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
Rhode Island Football held its second scrimmage on Saturday and let me tell you, it was quite a day. First of all it was a perfect day for football, the sun was out and for once it was actually pretty warm. We had only practiced one day that week so everyone was running around and we were all full of energy. The intensity level of this scrimmage was far more intense than those we have had in the past scrimmage and during practices. The first team Offense faced the first team Defense on some long grueling drives where our mental and physical toughness was tested.
On one of the long drives, it took about 15 plays for us to get from the 50 yard line to the goal line where the defense stuffed us three times in a row. I was pretty impressed by the defensive stand while having their backs against the wall. Overall, I can see what the coaches, in their minds wanted to accomplish this spring. Number one was to get the defense to play more physical football - I can see by the types of practices we have had the last three weeks that this goal is being accomplished. The defense really stood their ground this spring and I have seen a lot of improvements that can be carried into fall camp. And second, we needed to add some depth to our play calling abilities on offense. This spring we installed some new variations of the shotgun option that should give us more versatility next season. The offense has worked hard all spring to try and perfect these plays so that they will be effective when needed during the fall.
All of the hard work that we have done this spring will come to a close this Saturday at Meade Stadium. All of our families and friends will come join us for the Blue and White scrimmage which is always a lot of fun.
As spring football comes to a close I am beginning to realize that my days as a student athlete are numbered. It is crazy to think that this time next spring I will no longer be a football player at the University of Rhode Island. Right now, the only thing that I can do is to keep it out of my mind, work hard, and push this team to be its best so that we can go out next season and FINISH.
John Wormuth - Maine
With the NFL draft this weekend its hard not to see the excitement among the guys who have a shot to get drafted this year. Guys from Maine who have a shot at being either drafted or signed include Daren Stone, Mike Devito, Matt King, and Arel Gordon. Its a very exciting time for our whole program, I remember watching the draft last year and seeing Kevin McMahan being chosen by my favorite team the Oakland Raiders. This weekend should be even more exciting knowing a few guys have a shot at being drafted. I can only hope I have that chance next year. Those four guys are all still up here taking classes and training, just patiently waiting to see where their new home is and who they will be playing for.
All four of these guys have made my college experience better on and off the field. Daren is a tremendous athlete who has made a ton of plays in his four years playing here. He played safety for three of those years and corner his junior year, where he led the league in picks. He has a relentlessness on the field to make plays, that I try and copy from him. He plays very fast and is a sure tackler. Mike Devito is the most dominate player I have ever played with. He was the strongest person on our team last year and he played like it. He bull rushed his way to numerous sacks last year, which made my job easy because by the time I would drop back 10 yards in my pass drop he would be getting a sack. It was great playing behind someone of his talent, it made me a much better player. I was able to run around very few blockers while Mike always needed to be doubled teamed. Matt King proved he was one of the best in the league last year; thing is everyone here knew that his junior year.
However, he suffered a freak hand injury that kept him out the final eight games of the season. It's a shame, because he was having an All-America type season. He came out last year and proved himself indeed to me an All-American. He was able to beat most tackles with speed and if that didn't work he had several different moves he would use to make people look flat out bad. Arel Gordon, in case you didn't know, placed seventh in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Track Championship this winter. He took up track after our football season and was awesome. Now that alone should tell you how fast this man is. If you ever saw him play you would see first hand just how fast he is. Now just because he's fast doesn’t mean he's not tough, as he is one of the toughest players I have ever played with. He was so strong a breaking tackles and trying to punish the defenders.
The thing I love about these four guys is how good of people they are off the field. Any one of them would drop what they're doing and help you if you needed something. With all that said, you know where I'll be this weekend ... watching the draft.
Good luck to my teammates.
Derek Cox – William & Mary
We couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday! The sun paid us a nice visit without being a scorcher. This played a large factor in our fan participation; we had probably close to 2,000 people come out for the game. The same butterflies I get before regular season games came back to visit me before the spring game. All the focus and mental preparation essential to the game dawned upon all of us. Ankles were taped, wrists were wrapped, and cleats were strapped. Chin straps were buckled and mouth pieces were in, the stage was set and it was time to hit the field.
