CAASports.com plans to follow the 2007 spring action which leads up the to the inaugural CAA Football season. Various student-athletes will be contributing to the CAASports.com Football Blog throughout the spring season. Log on each Wednesday beginning March 28 to get a behind-the-scenes look at what CAA Football student-athletes are doing leading up to and during their spring practice seasons.
Mark Stolte - Rhode Island
Hey everyone, it was good to read all of the blogs from the other players from teams throughout the CAA and I am glad to report that we have had similar results thus far. This off-season training has really gotten the team bigger, faster, stronger and now that the eight weeks of hard work have paid off, it's time to get back onto the field. When I walked into the first team meeting prior to the first spring practice on Wednesday, I was wondering what Coach Stowers would have to say about what needs to get done this spring. His motto for spring ball is “Finish", which I think personally is very important in starting a new tradition of winning at URI. Last season, Coach pointed out to us that Rhode Island Football was only 6-34 in the final four games of each of the last 10 seasons. Coach also made a great point when he said that "People don't remember you for how you start, but how you finish". I believe that last season, we took a step forward in winning two out of our last four games.
Overall I think that the motto to "Finish" is a great way to set the mindset to finish between now and the end of next season. In spring practice, you can see the determination of the players to make a change in the history of URI football and to finish what we start. Our goal as a team will be to start off spring practice in order to finish it in a way that will make our team better going onto fall camp. Being a senior with the rest of the guys in my class, our biggest goal is to provide the team with the best leadership possible. I look at the qualities of all of the captains that we have had in the past and use them as examples of how I should lead this team to "Finish".
On Saturday, we got our first real taste of football again when we had our first full-pads practice. I have to tell you that it was a great feeling to get out there and hit someone again. It was a great first contact practice and you could tell that everyone was excited. I could also tell that Coach Nichols was very eager to try out some new plays full-speed for the first time. We are all anxious to see what some new members of our team have to offer as well. There have been a few additions on the defensive side of the ball that are making everyone excited. There seem to be a few new guys who will have the opportunity to step up on the defensive side of the ball this spring.
On offense, we are returning almost everyone besides Kyle Edwards and Shamel Lewis who graduated last year. They will be missed greatly on the o-line but we have plenty of talent and experience to fill their shoes with Rob Crudup, who played a lot for us last year, and a young and talented Akil Chester. We had a very young team on offense last season that did well in the conference, but I think that this group is a little more seasoned. More hard work and concentration on both sides of the ball should bring Rhode Island football where it needs to be to have success next season.
Mark Stolte #57
Matt Sherry - Villanova
The past few weeks have been crazy for me. I thought that second semester of senior year was supposed to be a time for you to “cruise.” Ever since I got back from spring break three weeks ago I feel like I have be going a million miles an hour. This will probably continue for the next few weeks and then hopefully I can enjoy myself for the last two or three weeks of school.
Spring ball started last week and it feels good to be out there running around again. I have missed the past two spring ball seasons because of shoulder injuries so I am happy to finally be participating again. Standing on the sidelines for a whole month is/was brutal. The team looks pretty good so far. We lost a group of great players to graduation but we have another group of young players who are on the rise and are getting better everyday. We have a couple players out for the spring on defense but that hasn’t slowed them down at all. Our first scrimmage was yesterday and if we handed out wins and losses I think the defense would have gotten the “W”. It was sloppy at times, but some people made big plays too. It was pretty much what you would have expected after just two full padded practices. We have a few young players in key positions on offense and it might take a little while for everyone to gel, but it’s just a matter of time.
We are putting an extra emphasis on special teams this spring and I think that it is going to benefit us next season. Last year our special teams were average at best and I think it was part of the reason we got off to a slow start. The coaches have allotted more periods during practice to get back to the fundamentals. Additionally, we have been having a special teams meeting every morning. Because of my previous shoulder injuries, I have not played a very big role on special teams the past couple seasons. However, I am much more involved in special teams this spring. So for me, the extra meeting time and the return to fundamentals has been very beneficial.
At this point we have finished five of our fifteen practices, we have another tomorrow and then we get to go home for a week for Easter. I’m tired and my body is sore. It will be nice to go home and catch up on sleep. Our spring ball schedule has us getting up at 6 am Monday through Friday. We practice at 7 am on Tuesday and Thursday and we have meetings every other morning. It is easy to fall behind on sleep. However, I like the morning practices better than the afternoon. It’s nice to wake up, put your work in, and then be able to take it easy for the rest of the day.
