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.
Matt Sherry - Villanova
Last week was a nice break at home. I arrived back at school on Monday afternoon and we had a team meeting Monday night. We got right into it Tuesday morning with a practice at 7 a.m. The tempo was a little bit disappointing at practice. I would have thought that after a week at home everyone would have been ready to go but it took the team half the practice to really get focused. We got back at it on Thursday morning and the tempo was much better. It was absolutely pouring rain and at 7 in the morning, it was pretty cold. We did a good amount of live work and players made some big plays. Friday afternoon’s practice got a little chippy. The offense and defense got into it during the “inside run” periods and that carried over to the rest of practice. That sort of atmosphere is the best to practice in.
Since then, the weather hasn’t given us a break. The storm that rolled through the Northeast passed right through Villanova. We were supposed to have our second scrimmage of the spring Sunday but the rain didn’t let up all day and even turned into snow late Sunday night and the coaches decided to postpone it. It is still raining here today and is supposed to continue through most of this week. I hope we catch a break. This is supposed to be our last week of practice. Due to the weather, we have had to postpone a couple practices and now we are supposed to practice tomorrow (Tuesday), Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. I hope that we don’t have to cancel anything else from here on out.
A lot of players have made great improvement so far this spring. It amazes me how one year can make such a difference for younger players. Some of the freshmen who arrived last August are entirely different players this spring than they were during camp. They get bigger and stronger and have a better understanding of their assignments. Most importantly, they are just more comfortable in their environment. This is essential because we are going to look to a number of these younger guys to play big roles next season.
Our D-Line as a whole has made great progress this spring. They have played extremely well. Two starters are out for the spring due to injuries from last season and I have been surprised how that hasn’t slowed the down at all. Younger players have stepped up and gotten better and the return of Brian Hentosz, who missed last season with a knee injury, has definitely helped.
It was disappointing to have the scrimmage cancelled yesterday. I think everyone was excited for it. However, I think it was the right decision. The weather was absolutely miserable and there were puddles that accumulated on the turf. It is a fair assumption to say that play would have been sloppy. Instead, we lifted and had meetings. Coach Talley showed us a DVD called “The Secret.” He loves to share that sort of stuff with us. When I first found out that was what we were doing instead of practice I was a bit frustrated. However, I really liked it and would highly recommend it to anyone. The message was great.
This is an exciting time of the year for a lot of my classmates/old teammates. The draft is coming up this weekend and we have a handful of players who have been working really hard to try and get into an NFL camp. I wish my best to Marvin Burroughs, Allyn Bacchus, Christian Gaddis, Terrance Reaves, DeQuese May, and Mike Costanzo. I hope they all get a shot. I’ve seen how hard they’ve been working and they all deserve it.
John Wormuth - Maine
Now that spring ball has finally begun, all the guys are real excited to get back out on the field and play. We started spring ball late to begin with, but that's because of the major snow storms we had in the middle of April. It gets real frustrating sitting around and waiting. We have a lot of guys on this team hungry to get back out on that field and build off last season's momentum. However, all that waiting just makes it even better when you finally start.
The big story on offense is the quarterback position. Mike Brusko and Adam Farkes are both taking reps with the ones right now and both are doing a great job. There is no let down when one or the other is in. They both are very athletic kids with great knowledge of the game. The O-line is doing a real good job thus far this year. Anchored by our Maine man Ryan Canary, Chris Arano and Shawn Demaray, they look very promising for this season. Our running backs are a talented group led by Jhamal Fluellen, Teron Allen, Jerron Pearson, and Anthony Cotrone, who are all running hard and down hill. Our receivers are making catches from sideline to sideline and include Landis Williams, Tyrell Jones, Jeremy Kelley and Kenny Fersner.
Our defense has some huge guys to replace (Daren Stone, Matt King, Mike Devito), but stepping into those spots are Brandon McLaughlin, Jovan Belcher, and Reggie Paramoure, respectively. The D-line is a semi experienced group held together by Pat McCrossan and Bruno Dorismond. At linebacker it's me and Andrew Downey. We are both consistantly analyzing our play. Even when we make a tackle in practice it's still not good enough, not until it's for a loss. We both have learned the whole defense and try to be technicians and run the show on the field. Our secondary which has no seniors this year returns three starters in Jon Caldaron at free, Lionel Nixon and Lamir Whetstone both playing corner. Brandon McLaughlin has been stepping up to fill Daren's shoes, and he soon will be the next Daren Stone.