We played 4 four, 10-minute quarters of pure competition. The offense brought it’s “A-game” and so did the defense. Both sides had success without one side dominating more. I was thoroughly pleased with the way our defense played from using only our base defense. The offense remained simple for the most part, throwing a wrinkle in here and there. [Linebacker] Mike Pigram balled-out Saturday, racking up nine tackles and smoking anyone in his vicinity. [Sophomore quarterback] R.J. Archer debuted his athletic skills and versatility. He played wide receiver this past season and switched to quarterback this spring. His composure and decision making skills resulted in a noticeable performance. He threw the ball well and had one passing touchdown. Also, he led the team in rushing yards, scoring twice on the ground. The player’s of the game have not been announced, but these are the guys I thought showed out.
After the game a presentation was given for our Winter Warrior Award and the team captains. The Winter Warrior Award went to [senior tight end] Drew Atchison. This award goes to a player who shows significant increases in the weight room and continuous hard work throughout their football career. The team captains are [offensive tackle] Brad Steward and myself. It’s an honor and blessing to be a team captain and I’m confident I can handle what comes with the territory.
Spring ball is over but we have one week left in this semester dedicated to weightlifting. We are lifting 3 times this week to cap off the spring semester. After this week our attention will be directed solely towards the books as finals approach. We started the semester fast and plan on finishing faster both athletically and academically.
We had 15 practices this spring all being 25 periods a piece. We went full gear every practice expect 2. We lifted hard and conditioned with a purpose, being fully devoted and taking pride in having a diligent work ethic. Our coaches paid close attention to detail and kept us on track. Last year we won 3 games and the year before we won 5. The mindset around here is focusing on rising to the top. We’ve got our nose to the grindstone and they will remain there. This spring provided assurance of our capability to be worthy contenders. Our spring commitment will catapult us into the summer. The summer will be a true test of our dedication and prepare us for game 1, August 30, at Zable Stadium, under the lights!!!
It has been my pleasure to communicate with y’all and help you experience tribe football vicariously.
Jason Hatchell – Massachusetts
Before I talk about how our scrimmage went I want to talk about the upcoming NFL draft. This Saturday the draft is coming up, and it’s a big day for a lot of guys. It’s real exciting because I’ve had the opportunity to play with four or five guys that are potentially going to make it to the league. My roommate Alex Miller has been really excited about the opportunity. James Ihedigbo, Brandon London, Baylark and Christian Koegel are also guys that I think have a great chance to make it to the NFL. They all had good workouts and everyone on the team is pulling for them. Some are saying that Brandon London could be the next Marques Colston, and I can definitely see that. Anyone who knows him knows that he has always had his mind set on bigger things, especially the NFL. He has great work ethic, he’s the kind of guy that will do whatever it takes to get to the next level, and it shows in his workouts and his play.
For those of us not looking toward the NFL draft we finally had our first scrimmage last Saturday and it went really well. It felt great to do some full-out tackling, especially because it was the first time as a team we were able to tackle to the ground. One thing I really liked about the scrimmage was that the coaches backed off and let us. It allowed them to see how each individual player has progressed and how well they’ve learned the system. The meetings are where the coaches pointed out our mistakes and let us know how to correct them, rather than going over them during our scrimmage.
During practice, as well as the scrimmage I’ve noticed a lot of guys stepping up. Matt Lawrence and Tony Nelson are two guys that have been running really well in practice. Another guy that has impressed me is Jeremy Miles. It’s really impressive how quickly he has learned our defense. I’m also impressed with some of the hard hits I’ve seen him lay on guys in practice. On the offensive side of the ball Rasheed Rancher has picked up where he left off last year. He continues to show that he is one of the hardest guys to cover in the nation. He’s a hard match up for anyone at 6’ 5’’ and with speed like he has going deep.