Another practice tomorrow morning, a lift, and then two tests Wednesday and I’m free to go home- first time since Christmas. It’ll be nice to have nothing to do for a few days.
Tim Hightower - Richmond
Spring practice is already winding down here at the University of Richmond as we eagerly await the 2007 season. This offseason has been very productive for individual as well as overall team growth.
After a long Christmas break, vacation time was over and our minds were set on preparing for spring ball. The atmosphere in the weight room was as intense as I've ever seen it since being here. Our strength coach Brandon Hourigan brings intensity and a passion to our workouts that all players both love and respect. He challenges us to get better every day and push ourselves above expectations.
We began the off season by lifting four times a week and conditioning 2-3 times. Though many players often ended workouts exhausted and fatigued, as the weeks went on, we could feel ourselves growing stronger as a team and getting in better shape. The next step to our off season training consisted of what we call mat drills. Tuesday night and Friday mornings, rain, sleet or shine, Richmond football players could be found on the field doing agility and speed development drills, finished off with some conditioning. Progress was inevitable as the weeks went along. We became stronger both mentally and physically and anxiously awaited spring practice.
Right before spring practice was to begin, the Richmond football team was struck with bittersweet news. We were told that some of our coaches were given opportunities to pursue their coaching careers at other schools. As we all felt the loss corporately, we are excited about their new opportunities at the University of Virginia, VMI, and Notre Dame. Coach Jeff Hanson, Coach Wayne Lineburg, Coach Patrick Graham and Coach Al Clark - we appreciate all of the contributions you made here and your dedication and commitment to the Richmond Spiders family and we wish you the best of success.
Now that spring ball is in session, the intensity is at an all time high. Practice is up tempo along with the competition leaving many players in cold tubs after practice. We are practicing four times a week and watching tape every day. We are still lifting intensely as coach Hourigan encourages us to "get the demons out.” As a team we are really stressing the importance of unity and family and having fun, making the most of every opportunity.
We all joke about how different practice is without certain coaches and the styles they brought, but we are excited about our new coaching staff, who all seem to bring strengths of their own that will help our program succeed. The running back core is becoming closer with our head coach, as he leads us each day through drills and strives to teach us not only to master techniques but also to really understand the game of football. To make things fun he even competes with us in some of the drills, although some of his competitors in the running back core may see that as an unfair advantage if he wins.
After practice many of us go out to eat together and others extend their competition to the bowling alley. Great leadership, hard work ethics along with excellent talent across the board are all reasons to be excited about the upcoming season.
Brian Bradford - Towson
As we get ready to open our Spring practice on Friday, my teammates and I are very excited to get back on the field and compete with one another as we get ready for the upcoming season.
Our defense is returning nine starters which is a big reason we are excited for this year. Our D-Line lost the only two starters from our defense but a consistent rotation last year allowed experience to grow on the defensive line.
The linebacker corps is a very experienced group which includes junior Jordan Manning, who has led our defense in tackles the last two seasons. We’ve also got senior Maurice Wilkins back. He was a starter as a freshman and has three years of experience. Plus, John Webb and I are seniors who have been starting since our freshman year.
The entire secondary returns and the unit is led by Kenny Scott and Eric Clark. Kenny is the field general for our secondary and Eric is a great lock-down cornerback for us.
We can’t wait for spring ball to start because this is the first time in my Towson career that we have had the same defensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons. Now that we have learned Bob Benson’s defense completely, we are ready to play and have fun at the same time.
On offense, we are bringing back our main corps of wide receivers with the exception of Andrae Brown and Eric Yancey, a first team all-conference receiver last year. Our wide receivers give us tremendous experience and senior leadership.
After having a full season to gel as a unit, our offensive line is returning four of five starters. We did lose the leadership of left tackle Jermon Bushrod, one of our team captains and team leaders. We have a lot of leadership on the offensive line and we’ve been impressed with our “red-shirt” freshmen.
Sean Schaefer is returning for his third year as our starting quarterback and he keeps getting better and better. Over the last two years, it has been interesting to watch him grow into the role of a team leader and he does a great job with our offense.
All of us on the defensive side of the ball are glad that we only have to practice against him.
