Tribe football update: weekly luncheon

Today, I attended the weekly Tribe Football Luncheon at the Hospitality House. Lunch was baked salmon and mashed potatoes, a far cry from the Caf, and it was a relatively full house as two camera crews were present from the Norfolk CBS and NBC affiliates.

Evidently, the Spartans take their football quite seriously down the road in Norfolk.

On to the news:

– Head Coach Jimmye Laycock began by addressing his team’s performance against Virginia Military Institute, praising his squad’s performance, but citing some erratic play as a leading factor in a less than perfect victory.

“The VMI game was a good win,” said Laycock.

“At times we looked like we picked up where we left off against NC State.”

However, the coach later expressed a need to eliminate mistakes citing dropped passes, turnovers, and penalties as the leading miscreants.

“I would like to see us being more consistent catching the football and more consistent with some of the routes that we run, but overall, the thing that I keep coming back to is that we’re not good enough to offset the mistakes that we have made,” Laycock said. “We’re not good enough offensively to continue to do that against the people we’re going to play.”

No disagreement here, as the Tribe will find ranked CAA programs such as JMU, Richmond, and Delaware far less accommodating than the Keydets.

– Despite the blowout win, the College did suffer a fair amount of minor injuries.

“We are extremely banged up, we are much more banged up after the VMI game than after the NC State game and it’s not even close,” Laycock said. “A whole lot of players are day to day and a lot of guys are going to be questionable as we go into this week. “

– Elsewhere on the injury front, senior tailback DeBrian Holmes could be close to a return this Saturday. The squad’s number one back practiced last night in shorts and is slated to don pads and a heavier workload tonight. Senior safety Robert Livingston could make his 2008 debut against Norfolk State as well.

– One of the issues facing Laycock and his staff is what to do with both sophomore tailback Terrence Riggins and freshman Jonathan Grimes. The pair tallied well over 250 yards combined rushing against VMI, yet Laycock did not seem too concerned with finding playing time for the trio.

“That’s a good problem to have, we’ll work on that and we’ll find a way to get them all out there somehow,” Laycock said.
“One of the reasons that Jonathan and Terrence played so well is that they were fresh and we were able to keep them fresh.”

With Holmes’ return imminent, the Tribe is immediately loaded with one of the deeper and more talented backfields in the CAA, a factor which could figure heavily in the typically pass heavy playbook.

“We might have to run the wishbone,” Laycock joked.

– A key challenge facing the College this week is how to combat a team with which they are utterly unfamiliar. The Tribe has not faced Norfolk State since 1985, in Laycock’s sixth year as head coach.

“We don’t really know a lot about them,” senior linebacker Michael Pigram said. “It’s hard to know what plays they’re going to run or what type of offense, we just have to study film hard and study film long. It’s not one of our regular opponents who we play every year where we know what they run, they could come out with anything really.”

However, junior tight end Rob Varno compared the Spartan defense to that of VMI.

“I think Norfolk State is a little more athletic than VMI, but seeing that same defensive front will help us get ready a little better than last week,” Varno said. “We’ll run similar blocking schemes. Seeing the same front two weeks in a row is definitely something that could help us be successful.”

– On a closing note, the Tribe last year faced one of their toughest schedules ever and, after three weeks of FCS play, this season’s looks to be no easier. Five of the top ten squads in The Sporting News’ latest FCS poll play in the CAA, while Villanova checks in at no. 19. After Norfolk State comes to town this week, five of the College’s remaining eight games will be against ranked CAA schools including Richmond, JMU, and Delaware who are all in the top six. Norfolk State is no slouch either, receiving 23 votes in Sunday’s poll while the Tribe garnered one nod.


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