We lost a few of our leaders from last year’s team but we have a lot of guys who seem to be stepping up. Liam Coen has continued to show great leadership throughout the spring, he’s our quarterback and our leader everywhere on the field. Overall we have a lot of guys stepping up and becoming leaders of this team. We have carried over the guiding principles from last season as far as leading this team goes. We lead by example and the team follows.
Although we lost a couple of key guys on offensive line, I really like the looks of our line this year. Losing Alex Miller and David Thompson is tough, but we have some great guys that are ready to step in. We’ve added some new guys, but they have great leaders in front of them with a lot of experience. I really think our line is going to be a big anchor for us this year, we’ve added a lot of depth this season. There are a lot of guys with great size such as Vlad, Ben Coblyn and Matt Austin just name a few. Vlad is one of the most solid guys I’ve ever been up against; when you hit him it’s like hitting a brick wall. Ben Coblyn is a transfer from Boston University, he’s 6’ 8’’ 285 pounds and extremely athletic. Once Ben gets caught up from the time off from football he’s going to bring a real presence to the field and help solidify our line.
I’m very excited about the way things went in our scrimmage and the way things have been going in practice. Guys are stepping up and looking good for the upcoming season.
Luke Bonus – Hofstra
With our spring game only a few days away, it feels good to be able to say that we have come a long way and made great progress. As a team, we have come together a great deal on both sides of the ball. I’ve heard our coaches say a few times, that we are already ahead of where they expected us to be headed into training camp. Every practice and scrimmage we are getting better, but of course there is room for improvement. One of our main goals in spring ball is to make sure that we don’t take any steps backwards and lose ground after a good practice.
So far we have had two scrimmages, and both of them have gone really well. Overall, I would say that it has been very even, between the offense and defense, and the scrimmages have shown how our hard work is paying off since the end of last season. We are all looking forward to the finale this Saturday, and getting after each other before we take the pads off for a few months.
Looking over to the offensive side of the ball, one of the most interesting parts of our spring practices has been watching the quarterback competition. At the end of last season we only had one, Dennis Davis. Our coaching staff made it a priority to bring in two transfers over winter break; they found two talented quarterbacks in Corey Christopher (Nassau CC) and Bryan Savage (Wisconsin and Coffeyville CC). Personally, I believe that any of the three could be our starter when we kick off our season opener against Furman, but only time will tell.
With only a couple practices left this spring, I think I can speak for everyone on the team when I say we cannot wait for the Blue-Gold Game. There’s something about the contest that makes it a little more anticipated then just a weekly scrimmage. Maybe it’s the game-like atmosphere, or the fact that our first game is that much closer. But there is no doubt we are ready for it.
Mike Byrne – Delaware
Spring ball is all wrapped up in Newark for 2007. Like I stated last week, we ended with a couple days of servicing the offense and defense with looks that our regular team does not provide, but we will most likely encounter this year. It was good because the young guys got a lot of reps and one last chance to show the coaches what they’ve got before summer camp. It was also good for the starters to see the different looks that our defense and offense normally do not give.
It is back to the weight room, track, and books for us now. We have class until May 15th, which is a little bit longer than most schools. The upside to this is that we will spend at least 4 weeks in the weight room after spring ball to prepare for the summer program. Coach B (Jason Beaulieu - the strength coach) wasted no time at all to turn up the intensity of the workouts from what we were doing in spring ball. I was still sore Thursday from Monday’s workout. We are also spending time out on the track working on quickness, speed, and our 40 times.
This long period of time from the end of practice until finals also gives guys a chance to focus on their grades. We all have more time and energy now so it is perfect for studying. I think everyone knows that we could all use a little more work time to bring those grades up.
Camp starts for the Hens on August 2nd. This date is about a week earlier than what we are used to due to the early first game we are playing with William & Mary to open up CAA play. This means a short summer for everyone, which I think has a positive effect because guys will spend less time at home. We can get more done as a team when we are all here working out in the summer together. Skills guys work on 7on7 drills, and the OL gets together to run our plays through against different schemes. I think everyone is getting excited about getting better as a team as we finish this semester and then taking that energy into the summer.