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Mid-Week Practice Update: Vacation? Playa, please

September 10, 2009

There may not be anything on this weekend’s schedule implicit of substantial impact to the team’s regular season record, but you try and tell that to the TCNJ Lions after the physicality that has characterized this week’s training schedule.

Yes, I’m aware that I’m talking about practice.

Mother nature–sweet woman that she is–waited to pull the trigger on this afternoon’s thundershowers until the team finished its 100-yard wind sprints to wrap up Thursday’s afternoon session. Head coach Eric Hamilton stressed the importance of tactful and gradual mental preparation for the team’s next contest against Fairleigh Dickinson

the Lions' D-line during the unit's pass-rush-discipline drills

the Lions' D-line during the unit's pass-rush-discipline drills

University-Florham (Friday, Sept. 18) in a post game interview last weekend, but he never made make mention of letting his squad get soft–then or now.

Today’s practice was the second of the week’s two workouts in full gear, following Tuesday’s uppers-only action.

High on the team’s prioritized list of goals it hoped to achieve during the 13 day’s rest was getting healthier for the upcoming home stand that features three of the team’s next four games in front of its fans in Lions’ stadium.

Duly noting that my awareness of repeated requests to limit disclosure and keep the specifics of player injuries quiet, I can’t help but make mention of how few faces linger on outside the lines. So it seems–so far, so good.

Here are some news and notes from this week’s action:

  • Intensity, intensity, intensity

Coach Ham is no slouch–he’s not running his backs and linebackers in countless hours of Oklahoma’s this far into the thick of things. That said, he certainly knows how to maintain an up-tempo competitive atmosphere surrounding his facilities.

Chris James, John Donoloski during the offense's play-action pass segment

Chris James, Justin Donoloski during the offense's play-action pass segment

If you don’t believe that the team’s still hitting, ask center Joe Mecca. One collision in particular with linebacker Joe Spahn knocked the lineman’s helmet clear off, leaving the junior with a gash in his chin. No, Bruce Lee fans–he didn’t lick his finger after he’d realized what happened. Nonetheless, under threatening rain clouds, someone on that football field drew blood.

  • Diversity in the offensive repertoire

Looking to follow up last week’s offensive rout with another statistically gaudy performance (hopefully with win-column implications), offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta’s dismissing any ideas that he’s become complacent or that he’s tipped a fingernail worth of his playbook’s hand.

Yesterday, the team worked extensively on continuing to develop its spread option attack, conjuring up new ways to fully implement every asset provided by three-headed monster it unveiled last week against Buffalo State (RBs-35 att, 255 yds, four TDs).

In contrast, today’s project-du-jour included a 30-minute goal-line segment, designed to assess the offense’s ability to finish from within the five yard-line. Power run, play-action bootlegs–this team’s short-yardage formation is far from the one-dimensional fronts used in a number of clubs at this level.

Though the two packages couldn’t have been any more fundamentally different, they looked plenty similar–pretty damn good.

  • Remember kids, school first
    offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta dictating last-minute expectations to Mike Camastra during the receivers' stalk-blocking period

    offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta dictating last-minute expectations to Mike Camastra during the receivers' stalk-blocking period

Often in the back-burner at larger universities–like Michigan, for example, that doesn’t seem like it allows its players to enjoy life’s little splendors (i.e. the light of day)–the football team at this highly-accredited liberal arts college encourages its players to allocate precious time to excelling in the classroom.

Turn on the TV on any Saturday during the college football season. You’re all but guaranteed to bear witness to one of the frequent commercial-break ads that air between quarters in big-time DI contests, the regular expenditures of hot-air that painstakingly strive to create the illusion of  that ever-so-popular “commitment to academic excellence.”

Take a quick look around the Lions’ practice facilities during the same period, at roughly 5:30–just in time to watch the waves of blue and white jerseys leave organized team workouts to head over to class.

For TCNJ, located just outside the state’s capitol, the oft-idealistic fantasy isn’t your usual diplomatic display of  puffery. These men live and breathe what everyone else preaches.

That does it for this week’s practice update. Check back in tomorrow for Friday’s feature on the Lions’ strength and conditioning guru, John McKenna, and his 28-year journey to strengthen his athlete’s cores–both muscles protruding outside their ribs and buried beneath them.

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