B.J. Hayes prepares to receive a pass from Tyler Brennan during Liberty's practice, Thursday night, at Williams Stadium.
For the first time this spring, Liberty's offensive and defensive units had a chance to spar against each other, as Liberty held practice No. 5 of its spring practice sessions under the lights on Thursday at Williams Stadium. Head coach Danny Rocco ran 80-plus scripted plays during the two-plus hour workout that was held under worsening conditions as the evening progressed. By the time the practice concluded, a light but steady rain was blanketing the field. Despite the less than ideal practicing conditions, Rocco was pleased with the effort that he saw on the field throughout the night, telling his squad they are "right where they need to be" inside the locker room following the evening workout. "I feel very good about what I saw on the field tonight," commented Rocco. "We ran a number of plays tonight with minimal penalties and minimal execution errors. The effort that I saw tonight was very encouraging, as we were able to go out there and function like a team that knew what they were doing." Following some opening drills and the team's traditional stretching exercises, Rocco blew the whistle and Liberty's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense were pitted against each other. Rocco felt that "both sides of the football took turns making plays and looking good in spots." Speaking to the in-sync play of both sides of the football during the evening, Liberty was only whistled for two penalties by the officials that were on site to oversee the scrimmage. Reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Year and Walter Payton candidate Mike Brown finished the evening roughly 16-of-24, with nine of his completions going for 10 or more yards. One of his spotlighted completions on the evening came during the second half of practice. The rising senior threaded the needle and found Pat Kelly, who hauled in a sharp pass for a one-handed grab and a 50-yard touchdown reception. Most of Tyler Brennan's completions on the night were for sizable distances, as the redshirt junior was successful on three 40-yard completions. One of his attempts nearly found the end zone after he was flushed from the pocket, but was able to find Ervin Garner just before he went out of bounds at the one-yard line for a 49-yard completed pass play. When the Flames' quarterbacks missed, it was typically because of the strong play of Liberty's front defenders. The Flames blue-clad defense was able to bat down at least a half dozen balls at the line of scrimmage, including one where returning All-America nose guard Asa Chapman swatted down a Brown pass attempt late during the workout. More than 10 players caught passes on the night, led by another returning All-American in Chris Summers, who did most of his damage during the second half of practice. Spotlighting his effort during the evening was an over-the-shoulder catch on a ball thrown by Brennan. Mike Brown was Liberty's leading rusher on the night, carrying the ball 10-plus times, with most plays falling between the four to six-yard range. SirChauncey Holloway and Aldreakis Allen followed behind Brown in rushing attempts. Holloway showcased the extra kick he developed with his stellar offseason work in the weight room by bursting to the outside of the field and scoring on a 50-yard run on the fourth play of the evening. "We are definitely on track," commented Rocco, when asked about where his team stood one-third the way through spring practice. "There is both a physical and mental element to spring practice and I think these guys are accepting the challenge." "They know that our expectations are very high," continued Rocco. "There is a good core nucleus of guys who are experienced seniors followed by a solid group of young talent in the program and we are right where we should be at this stage of the game. If we can keep getting better, we are on track to come out of spring right where we need to be." Time away from the turf will be short for the players, as Liberty will hold practice No. 6 tomorrow afternoon starting at 4:15 p.m., during which the Flames will start to branch out of its base offensive and defensive drills. As part of its continuing coverage of spring practice, LibertyFlames.com will bring a three-part video series tomorrow on each aspect of the Flames program. Tomorrow, "Voice of the Flames" Alan York will talk with offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter one-on-one, talking about Liberty's returning skilled position players and what it is going to take for Liberty to finish the 2011 season once again as one of the elite FCS offenses in the country.
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