The offensive coaching staff brings leadership and motivation for the entire offense. We have all of our offensive coaches returning from last season and that will help us build on the knowledge that we already have.
John Wormuth - Maine
Football has been and will always be an important part of my life. I have been playing football since I was in second grade. This coming fall will be my 14th season playing my favorite sport.
I can't say I remember too much about my elementary school football days. Most of the memories I do have involve running at practice more than actually playing, or doing tackling drills in the cold. Every once and awhile I'll look back at newspaper clippings from my Pop Warner days and see pictures of myself wearing numbers 91, 78, and 42, reading about how good my friends and I were back in the day. I do remember playing in a few Pop Warner championship games at Scranton Memorial Stadium in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The things I remember the most from those games were playing in the mud and cold, and having all of our dads on the field helping to coach us. The team I remember playing against the most was the Moosic Raiders, and the only reason I remember them so much was because they had the same uniforms as my favorite pro team growing up, the Oakland Raiders. I was jealous of their uniforms, but I got my satisfaction from always beating them. Our Lakeland team was much stronger. I also remember going home after school and watching those old NFL films shows before going to practice to get myself psyched up for that day. My favorite thing to do used to be running the ball. I loved pretending I was Barry Sanders and making cuts and running all around, it was great.
If I had to pick the most influential person who led me to playing football it would be my father, Doug Wormuth. He took me to every practice, every game, helped out coaching when I was younger, and continued that up until I moved to freshman football. The one thing I always say about my father is that he was always there for me giving me rides and helping me with skills, but he never made me play or lived his life through me like you see some fathers doing. For that, I really appreciate him and everything that he did to help get me to this point in my career. My mother was also always there for me. As much as she hated the the possibility of me getting hurt, she loved going to all my games and cheering for me.
I had a lot of great coaches growing up, including my father, but the other two that stick out are coach Jeff Cavanugh and coach Mike Kraky. They coached their sons and myself from second grade until we all graduated from Lakeland Highand. They are still coaching today and providing another generation of players their knowledge of the game. I still say Joe Tuzze was the best player I ever played with, and he's currently playing in college at Akron. I love thinking back to playing at Lakeland and just thinking that my town was like the town in the movie "Varsity Blues." It shut down on Friday nights when we played. It's crazy when we played a rival because we would have 6,000-plus at our games. That is more than some college games I've played in.
I'm very thankful for my parents who have been there for me my whole life and throughout my football career. I'm also thankful to all the other people who have been there for me growing up, who made me love and appreciate the best sport in the world football.
Derek Cox - William & Mary
Spring ball is now well under way. We’ve just finished our sixth practice and we have nine more practices to get better. Right now practices are going well and the coaches seem satisfied with our overall efforts and performance. The toughest part, physically, so far has been practicing back to back days which, happens only once a week. My legs were exhausted on Monday after practicing on Sunday. A lot of the boys have been dipping in the polar bear [an ice filled pool] to keep their legs fresh. I can’t blame them because it has been a little toasty outside. A couple of the practices took place in temperatures close to 80 degrees. The water boys ran constantly as players hydrated with every chance presented. Not only is the heat turned on but so is the intensity and tenacity! It started with the defense and rubbed off onto the offense. I give all credit for this occurrence to [new Tribe defensive coordinator] Coach [Bob] Shoop.
Before joining the Tribe, coach Shoop was the defensive back coach for UMass. Now he is our defensive coordinator and defensive back coach. All the players have taken to him well and welcomed him into our family. He has shown a genuine interest in wanting to know each of us individually. I’ve sat down for lunch in the cafeteria with him a couple times, which added to our chemistry. As a person and a player I can say he’s definitely a charismatic leader. One thing I like about him is his manner of critiquing and evaluating. Before we started practice, coach told us he would be critiquing the performance not the performer. That’s definitely a statement that shouldn’t be assumed players already understand. Making that statement helps to clarify any critiques that could be construed as criticism. Coach Shoop has demanded a lot from the defense without being abrasive. Our meetings are longer and highly informative. He talks with a good pace and conveys a tremendous amount of information quickly. On the field he won’t hesitate to jump on you if you miss an assignment. Nobody takes it personal and besides he won’t allow it to settle. I think he has great emotional intelligence, noticing when a player feels down and needs to be picked up. On Monday he was on us hard, it was like he had an eye on the whole defense placing us all under heavy scrutiny. Before we could make the excuse of it being the second practice in as many days in the hot weather, he let us know our focus was lacking and he didn’t want us just going through the motions. I could go on and on talking about Coach Shoop. I’ve taken in a lot from him in a short period of time. He possesses great leadership qualities and gradually the defense will rally around him once we fully comprehend his defensive strategy.
