August 18, 2011
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 18, 2011

NORFOLK, Va. - Coming off what was the most challenging practice to date, the Football Monarchs returned to the Powhatan Sports Complex practice fields on Thursday for another two-a-day.

"They came out today with a purpose and an attitude," said head coach Bobby Wilder. "I feel like we had two real good practices today and got better as a team."

The effects of the Great Dismal Swamp fire were evident in the morning's practice with smoky air surrounding the Norfolk and Hampton Roads area. While it was a bit of concern to the staff, it did not get to the point where it was unsafe for the Monarchs to take the field.

The afternoon session saw the Monarchs work on special teams.

"It's a major focus of this football team," said Wilder of the phase he refers to as the "All-Star Team." "It always has been and always will be. Everyone is expected to compete and start on our All-Star Team."

Punt techniques were the focus, in particular punt protection, work with the punt return unit, and working on some fakes.

"It was all the things you need to introduce in your preseason camp, particularly when you've got younger players that haven't been through it and haven't seen those fakes." Wilder commented of the punt drills. " To get that today was important for this team."

After leading the nation in punting as a freshman and ranking second as a sophomore, only a mere .05 yards from leading the category for a second straight season, can punter Jonathan Plisco get any better? "He's been excellent this preseason," said Wilder. "He's really working on his technique. He's trying to shorten his steps a little bit on his approach and be more compact. Believe it or not, he's actually been more explosive with the ball coming off his foot."

One of things the Monarchs saw during the spring that was going to need to be addressed entering the 2011 season was the need to replace All-American longsnapper Dustin Phillips. Two freshmen, Rick Lovato and Kevin Marley, have helped subside that concern in camp. "Rich Lovato has clearly established himself as the starter," said Wilder. "He's having a very good camp. Jonathan Plisco feels comfortable with him, as do all our players. Kevin Marley has also made a strong impression. We feel like he can develop into a good back-up."

Listen to punter Jonathan Plisco's media day interview with members of the ODU broadcast team Ted Alexander and Andy Mashaw.