Four-time defending Big South champion Liberty began its quest for an unprecedented fifth-straight league title on Thursday night with its first spring practice. During the following three-plus weeks, the Flames will hold a total of 15 spring practice sessions, culminating in the program's annual spring game. Kickoff for the intrasquad scrimmage is slated for 1 p.m. inside of Williams Stadium. As the team does during its yearly preseason training camp in August, the Flames will open their spring workout schedule with a brief acclimation period. Today and tomorrow, Liberty will practice without pads, before undergoing its first full-contact practice on Saturday morning. Practicing under conditions vaguely familiar to the last time the Flames worked out as an entire team prior to its season-finale victory over Stony Brook last November, Liberty's team looked "in shape and focused" according to sixth-year head coach Danny Rocco. Following the two-hour work, which was concluded in front of a solid crowd of on-lookers seated in the stands of the recently renovated Williams Stadium, Rocco had the following to say about his program. What is it like being back on the turf after being away for over four months: "It was fun. We were all excited about getting out here and getting started with spring practice. We put a lot of pressure on these kids to preform and they were jacked up and ready to go and get into this phase of spring football. We've got a lot of players with challenging roles and new shoes to fill this spring, so they are out here with some expectations. But the bottom line, it was just fun to be back on the field, as the kids and our coaches are excited to start the season."
What is the coaching staff looking to accomplish during the first three practices: "We have our spring season broken down into a number of different segments, but here on the front end we are really evaluating our player development. We are looking at our fundamentals and techniques – the basics. You want to be able to see whether the kids have made improvement. You want to look and see if the young kids have learned more in the area of base football. Plus, you want to be able to evaluate your base first and second down offensive and defensive calls. We are trying not to be too complicated, as we want to give the kids a chance to line up and practice with confidence so we can evaluate the talent. If you install too much early, you are not really evaluating a group's talent, but rather you are seeing how much new material they can handle."
How does this spring workout session differ from your previous five spring practice seasons: "I feel that every spring is a little bit different. There is a level of maturity with this group that I'm excited about, plus there is a certain level of expectation, as well with this group. I think that these kids expect to win, as they have been winning. They have high hopes for this upcoming season, but it often comes back to the role of the quarterback. When you start spring practice, you always have different gaps that you are trying to fill and different positions that you are replacing. However, if you have your quarterback situation in tack, things tend to move a little quicker and that is the way we are this year. We have all of our quarterbacks returning, plus we have an established starter in Mike Brown. We haven't been in this situation in a couple of years, which adds to the expectation level. The Flames will return to the turf tomorrow afternoon at 4:15 p.m., on Friday and will wrap up the first week of spring practice in full pads on Saturday morning, starting at 10:30 a.m. LibertyFlames.com will have a report each day of Spring Practice 2011, so be sure to check back throughout the next three-plus weeks to follow the in-depth coverage.
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