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August 13, 2012

Camp Report: Opportunity knocks for some

Now is about the time when training camp starts to take its toll on players. For the first few days, it's all adrenaline and nerves, especially for the freshmen. Robert Morris went through its seventh day of practice on Monday, and they will not get a day off until six days from now. That's a 12-day stretch with nothing but football, meetings, football, food, football, sleep, and football.

Now is about the time where training camp becomes less about being physically capable of holding up to the rigors of Division I football and being more about holding up mentally. If you're a freshman in camp, are you picking up the playbook? Are you remembering assignments, especially when the play only tangentially involves you? For the veteran players, it's about immediate recognition. Thinking through a play is possible for a freshman without being a killer. Still thinking through a play as a junior or even senior could cost you significant playing time. It has to be second nature, and the sooner it happens in camp, the better.

Injuries happen. Ankles get twisted, arms get crunched, backs get sore. And that's why it becomes imperative for players to be ready mentally. Nine different players moved up on the depth chart on Monday, many of them getting significant exposure for the first time. These opportunities opened solely because of injuries. What happens when the coaches start reviewing for ineffectiveness?

In talking to several coaches recently, they've all brought up the mental strength required of the players. Yes, the physical fitness is important, and getting repetitions is key. But to a man, they've all talked about how certain players are adjusting to the mental requirements necessary to compete for Robert Morris.

Just ask Matt Layman and Tyler Forbes last year. Jeff Sinclair was the unquestioned starter at quarterback, and that was the case much of the season. But one play in Central Connecticut State took Sinclair out for the final few games, and thrust Layman - a true freshman quarterback - into the starting role. Just one a week later, Layman took a shot to the hip and found himself out for the season, leaving RMU with Forbes, who was running the scout team just a week before.

If the players think that the coaches aren't watching how a Derik Abbott handles moving up to second team at quarterback for a day, or how fullbacks Corey Garry and Cody Zearing handle splitting first time fullback duties because of injuries, they have another thing coming. The best evaluations come from watching someone handle additional responsibilities, and it's one of the key elements of training camp.

For more from camp on Monday, check out the full report.

Click here for the full, exclusive training camp report


ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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