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Flames Hit the Field in Full Pads Saturday

March 26, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Flames Hit the Field in Full Pads Saturday

Following two lighter days in "shells," four-time defending Big South champion Liberty hit the turf at Williams Stadium on Saturday for the first time in full pads.

Liberty was "on the line" at 10:30 a.m., closing out a tough opening stretch of its annual spring practice sessions. The Flames held their first practice under the lights on Thursday night, followed by a Friday afternoon session.

The Saturday morning workout marked the third two-hour practice the Flames had held in roughly a 40-hour period. Despite the challenging situation, the coaching staff was pleased with a number of players who "showed well."

"We certainly had more intensity on the field today, with this being our first day in full pads," commented head coach Danny Rocco. "There was much more of a physical element to today's workout, and some different players certainly stepped forward."

"I liked what I saw today on the field; however, we didn't sustain it," continued Rocco. "This is a pretty demanding stretch and I like that, as it emphasizes mental and physical toughness. This mentality is a big part of who we are. I just felt like we faded at the tail end, as we didn't sustain the level of play that you need to have to be a championship-level football program."

Liberty used Thursday and Friday's practices as an acclimation period, getting the players reacquainted with the rigors of a football practice. The "shell" practices allowed some of Liberty's speed players, especially its wide receivers and defensive backs, to showcase how much work they did in the offseason in the weight room to set themselves apart.

Today, working out in full pads allowed the Flames frontline players, its offensive and defensive linemen to do the same. The clashing of helmets and hard-hitting tackling was certainly the theme of the morning workout session that was controlled by the Flames' "big men."

During the first day in full pads, Rocco, a three-time national coach of the year candidate, ran three periods of what he terms as "combative drills," giving his players a chance to go one-on-one against each other.

With Liberty's white-clad offensive players on one side of the field and the Flames' blue-dressed defenders opposite them, players are pitted against each other with the defensive player trying to stop his offensive counterpart from gaining ground.

"There is certainly an element of energy that you want these types of drills to bring to your practices," commented Rocco when asked to talk about these segments. "These are ‘tone setters" and the players know that they are on the schedule. It generates some anxiety and intensity, which is a very good way to get your practices going."

During the drills, the coaching staff's focus is watching the one-on-one matchups, giving an excellent opportunity for Rocco and his staff to conduct evaluation periods.

Today's practice was the first of three practices that will be geared toward Liberty's base offensive and defensive sets.

The Flames spent most of the morning working on first and second down plays, allowing the coaching staff to reemphasize the fundamentals of the game.

"When you put the pads on for the first time, there is still a lot of drill work that has to be done," concluded Rocco about the focus of today's practice. "We are re-teaching blocking, tackling and blow delivery. You want to make sure you are teaching your players that have not been on the football field in a long time."

Liberty will continue the same drill sets when they take to the field next Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m., and will conclude this minor subset of its spring practice on Thursday evening. During the two-hour workout session, the Flames will run their first set of 80-plus scripted plays.