Monday, March 4, 2013

Daily League News & Notes

Arena Football League
Sharks Training Camp Report - March 3
The 2012 South Division Champion Jacksonville Sharks held the team's second practice of 2013 training camp at The Bolles School on Sunday morning.
For the second straight day, the team practiced in helmets, shorts and jerseys, giving players a chance to get acclimated to the rigors of training camp before transitioning to full pads. The Sharks began the workout by breaking out into positional groups for individual drills, then moved to one-on-one competition.
Following the completion of one-on-ones, the Sharks came together for an extensive team session that allowed the Jacksonville coaching staff to evaluate their squad as a whole.
The level of competition remained high throughout the roster, especially among a group of defensive backs that includes three returning Sharks (Bill Alford, Micheaux Robinson and LaRoche Jackson), three AFL veterans (Tracy Belton, Tanner Varner and Jamaal Fudge), and a rookie in Cortez Stubbs who has prior indoor football experience.
Following the conclusion of practice, Shark head coach Les Moss emphasized the importance of body maintenance and proper treatment, especially when taking into account today's cold temperatures and the upcoming transition to full-contact workouts.
Player Spotlight
One of the many new faces on the Jacksonville roster is defensive back Tanner Varner. Though he has won a Shark uniform for just two days, Varner is no stranger to the Arena Football League, playing with the San Jose SaberCats last season, the Philadelphia Soul in 2011 and the Iowa Barnstormers in 2010. The Northern Iowa product also spent three seasons with the Barnstormers while that team competed in af2.
After Sunday's practice, Varner spoke about what went into his decision to join the Sharks.
"Coach Moss, I've known throughout the years playing against him," Varner said. "And then Jacksonville with their fans, you just can't beat that. Florida is a place that I wanted to be, so this is just a place that I wanted to come down to."
A versatile defender, Varner finished third on the SaberCats with 63 total tackles in 2012, adding 1.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions and five pass breakups. Varner also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered two others. A physical presence in the secondary, Varner is looking forward to practicing in full pads.
"Oh yeah, hitting is what DBs do," Varner said. "We're ready to hit, and there will be some wide open eyes going tomorrow. It'll be fun."
Up Next
The Sharks will hold their first full-contact practice of 2013 on Monday morning at Plantation Park, located at 3060 Race Track Road in St. Johns. The practice will begin at 8:30 a.m. and is open to the public.
Low Temperatures Could Not Stop The Storm
The saying goes, "March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb." Today, the Storm felt the lion, as temperatures dipped to the low 40s for the second day of training camp. While the players may have been cold, it did not stop them from preparing for the upcoming season.
"It was cold out there today, but it actually felt good," said second-year Storm offensive lineman Wondell Rutledge. "Once you get the blood flowing, you're ready to get out there and go to work."
As the day progressed, the Storm receivers and quarterbacks showed that they can work together and are on the same page. They continued to make several plays, and started to gain the trust an offense needs in order to succeed.
However, the defense did not make it easy for the offensive unit. Practicing in a new system, the defense did all it could to disrupt the passing game. The defensive backs worked hard at taking the receivers out of their comfort zone and the defensive line kept the offensive unit on its heels.
"I liked what I saw out there today," said Storm defensive backs coach Doug Kay. "The guys showed enthusiasm which is always good to see in camp."
The team finished the day conducting meetings and watching film.
Coaches Perspective: "While I liked what I saw, it is still very early out there," said Storm head coach Dave Ewart. "The offense was a little slow today but that is to be expected in the first few days."
Quote of the Day: "Sure it was cold out there," said returning defensive lineman Paul Griffin. "But it's mind over pain. You just have to push through it and get the job done."
Player Spotlight: Michael Lindsey returns for his third season in a Storm uniform. He is a dynamic wide receiver and kick returner that has racked up over 1,000 kick return yards in each season. Lindsey has also steadily increased his scoring production on the receiving end from season to season. This seems to be an area in which he is continuing to improve as he hauled in a couple of touchdowns during today's session.
Training Camp: Soul Players Starting to Get Warmed Up
The 2012 American Conference Champion Philadelphia Soul, presented by Parx Casino, completed another day of practice at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia. The players, still running on excitement for training camp, are starting to build chemistry and competition amongst one another.
Each side of the ball is starting to get familiar with their fellow teammates and oppositions. As the competition and chemistry builds in the locker room, the players are starting to push and challenge one another. The coaches are starting to see who fits in certain positions and what they can do to improve each side of the ball.
Tomorrow, the players will report for the first padded practice.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MIKE! DL MICHAEL ROBINSON (6'4", 260, Nassau CC): Second-year DL, Michael Robinson, turns 27 today. Robinson enters training camp for his first season with the Soul, having spent the last four games of the 2012 season with the Kansas City Command. While with the CIFL Erie Explosion, Robinson erupted for 20 sacks in 12 games and earned 1st Team All-UIFL Honors (2012) and with the UIFL Huntington Hammer he earned First-Team All-UIFL (2011).
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm so excited to be a part of this organization," said Soul QB Steven Gachette (6'1", 195, Southwest Baptist). "Just off the first couple days of camp, the Soul are five steps ahead of everyone else in the league. The treatment of the players, their dedication to winning, it's obvious they want to be back at the ArenaBowl. To me, this team is the New England Patriots of the AFL in regards to their "Do-it-right" standards. On top of that, they have great fans behind them. I know I'm excited to see the Philly fans. I hear there's nothing like it, so we will have to wait and see."
A TIGER IN THE BOOKS: This season, Tiger Jones may find himself in the Soul record books for multiple categories. In 2012, Tiger brought in 133 receptions for 2,010 yards and 47 touchdowns in 16 games. In 2011, Tiger caught 170 receptions and 2,225 and 42 touchdowns in 18 games; both seasons were with QB Dan Raudabaugh.
Tiger is 67 catches away from breaking into third place for career receptions with the Soul, 1,176 yards from being first in career receiving yards, 2,008 yards from being first in all-purpose career yards, and 28 touchdowns from being first in career receiving touchdowns and total career touchdowns for the Soul's record books.
With Raudabaugh once again at QB for the Soul and Tiger's proven track record with his quarterback, it is easy to imagine him reaching the numbers necessary during his 2013 season. If all goes planned, Tiger's name will be all over the Soul record books.
Pittsburgh Power Open 2013 AFL Training Camp
The Pittsburgh Power opened their 2013 training camp last Friday, three weeks before the team's regular-season Arena Football League opener on Saturday, March 23 at 6:00 p.m. against the Utah Blaze at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Power gathered for a weekend of team meetings and physicals before hitting the field for the first full-pads practice this morning. Training camp will run through Sunday, March 17, when the opening game roster will be finalized.
All remaining training camp practices will be held at Southpointe Fieldhouse (104 Cecil Henderson Road, Canonsburg, PA) and will be closed to the general public, with the exception of the Power's joint practice with division foe Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday, March 9, which will be OPEN to the public from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
After an additional week of training camp, the Power will travel to Philadelphia for another joint practice, with the 2012 AFL American Conference Champion Philadelphia Soul.

