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Speedy Defense Challenging a Skilled Offense

March 29, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Wide receiver Pat Kelly is one of many offensive players who is being pushed this spring.

Wide receiver Pat Kelly is one of many offensive players who is being pushed this spring.

Coming into spring practice last week, head coach Danny Rocco knew that he had a proven commodity with so many returning skilled players on offense. However, this group has been challenged early and often by Liberty's blue-clad defenders.

The Flames held their fourth of 15 spring practice sessions, Tuesday night, on the turf at Williams Stadium. It was Liberty's second practice in full pads and its final tune-up before the team holds its first scrimmage-oriented practice in two days.

"I think the positive thing that I'm seeing out of our offense right now is the experience and the maturity of this group," commented Rocco. "We've got an awful a lot of offense in right now and it is impressive to me how quickly Coach [Brandon] Streeter and this offensive staff have been able to go through the installation and put in multiple formations."

Since starting its annual spring practice last Thursday night, Streeter, who is entering his third year as Liberty's offensive coordinator, has helped Liberty's offensive players understand "numerous formations, multiple motions and a number of run and pass concepts."

With the large influx of play installation being added to Streeter's offensive playbook, Rocco's defenders have had a chance to showcase their skill sets, as well.

"What I'm seeing here defensively is an element of confidence and speed with a little bit of swagger that hasn't really been a mainstay with us recently," remarked Rocco. "We have become a lot more multiple on defense and I think our players really like what we are doing."

The excellent play of the Flames' defense has pushed Liberty's experienced white-jerseyed offensive players to take their game to another level.

Last year, Liberty had the No. 1 offensive player in the country in Mike Brown, who led all FCS players by averaging 346.36 total offensive yards per game. As a team, Liberty ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense (459.91 yards per game) and No. 3 in scoring offense (36.45 points per contest).

"The play of our defense this spring has forced our offense to have to adjust on the run, as they are seeing things a lot faster," continued Rocco. "The blitzes are coming quicker. The variations are more complex in what the offense has seen in past springs. I would like to think this is forcing the offense to perform at a higher level, more efficiently and consistently."

One group that continues to impress Rocco is his stable of running backs, who came into the spring highly touted following their extraordinary offseason in the weight room.

"I've been watching Chauncey [Holloway] and Aldreakis [Allen] this spring and they are looking really good," commented Rocco. "They are both very capable of being 1,000-yard rushers. A lot of times that is a function of what type of system you are in and we don't necessarily need that type of production out of this group with a mobile quarterback in Mike Brown, but they are both capable of being those kinds of backs."

The Flames will hit the weight room for strength and conditioning drills before returning to the practice field on Thursday night for practice No. 5 of the spring. During the two-plus hour workout session, Liberty will run its first set of 86 scripted plays, starting at 7:30 p.m.

When asked what he wanted to see from his group on Thursday, Rocco commented "I want to see execution and efficiency. Sometimes we look real good, but then we drop off a little bit in the depth at each position, which is common.

"We want to be more efficient across the board and we want to have less negative plays on both side of the football. Everyone has to be held to a higher standard. You can have 10 guys on the field to everything exactly right, but one young immature player makes a mistake and that play is completely ruined."