What I'm trying to do to make our team better is make all the calls and play every play perfect. I also try to correct and help the other guys on the defense as well as keep the offense on their toes to make sure they are executing like they need to. Our first scrimmage is Wednesday and both sides of the ball will be overly excited for the first chance to play against each other.
Derek Cox - William & Mary
Today marks the start of practice number 13. Monday’s practice didn’t involve much competition or contact amongst the offense and defense. It was still business as usual but we needed to back off a little because we got after each other this past Saturday during a lengthy spring scrimmage.
Just to give you an idea of what some players endured, we competed on a total of 97 plays. The scrimmage ran for close to three hours, but the boys grinded it out. It definitely felt as though I just played in a game and a lot of my teammates held the same feelings. All of the head banging and collisions really took a toll on our bodies. Easing up on Monday’s practice was greatly appreciated and well needed.
The players of the scrimmage this week turned out to be freshman, [defensive tackle] Derek Toon and senior, [tight end] Drew Atchinson. Derek did a great job putting pressure on the quarterbacks and helping to stuff the run. This is just one of the many displays of our young talent stepping up and making big plays. Drew helped the offense move the ball up the field with his receiving abilities and blocking skills. I admire his toughness because he got popped trying to catch the ball on our defense and it took him awhile to get up. He continued to make plays rather than fold up and look what he earned.
The spring game will be this Saturday, 1:30pm, at Zable Stadium. Around here it is better known as The Green and Gold Game. Friday’s practice won’t include any contact just mostly a walk-through tempo. I feel like this kind of practice before the spring game only adds fuel to the fire. The guys will be eager for competition and anticipating Saturday’s start. Families, girlfriends, friends, and the whole nine come out to watch the game. The atmosphere adds to the games excitement and makes the whole experience worth wild. I can’t forecast any outcomes to the game but it will not be anything short of pleasing.
Next week I’ll recap what happened in the game and include details about post game rituals!
Tim Hightower - Richmond
First, I want to extend the thoughts and prayers of the entire Richmond Football Family to those that were affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech. It’s hard to talk football at a time like this.
But this is the time of year where each of us earns our identities as "student-athletes." Our seasons are done, spring ball is complete and now the biggest objective is to finish strong in the classroom. We’ve pushed ourselves through a long season, winter mat drills, early lifts and conditioning, and most recently spring ball. Throughout the course of it, we have managed to remain focused and consistent mentally in the classroom.
These are the times where the lessons and experiences on the field and from coaches begin to surface. The values of commitment, hard work, perseverance and character become vital, as each player is faced with exams and papers. This is also the time of year where it really pays to be a part of the Spider Family.
As we approach exams in the next couple of weeks, we all will be devoting many hours in the library with our professors and classmates. At times, the workload may appear overwhelming. These are the times where we all rely on each other to push us through. I can remember sleepless nights followed by morning lifts where I thought that there was no way I would have the energy to sustain. As I arrived to the locker room exhausted, I looked over to see a teammate who appeared to be in worse shape. Without saying a word, fatigue suddenly is overtaken by laughter, turning a would-be nightmare into a comedy. It’s times like these where having the support of teammates helps. No one is alone as we all understand each other's struggles and together push each other through.
Though much of our attention is now devoted to academics, we continue to excel on the field and in the weight room. Part of being a student-athlete is knowing how to balance both sides while not allowing either to drop off. We continue to lift four times a week along with conditioning. As a unit we continue to push ourselves even greater, as we know that it is through times like these in which we grow stronger individually, and together as a team. I wish everyone the best as you all finish the semester strong and head into the summer.
Mark Stolte - Rhode Island
The first Rhode Island Football scrimmage has officially been wrapped up. It is crazy to think that we only have six practices left, because it feels like we just started last week. Overall the first scrimmage was very successful.
The tempo of the scrimmage was extremely high and it almost felt like a game atmosphere. We really tend to stay off the game field unless we are scrimmaging, and also because it is grass, but being out there in that situation really raises the intensity level for everyone. The stands could be completely empty but the fact that we are on our game field just makes everyone want to play hard.
