College Football: Livingstone upbeat after spring practice

Published 9:20 pm Saturday, April 11, 2015

SALISBURY — Sometimes it’s not rocket science.

Livingstone led the CIAA in rushing and was third in passing but won only two of seven conference contests  in 2014. The obvious culprits were turnovers (a  league-high 18 lost fumbles) and a defense that finished 10th in the league in points allowed.

Livingstone managed to win three  non-conference contests — two of them shootouts —  for a 5-5 overall record, but head coach Daryl Williams, heading into his third season, envisions a team that can stifle opponents instead of having to outscore them.

“We’ve got excellent recruits coming in, 23 of them, and 17 of those 23 are on defense,” Williams said. “I’m real proud of the progress we’re making with the defense. Defense has been our emphasis.”

Williams said his incoming recruits will include three sets of twins.

“I’ll have to be careful when I yell,  ‘Twin!'” Williams said with a laugh. “Maybe we’ll get them T-shirts.”

No one questions Livingstone is making progress and making it quickly. If things had fallen the Blue Bears’ way in a 31-30 loss to St. Augustine’s and a 31-28 OT  loss to Fayetteville State, the Blue Bears would’ve been 7-3  instead of 5-5 and Williams would have been making Coach of the Year speeches in the offseason.

Williams says it’s been a great spring. The Blue Bears made strides in the weight room in the offseason and they got in about 10 March and April practices. They capped spring ball  with an Offense vs. Defense intrasquad game on Saturday. Assistant coaches called plays. Williams observed.

“We ran 65 to 70 plays and scored four of five touchdowns, with (veteran QB) Drew Powell throwing well, and Brandon Bennett having a big receiving day,” Williams said. “We ran the ball well and the offensive line did a nice job pass-blocking and run-blocking. We ran the ball more than we usually do.”

Williams said the defense started tentatively but got tougher as the afternoon moved along.

Veteran kicker Leo Manzo highlighted special teams. He was on target on a  40-yard field goal and didn’t miss any attempts.

“Nobody got hurt and we closed the deal on the spring on a high note,” Williams said. “We had a bigger crowd than last year. Our president (Dr. Jimmy Jenkins) and AD (Andre Springs)  were out here to support us. That always means a lot.”

Livingstone will begin the 2015 season at Benedict (4-6in 2014), at Virginia University of Lynchburg, and at home against University of Faith, so the Blue Bears have a chance for another roaring start.

After that, it will be time to see if the Blue Bears can reduce turnovers and win the close ones in the CIAA.

“I’m upbeat about where we are,” Williams said. “Our players know what the expectations are. We have grown up as a team. Our president talked to the players today about how much he appreciated them going to class and doing things the right way.”

Williams said his team is looking forward to the end of the academic school year. Then he’ll start counting the days until Sept. 5 and the start of another season.

“This school has a lot of momentum right now from the basketball team,” Williams said. “We hope to ride that wave in the fall.”