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Training Camp Notes: Elements are There for a Championship Run

Colonials Beat Writer Michael Anderson

Aug 23, 2021

Williamsburg - Coming off an inaugural spring season that saw the team go 3-1 in conference play and a spot in the league championship game, the expectations for the Williamsburg Colonials in the upcoming fall season are high. And after 2-weeks of training camp and one full week of practice, those expectations are being met, according to Head Coach Dave Willis. Here are the highlights of things he noted:

-- “Things are really good.” He said. “Training camp went great, and the guys are picking up on the playbook pretty easy.”

-- He mentioned that the only thing they are really missing at this time is consistent attendance by the lineman. “We have linemen. But with their work schedules they haven’t always been there and it’s hurting us a little bit.”

-- When asked about the offensive line, he stated that they are about average size but have picked up a couple of linemen with some size that should help this season for the run game. “They should be alright with the fast pace of the offense.” He noted. “We installed it last week and they seemed to be able to keep up with it.”

-- He said that his biggest takeaway or biggest surprise from the team so far is how fast some of the players are. “We had speed in the spring.” He iterated. “But it’s unreal how fast some of these newer guys are.” To take advantage of and leverage that speed at the skill positions they will focus on plays that will get their guys out into open space.

-- Nothing is set in stone as for starters at the skill positions, but there are a few he is “watching.”

-- Coach Willis expects to see more offensive consistency this fall because “most guys have a season under their belt, so they know the offense. So, now it’s just a matter of getting the new guys into the system. But we should score a lot more points this fall.”

-- Regarding depth and substitutions so that the freshest players are in the games, Coach Willis stated that he has already been thinking about that and has created plays and formations for certain players. So, when a certain formation is called, for example, the players assigned to be a part of that formation will substitute in. This is the same process generally used at the mostly the college level.

-- As for the defense, the biggest take away thus far is how much experience there is because it consists mostly of returning players. Considering this is a defense whose opponents averaged 12 points per game in the spring, Coach Willis is still looking for improved play and consistency.

-- Coach Willis believes that the addition of Coach Lonnie Jones as the linebackers coach has really turned the defense “up a notch” so that they (the defense) will be better than they were in the spring.

-- As for Coach Jones, his knowledge of the game and the pace of the game has been his biggest assets to the team. Coach Willis pointed out that Coach Jones is “vocal” and is quick to both praise and let someone know when they didn’t do something exactly right, a much-needed resource this fall that was missing during the spring season.

-- The defense will continue to be aggressive, as it was in the spring, but will have more speed on the outside. However, they have been working on improving overall pass coverage because that was a weakness that teams exploited at times during the spring, hurting the Colonials during key situations.

-- The safeties are good about coming up and providing run support, leaving the corners “out on an island”. This, along with running a “stack” with the linebackers makes the ability to stop the run formidable. The corners have good experience, earning the trust from Coach Willis to enforce pass coverage.

-- Special teams is good, with an experienced kicker who has “hit” from 45 yards. From 30-35 yards he is proficient at 80%+ and is very good with extra points.

-- Return specialist, Antonio Rawlings, returns from a successful spring returning kicks.

-- As a whole, Coach Willis feels they are in better “shape” as a team than they were in the spring. He attributes that to three things: the experienced players returning with more confidence now that they have a season under their belts, the new guys being fast and good at picking up on things quickly, and the addition of new position coaches that allow for more individual coaching. Those three elements he feels puts them “over the top”, positioning the Colonials for a solid season that could easily result in another championship run.

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