As I mentioned in my last blog, there really seems to be a rivalry between offense and defense. I didn't really see too much of this activity going on during the scrimmage. I think that most of the rivalry is really prominent during practices where we have time to stand around and talk back and forth to each other. As far as performance, I was actually very impressed by the defensive play on Saturday. On offense we were really struggling to move the ball at the beginning of the scrimmage. This was due to some outstanding performances on the defensive side of the ball. We usually start out the scrimmages on offense with the ball on our own 35 yard line for a few series, and then the 50 yard line for a few more. These were the areas where the defense really stood their ground and had a great performance. I could really see that our team speed has improved during the offense and the linebackers and defensive line has gotten much stronger. Linebackers like Larry Brantley and Defensive End Dana Hart really impressed me because they made my job extremely difficult during the day.
The thing that really surprised me was that in the end we had ran about 120 total plays. I am not going to lie; my body felt like I just got done playing a game, but there was a feeling of satisfaction behind that soreness knowing that we had gotten better. After Saturday I think that things will start to slow down a bit so that we can save our bodies and have a great Blue and White scrimmage in two weeks. I am excited for the spring game and the family atmosphere that surrounds the entire game. For those of you who are in the area, I really encourage you to try to make the game because it is a great atmosphere to be around.
Rob Zarrilli - Hofstra
Practice is much improved since we returned from spring break. Players seem to be more focused and it’s showing more every day. Our squad has developed into a tough team with two weeks left in spring drills.
We had our first scrimmage last Saturday (April 14). It was give and take, but overall it was a good day. Both the defense and offense played very well at certain times, but not all the time. Although we need to keep getting better every practice there were a lot of bright spots on Saturday.
Coach Cohen continues to commend running back Kareem Huggins on his effort. Aside from being an incredible athlete, Kareem has the heart and work ethic to match it. The running game was solid during the scrimmage and continues to get better.
There is a great quarterback competition going on as well. We have three quarterbacks, Dennis Davis, Bryan Savage and Cory Christopher, who are all capable of starting. They are all getting their chance, and each of them has done a good job of finding their receivers.
Chris Manno, one of our senior wide receivers, had an impressive scrimmage and caught the ball very well. The other receivers looked sharp as well, as they were all getting use to each quarterback. Coach Elizondo, our wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator, keeps each receiver on point. Making every one of them do ten push ups for each dropped pass is a common post-practice ritual.
The defense played hard and continues to improve. There were several great plays, but the consistency needs to get better as our spring game approaches on April 28th. Senior linebackers Gian Villante usually gets the defense wound up with his energy. He is an extremely vocal player and has had a good spring so far.
As a team, we have taken a huge step forward from our first spring practice. We still have a lot of work to do, but you can get a sense of the team growing closer together and becoming tougher. Coach Cohen repeats himself every practice telling our team to “Compete”. I believe that if every player realizes why he says it, and what the word implies, the team will be much closer to achieving our goal of winning a conference championship in 2007.
Jason Hatchell - Massachusetts
This week has been an exciting week because we just put on our pads last Friday and we are starting to get in some hitting. It’s a great change from winter workouts because we get to run around and it’s usually nice out. Thursday is our first day of full pads and everyone is getting excited. It has been a lot of fun lately. All the guys are “Ooohing” and “Aaahing” at some of the big hits.
We are looking forward to this week because it has been horrible with the weather lately. We are definitely waiting for spring to come. Even though it is hard for us, it is not just us, it is the whole East Coast. The weather has been difficult with the Nor’Easter, but it looks like its going to be gone soon. We had to cancel practice on Monday and Tuesday because it was just so bad and we do not want to risk anyone getting hurt. We have some practices to make up but it will be okay. Our first scrimmage is Saturday and we have scrimmages lined up for each Saturday afterwards. We are all certainly looking forward to getting some good licks in. Next week I will be sure to write about how we looked in that first scrimmage.
The best part of practice so far has been when we come together and play some 11-on-11. I’m real optimistic about the way we’re bonding as a team and how well the new guys are fitting in. Everyone is doing extremely well out there, which is really great to see. Everyone is really solid and all the players we expected to set up are doing so.
