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Flames Hit Spring Midway Point on Saturday

April 2, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty's offense and defense battle it out on the turf at Williams Stadium during Saturday's scrimmage.

Liberty's offense and defense battle it out on the turf at Williams Stadium during Saturday's scrimmage.

Practicing for the third time in three days, the Flames hit the middle point of their spring practice schedule on Saturday. The team battled blustery conditions during a scrimmage-oriented workout session.

At times, the Flames had to battle 30-plus mile per hour winds during the morning workout, winds that were strong enough to blow movable workout apparatuses onto the playing surface. Head coach Danny Rocco commented after practice that the weather conditions did have an effect on the efficiency of his squad.

For the second time in three practices, the Flames ran 80-plus scripted plays, with today's central focus applied to third-down play situations.

"I was pleased with our effort today, as I think we finished a little stronger today than we had in recent previous practices," commented Rocco. "I had gone into this weekend really wanting to challenge our football team to put together three-consecutive, good hard practices."

"We did accomplish this goal and there were plenty of good things that happened on the field this morning," continued Rocco. "I told the team at the end when I watch this film, I'm going to see a lot of good football."

During the first half of the scrimmage-part of practice, offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter certainly tested his group of quarterbacks, calling for numerous deep passing routes down the football field. However, the play of Liberty's speedy secondary and the windy conditions kept successful completions at a minimum.

Two-time Big South Player of the Year Mike Brown completed just one of his eight passing attempts during the first part of practice. After having Brandon Robinson disrupt his first passing play downfield to B.J. Hayes, Brown went back at Hayes five plays later on the near side of the field for a 40-yard play.

Although Brown wasn't as successful through the air during the first half of practice, the rising senior reminded on-lookers from the Liberty Collegiate Invitational track event why he finished the last two seasons as Liberty's leading rushing.

The quarterback got two key blocks from right tackle Toney White and running back Aldreakis Allen that opened up a gaping hole on the right side of the field for a 50-yard touchdown burst. Brown would finish as Liberty's leading rushing on the day with 10-plus carries.

Liberty's blue-clad defenders seemed to control the pace of play during the first half of practice, with multiple would-be sacks, including two by returning All-America nose guard Asa Chapman and pass breakups from Robinson and Larry Claiborne.

The second part of practice looked like it might take on the same tone, as Paco Varol picked off a Tyler Brennan pass over the middle, which was the sixth play of the second half. The defensive lineman returned the errant ball 50 yards to the north end zone, causing the defense to erupt with excitement.

However, Liberty's offense would settle, putting up much better numbers during the latter part of the morning workout.

Brown completed 7-of-12 passing attempts, with his last three going for roughly 90 yards. The senior completed a 30-yard dart to returning All-American Chris Summers, who was able to pull in the sharply thrown pass despite double coverage over the middle of the field.

Brennan also found success during this section of the workout, as he was 5-of-7. The only mistake the redshirt junior made was a pass over the middle of the field that was picked off by Kevin Fogg. Three players earlier, the boundary corner nearly did the same on a play where he was called upon to defend Summers.

Rocco says the coaching staff is going to spend the weekend reviewing video footage of the first half of this year's spring practice slate.

With seven practices remaining before Liberty's annual spring game on April 16 (1 p.m.), Rocco says some depth chart adjustments might be made.

"This is where I expected my team to be at the midway point of spring practice," added Rocco. "We've got a couple of new players in new roles,which is common for the spring. We are really excelling in some spots, but there are still a few guys on both the offensive and defensive starting unit that aren't quite up to speed."

"The good news is that we are able to identify these areas and start to focus on these deficiencies," said Rocco. "I've always believed that the halfway point of spring practice is the best time for the coaching staff to take a step back and evaluate where your team stands"

Rocco says the areas that has pleased him the most this spring have been the play of his secondary and defensive line, calling these groups "very deep and talented, because of their maturity and experience."

Rocco says the offensive line and linebacking corps are coming together and "they are certainly showing they are good enough to win with next year." Additionally, he said the wide receiving corp is "extremely gifted, but they have been a little inconsistent this spring."

Finally, during the second half of spring practice, Rocco is hoping to solidify his playing calling at running back, saying "we've got some good running backs, but we need to nail down our rotation."

The Flames will have the next two days off to recoup and regroup before hitting the practice field again on Tuesday evening for practice No. 8 of their spring workouts. Rocco says he has "75 percent of his installation in place" and next week's practices will focus on short-yardage plays and goal line situations.