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Scrimmage Time Spotlights Saturday's Practice

April 11, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Linebacker Pierre Tinsley was one of numerous defensive standouts during Liberty's Saturday practice.

Linebacker Pierre Tinsley was one of numerous defensive standouts during Liberty's Saturday practice.

The Flames wrapped up their most intense week of spring practice Saturday morning, by taking to the turf at Williams Stadium for a two-hour workout heavily dominated by scrimmage time. Liberty ran roughly 55 to 60 plays during the morning workout, which was predominantly controlled by the defense.

Under near-perfect practice conditions, which consisted of partly cloudy skies and 60-degree temperatures, the Flames held seven different segments of controlled scrimmage time. During the practice-time subdivisions, Liberty worked on various game situations, including third-down and short-yardage plays, as well as a continued review of its base offensive and defensive plays.

Sandwiched between "Team Time" segments No. 4 and No. 5 were two different sets of special teams drills. During the first special teams practice plays, Liberty worked on punting situations. Mike Larsson handled most of the punting duties, regularly averaging over 40 yards per kick. Matt Bevins took some random snaps as well, with his longest boot being roughly 38 yards.

A quartet of speedsters fielded those punts, starting at the 40-yard line on the south side of the stadium, including Brandon Saunders, Jimmy Eden, B.J. Hayes and Aaron Hewlett.

After a break nearly 70 minutes into the practice, Liberty's first, second and third-string offenses and defenses were pitted against each other during their planned scrimmage time.

The 60-play game simulation saw a strong showing from head coach Danny Rocco's blue-jerseyed defenders. Offensively, Liberty focused primarily on its rushing attack, running the ball more than twice as often as it passed.

Liberty's trio of quarterbacks were accurate when offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter called upon them. Mike Brown led the first-team offense, completing 3-of-5 attempts for 22 yards, while Spencer Landis was 3-of-4 for 19 yards during his time under center.

The rising senior's lone "miss" of the day was a deep sideline pass to Kyle DeArmon, which the former quarterback let slip through his hands at the goal line. Rounding out Liberty's hurlers was Tyler Brennan, who was 1-for-2.

Liberty's rushing attack, which ranked No. 13 nationally last year by rushing for 213.5 yards per game, featured seven different ball carriers, and was paced with a strong showing from third-string running back Courtney Anderson.

The 5-11, 230-pound back carried the ball 12 times for his portion of the team, rushing for roughly 61 yards. Two of his bursts were for double figures, including an 11-yard bruising scamper up the middle, which saw him break three tackles. His final time touching the football gave Liberty's offense its first touchdown during the scrimmage period on a four-yard run.

Hayes only carried the ball four times, but each rushing attempt was for significant yardage, as the redshirt sophomore averaged 7.1 yards per carry. The Flames' only other offensive touchdown of the afternoon was a 13-yard jaunt by Hewlett, as the wide out just got the ball to cross the plane of the goal line on the scrimmage's final play.

Six different players managed to record receptions, despite the limited passing plays during the scrimmage. Chris Summers led the collections, hauling in two passes for nine and 10 yards, each picking up first downs during the 60-play scrimmage time.

Tackles on the afternoon were evenly spread among defensive coordinator Tom Clark's clan, but there were a few significant stops of the offense. On the first play ran by Liberty's second-string squad, Pierre Tinsley quickly snuck behind the line of scrimmage and forced Terron Lawrence to cough the ball up. Two plays later, the inside linebacker managed to stop Lawrence again, keeping Liberty's defense from picking up a first down.

Nathan Revell closed out the first set of plays run by Liberty's third-string offense, as the Peekskill, N.Y., native stripped the ball away from Brennan and returned the giveaway 30 yards for a touchdown.

Bevins was 1-of-2 on his field goal attempts during the scrimmage portion of the practice, knocking down a 28-yarder on the south end of the stadium when a drive stalled at the 11-yard line. During the final segment of practice, the Newport News, Va., native knocked down four-straight field goals from the 30-yard range, before he had his final two 40-plus yard field goal attempts blocked at the line of scrimmage.

The Flames will now have the next several days off to celebrate the Easter holiday with friends and nearby family members. Rocco encouraged his players to "pay it forward" during the brief break away from spring practice, as he told his youthful squad to remember "the most important day in the history of mankind."

Following the two-day intermission, Liberty will return to the practice field Tuesday evening, beginning its final practices before the Flames' annual Spring Game on April 18. Liberty will practice on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, before having a "walk through" practice Friday afternoon.

Coach's Corner with Head Coach Danny Rocco:
During today's "Coach's Corner" segment, visited with head coach Danny Rocco, getting his opinions on where his team stands heading into the final week of spring practice.

"I think we have a ways to go. We ran a 55-60 play scrimmage today, and you can tell that the defense is ahead of the offense right now. That really is not all that unusual during spring practice. But I just didn't see the execution we need to have today. Offensively, I'm really looking for some guys to step up and take some leadership roles. "

"I think everyone knows that we lost 22 seniors, and we especially lost some real fire power on offense. I'm still convinced that we have the talent in place right now to continue that offensive trend, but we just don't have the experience at those positions, nor the leadership. That is one of the things we are trying to develop this spring."

"Once we get back from our break, we are going to watch this film and we are going to have to make some decisions on our personnel. We need to determine if we have the right guys in the right spots, or do we have to make some position changes to give us the best chance to be ready to win when we open up at West Virginia. Secondly, we need to define what schemes we want to use in the run and pass games."

"We've got everything in right now and it is certainly a challenging time for our student-athletes. We will never go into a game with this much offense and defense as we carried into our practice today. We will start trimming some things back and focusing in on execution a little bit and I hope to have a pretty crisp go next Saturday for our spring game."