At the same time, Coach Don Brown has been pushing us hard by giving us some new plays to learn. We have some new defensive blitzes and some new offensive formations which are working out really well. Tony Nelson is looking good at running back and Liam Coen is playing his best so I think the offensive is going to be very strong this year.
Everything we are doing now is to reach our main goals, which is to play in Chattanooga, Tenn. again this year. But we make sure that we do not compare ourselves to last year’s team. I know we’re going to be very good on our own this year and it is exciting to see it come together. It is difficult this time of year when we are building the foundation for next season, but we know the season does not begin for a few months.
With the forecasts looking better, I am getting excited about spring off the field as well. Spring around here is great because the winters in Massachusetts are so hard that people always appreciate it when it gets better. I love when people are always outside having fun. We enjoy any time we have off from football by having people over our house to barbeque and play some Wiffleball. It’s just a real fun time to be in Amherst.
Mike Byrne - Delaware
Spring ball is coming to a close for the Blue Hens this Friday when we have our last practice. The weather took its toll on our schedule, and we had to reschedule practices six times. Naturally we couldn’t fit in all 14 practices before the spring game, so this week we held practice on Wednesday and Friday to finish it up. We are using this time to give the offense and defense different looks that our team doesn’t normally run, like the 3-4 defense and two back offensive sets.
The spring game, which we call the Blue-White game, was held last Saturday the 14th. The whole operation from the players, to fans, to incoming freshmen was a success. It was probably the second nicest day of weather we had for the entire spring, which really helped everyone enjoy it that much more. We ran almost 110 plays amongst the first and second teams. Everyone got some really good reps in and coaches were happy with how hard we competed with each other. The offense ended up winning 80-40 using a modified scoring system but I would say the game was much closer and more competitive than that.
After the game our families and the incoming freshman and their families had a barbeque together. It was really good to see some of the new guys come in, and great for them to finally all meet each other. We started doing this at the spring game two years ago and it has been a great way for the young guys to begin to mesh with the guys that are already in the program. Also, as an offensive lineman, I love a good all you can eat lunch.
The offensive and defensive most improved players were named and I think the coaches picked a great pair. Offensively Kevin Uhll, a freshman offensive tackle was selected. As a senior on the OL, I am proud to see that one of the younger guys had improved so much, especially since he was playing DL for the first half of last season. Also I’d like to think that the other seniors on the OL and I have helped him come along by giving him extra coaching. Defensively Manny Marshall, a junior DT was selected. I think Manny was a great pick because he has so much talent, but he couldn’t showcase it last year due to nagging injuries. I think these guys will continue to get better and make an impact on the team in the fall.
Manny is just one of the pieces to a defense that I feel overall is much improved from last season. We helped ourselves out by adding Ron Talley, a DE from Notre Dame, and Jon Smith, a LB from UConn. When Matt Marcorelle, a captain DE, and Jeremy Kametz, a Sr. DT, get back into the lineup after injuries, this defensive line should be great. The young guys on the DL have gotten much better during this spring, and they have also helped themselves in the weight room. Erik Johnson leads the linebackers back into action and I think he could have a great season.
Offensively I think we are very capable, but need to find a consistency. I am excited about the talent that we have, especially since everyone is coming back except our NFL bound TE Ben Patrick. The offensive line continues to gel and improve, while the younger guys build depth along the way. Our new OL coach, coach Robo (short for Damian Wroblewski), has taught us a lot of new techniques and we are handling them quite well. The receivers are all back and the experience is always on the rise with them. I think that the RB crew should be solid, especially with the addition of Jerry Butler, a Wisconsin transfer. Jerry is a small but extremely shifty and quick back.
I was named a co-Captain along with Omar Cuff and Matt Marcorelle and I think that I have handled my duties pretty well so far. The three of us are good together because we bring three different attitudes and personalities to the table, which allows us to have three different viewpoints on situations we might have to deal with. It’s a great honor to be named a captain, and I just want to leave a legacy behind that says I made the most out of it and helped to lead a great team.
Overall, it has been a productive spring. I think the team can now start to get excited about the prospect of what lies ahead of us. I feel like our young guys have made great improvements and the older guys have bettered themselves as well. The practices definitely helped build chemistry on the field that may have been lacking a little before. We will continue to make improvements through the summer season and we cannot wait to kick off the CAA conference with our game down at William and Mary on August 30.