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Football Closes Third Week of Spring Practice

April 9, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Football Closes Third Week of Spring Practice

Four-time defending Big South champion Liberty closed out its third week of spring practice, Saturday morning, as the Flames held another situational scrimmage on the turf at Williams Stadium.

When head coach Danny Rocco addressed his team on Thursday night following another practice where the team scrimmaged most of the session, Rocco was less than pleased with what he saw from his squad.

Today, the three-time national coach of the year candidate felt quite differently after Liberty ran a series of 90-plus scripted plays during an early morning practice in upper 40-degree temperatures.

"The biggest thing that you have to be able to do is not get caught up in any one specific practice during the course of the spring and use that practice as your barometer," reflected Rocco. "I like to say a lot of times that you have to look at the body of work."

"We came off the field on Thursday night not very pleased, but we made some progress yesterday and I was really pleased today," continued Rocco. "When I look at the whole week in its entirety, I think I'm going to feel good about what we've got done this week."

During the first half of the scrimmage, Liberty's quarterbacks were extremely efficient, as a trio of Liberty hurlers connected with their targets at nearly an 80 percent completion rate.

Mike Brown, a candidate for the 2010 Walter Payton Award, finished this segment of drills by completing 10-of-12 passing attempts. The rising senior was successful on his first seven attempts and did not miss until he lofted a lengthy pass down field to All-America wide receiver Chris Summers that just sailed over the wide receiver's head.

Following Brown's lead, Tyler Brennan and Brian Hudson were also effective, as Brennan finished the drill 8-of-12 and Hudson found a receiver on all five of his pass attempts.

During the second half of practice, Rocco placed his offensive and defensive units in various long second and third-down situations. First, Liberty's offense was called upon to try to get a new set of downs starting from a second-and-seven situation.

The Flames' white-clad offensive players controlled this portion of the drill with ease, as Liberty was able to pick up a first down six-straight times.

When the ball was moved back two yards for a second-and-nine play, Liberty's first-team offense continued to shine. A seven-yard pass from Brown to Summers set up a short-yard third-down play, where SirChauncey Holloway carried two tacklers long enough to get a new set of downs.

The Flames' blue-jerseyed defenders finally got a stop when Liberty's second-team unit took the field, with the offense fumbling the ball away.

The miscue turned the momentum of the drill, as Liberty's defense kept the Flames' offense from picking up a first down three of the next four series.

Rocco moved his entire team down to the north end of the stadium for the next set of drills, starting each unit with a fresh set of downs at the 22-yard line.

Liberty's defense stopped its offensive counterparts on eight-straight drives. The closest the offensive unit got to scoring was when Liberty's first-team unit moved the ball to the five-yard line, but Brown's pass to the back of the end zone on a third-and-three play was batted down by newcomer Walt Aikens, keeping the defensive streak alive.

The Flames' offense finally found the end zone on the second-to-last set of drills, as Rocco moved the ball to the five-yard line for a goal-line situation.

Aldreakis Allen took two-straight handoffs, including a nice pitch out into the flat on the near side of the field, allowing the rising sophomore to reach the end zone.

"It is all about staying on the field and managing the down and distance," said Rocco about the purpose of these sets of drills. "On both sides of the ball, you want to be very efficient on third down and being efficient on third down is your ability to create shorter third-down situations."

"During third-and-one, two or three, you have a wealth of things you can do in your offensive playbook to pick up the first down," continued Rocco. "In longer situations, you start to get a little more limited in the variety of plays you can call and find success."

Rocco feels like he has about "95 percent" of his offensive and defensive game plans in place with one week left before Liberty's spring football game next Saturday (1 p.m.).

Liberty will spend the next three practices working on unique game situations. The Flames will return to the turf for practice No. 12 of their spring practice lineup on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.