Right now the enthusiasm is high and the trash talk has started. Spring ball consists of pure competition. On the field the offense and defense don’t know each other. We treat each other like any other CAA opponent. We aren’t taking cheap shots but we aren’t playing tag either. Practice has been mostly thud tempo but we still play with a sense of urgency. The defense is yearning for full contact because it can put a stop to any trash talk. The offense is anxious to see how well they can move the ball up and down the field on our D. The coaches are curious to see if all the hard work in the winter has paid off. Wednesday we get our first taste of scrimmage and hopefully it’s a little more than a sample because the boys are hungry.
Next week I’ll let y’all know how the scrimmage turned out. We get this Friday and Saturday off for Easter! I’m thinking about heading back to Carolina!
Jason Hatchell - Massachusetts
I’m really excited that spring ball is here. Spring ball is a good time. You showcase your talent to a lot of guys. It’s going to be awesome just to see how we click this year from last year. Last year we had a good team, we went to the national championship. This year, we got some core guys back. It’s a real exciting time to see who is going to step up and how everyone is going to mesh together. It’s a sneak preview on how next year’s team is going to be.
Our main focus of spring football is to see who is going to compete for a starting job. In spring ball, it’s all competition. There are no starters, it’s all competition. Everyone comes in at an even playing level no matter what you did in the past. Everyone’s going to be out there working their butts off trying to earn a starting position. That’s the main focus, to showcase yourself. The goals are to get the first group on offense and defense clicking. So when we hit camp in August, we’ll be full flow. We’ll be in competition, but have an idea on what guys we want in what places and get everything clicking.
There are a few guys that I’m looking forward to stepping up this spring. Running backs Matt Lawrence and Tony Nelson are two guys that I’m expecting to step up. They had a great off-season in the weight room running. They are two great athletes, breaking all sorts of records. We’re going to have great competition there. We’re going to have a really good backfield: a good one-two punch. On the other side of the ball, I’m excited for Jeromy Miles; he’s a transfer from Navy. I’m really excited to see him play on the field; he’s a really good athlete. I haven’t seen him play with pads on yet.
Heading into my senior season, I am looking forward to being out there with the guys and being a leader. We had great leaders last year. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to doing, leading this specific group of guys. It’s a cool thing when you’re a senior and people look at you for leadership. You take a little more pride, because you always talk about living right and doing things right. A lot comes from the players, not just the coaches. You’re influencing younger guys to live right. Everything you do influences the younger guys. That’s a big thing about being a senior. Team wise, our goal is to win the CAA and win the National Championship.
Most of my family and friends have seen the blog. I’ve been getting calls out of the blue. Everyone’s keeping up to date and they’re excited for the next season.
Luke Bonus - Hofstra
Since my teammate Rob has already given a good briefing of what has gone on until the start of spring ball, I don’t want to repeat too much of what he has already said. We just started our practices last week and things are definitely moving in the right direction. I’m home right now on spring break, and I’m looking forward to getting back to practice next week. But everyone was undeniably ready for a vacation when we broke from our last practice, so it’s a good feeling to have some time off right now.
Our football team has gone through a lot of change since our last game in November. Our main goal for this off-season has been focus. We lost too many games last year that could have been won simply if we had been mentally tougher. Our coaches made sure to emphasize the idea of involving focus in every drill we did. Needless to say, by the end of our winter work outs it was easy to see that we had come a far way as a team. We are much more detail oriented then we were last year. Now, with spring ball here, it’s time we applied everything we have worked so hard on in the past few months to the practice field. As a team we are all moving in stride to reach our goal of winning a conference championship.
Since the end of last year we have received several key acquisitions from schools all around the country. Our team had a few holes in it left from last years graduating seniors, and our coaches definitely made it a priority to add some depth before we even receive our crew of new freshman next season. We have added strength to both sides of the ball, and I’m sure that all of the transfers will contribute this fall.