Indoor Football League
Storm Fall to Danger
The Sioux Falls Storm (1-1) were defeated 30-21 by the Nebraska Danger(1-0) on Saturday night due to minimal offensive production. This was their first loss since June 11 of 2011 when they fell to the Beef in Omaha 41-37 on a last second touchdown.
Nebraska started the game off strong with an opening kickoff return touchdown by Marcus Barnett, which put the Danger up 7-0 only eight seconds into the game. Parker Douglass put the Storm on the board with two early field goals to make it 7-6 after the first quarter, the Danger hanging on to a slight lead.
The Sioux Falls Storm defense dominated the game in the second quarter. With the Danger pinned up against their goal line, the Storm defensive front forced a safety to give the Storm its first lead of the game at 8-7. Douglass hit another field goal before the end of the half to make it 11-7 Storm lead going into halftime.
Nebraska came out with more energy in the second half and finally put up the first offensive touchdown in the game. Kanye Farquharson recaptured the lead for the Danger with a 35-yard touchdown reception from Jameel Sewell. Farquharson finished the game with 73 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. Sewell went 11 of 21 for 129 yards and two touchdown passes in the game.
The Storm tried to work their way back into the game late but could never retake the lead. Tory Harrison scored the Storm's lone touchdown on a one yard run. Martevious Young struggled in the game going 20 of 34 for 215 yards and two critical interceptions.
Sioux Falls now gets a week off and will play next against the Wyoming Cavalry on March 17 for the 2013 home opener. Kickoff for the St. Patrick's Day game is schedule for 3:05.

