo. Although, I'm sure that I will feel a little better after I watch the film, I just wasn't excited about what I saw out there today."

Who Rocco is looking to evaluate this spring:
"Offensively, a lot of our skill guys are proven commodities. They all have a resume of at least one year of experience under their belt. So right now, I'm really looking hard evaluate this offensive line."

"Malcolm Boyd and Jay Weatherington are two guys that we are really bringing along and I think they are both going to have promising futures here at Liberty. We need them to be ready as soon as possible for us to be successful. In addition, we are looking at Matt Camire at the center position, along with Aaron Lundy, as those two guys are in competition for that position."

"Tommy Shaver is not a newcomer at tight end, but he is manning that position for the first time in his career. I'm very excited about what he is doing and we look forward to evaluating him the rest of the spring."

"Defensively, we have a number of guys that we want to take a long and hard look at this spring. Mike Connolly and Demetrius Ward are kind of stepping into new positions on defense and I'm excited about what I'm seeing with them at linebacker."

"Brent Vinson has been a real positive for us this spring, as I think that Brent has shown the most dynamic improvement to us from last year. His play at this outside linebacker position is going to give us something that we have not had in the past – speed and explosion at that position."

"We have moved Danny Broggin over from running back to safety and he is really doing a nice job. Those are a few of the guys who have caught my eye here of late. There are a lot of guys doing well, but those are most players that I'm already expecting to do well."

About the difference between his skilled position players this year, as compared to last spring after a full year under their belts:
"For most of them it is confidence. I've always said that confidence is a function of demonstrated performance. When you are looking at guys like Chris Summers, B.J. Hayes, Mike Brown and Aldreakis Allen, they have all had their fair share of success."

"I think they are coming back here with more confidence and a better overall understanding of their position. Sometimes as a younger player you are working on learning the playbook and try to memorize what you are supposed to do."

"As you become a more experienced player, you start to do things just out of habit, as they become second nature to you. I am starting to see that from those four players in particular. They are starting to improve their game in area where they were not quite as good at in the past."

The Flames will return to the practice field on Tuesday afternoon for Practice No. 4 of the spring, where Rocco will be expecting better execution from his team, with more physical play. The two-hour practice session is slated to begin at 5:15 p.m.