Professional Indoor Football League
Lions Training Camp Report Part Two: Offensive Explosion
The wait is almost over as the Columbus Lions of the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) begin their second and final week of training camp with the season opener taking place in "The Jungle" on Sunday March 10th vs. the Knoxville Nighthawks.
For the past six seasons, Head Coach Jason Gibson has been the mastermind of a Columbus Lions offensive squad that consistently ranks around the top in majority of their league's offensive categories. Last season was no different as the Lions lead the PIFL in pass offense (269 yards/game) and total offense (280 yards/game).
Other than Gibson, there really has only been two other constants in the Lions offensive success that being WR Gerald "G-G" Gales and OL Dion Small. "G-G" returns for his sixth season while Small is back protecting Columbus quarterbacks for his fourth season. Gales re-joins the Lions as the team's all-time leader in receptions (326), yards (4,205), and touchdowns (87).
Also returning is the PIFL's 2012 Offensive MVP in WR Maurice Dupree. Dupree lead the league in scoring (242), touchdown receptions (40), and receiving yards (1278) and will once again be a pivotal asset in the Lions passing offense.
One other recurrent trend has been the consistent revolving door at the quarterback position. Last season Randy Hippeard took over the starting duties after out-dueling the incumbent Chris McCoy during training camp. Hippeard enjoyed a successful 2012 campaign finishing on the PIFL's All 2nd Team by leading the league in passing touchdowns (72), passing yards (3,280), and completion percentage (64.5%).
When Columbus opens the season on Sunday March 10th they will do so with a new signal-caller under center for the fifth consecutive year as Hippeard elected to sign with the PIFL's Knoxville Nighthawks in the off-season in hopes of continuing his education closer to home.
Battling it out during training camp for the top QB spot has been Marcus Jones (6'4 225, Duke) and Garrett Sutphen (6'4 220, UNC-Pembroke). Jones joined the Lions late last year seeing limited action with just nine pass attempts in one game. Last season, while with the AIF's Cape Fear Heroes Sutphen split time under-center guiding them to an undefeated championship season.
Whomever the coaching staff elects to start under-center will certainly have two of the league's guards blocking for them. In addition to Small, also returning is Brandon Thomas (6'5 310, Tulsa) who left mid-way through last season after earning a spot with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
No off-season is met without a bevy of fresh faces and departures.
In addition to Hippeard, gone is the ultra-talented WR London Crawford whom after earning the PIFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012 signed with the AFL's Jacksonville Sharks. There is still an out-side chance Crawford could re-join the Lions but with a Lions coaching staff that praises themselves on sending players to the next level they believe he will stick with the Sharks.
Looking to replace him will be local home-bred WR Jarmon Fortson (6'3 225, North Alabama). As a senior, he led the Carver Tigers to a state championship while later on signing his letter of intent to play at Florida State. In two seasons with the Noles, Fortson hauled in 53 receptions and five touchdowns before transferring to North Alabama where he closed out his collegiate career in 2010 by grabbing 32 receptions along with five touchdowns.
On special teams the club will replace kicker Trey Crum with Chandler Brooks (6'1 175, Auburn). Over the past three seasons combined Crum has managed to score 331 points in addition to punching through 52 Uno's. Brooks will provide the team with some familiarity having seen action in three games last season scoring 35 points along with four Uno's. Chandler made a splash in his indoor debut when back on Saturday May 12th he made a game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired giving the Lions a three-point win over Knoxville.
The Lions coaching staff will have just two more days to judge and evaluate the talent on the field before they make their final roster cut-down to 27 on March 6th. With AFL cut-downs around the corner don't expect the opening game roster to look the same a couple of weeks down the road.
"I have already made a number of cuts in hopes of leaving some spots open for those who fall by the wayside during AFL cut-down period," said Columbus Lions Head Coach Jason Gibson. "Competition is the greatest equalizer and despite our recent success on offense as long as I am Head Coach we will never become complacent."
The Columbus Lions 2013 season will kick-off on Sunday March 10th when they host the Knoxville Nighthawks for "Military Appreciation Night."

No comments:

Post a Comment