FEVER: Coach likes what he sees in camp

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 11, 2013 

Hope always springs eternal before a team’s season begins.

That holds true for Tri-Cities Fever coach Adam Shackleford.

After three full days of training camp, Shackleford is almost giddy at what he’s seen.

“From top to bottom, the professionalism is so much better than in past camps,” said Shackleford on Monday afternoon during the team’s workout in the Toyota Center. “I think we have a very talented team. We have a group of receivers who know the playbook. Our defensive backs are very talented, and Dennis Rogan isn’t even here yet.”

Even some of the Fever veterans have taken notice of the new guys.

“Actually, I love what I’ve been seeing,” said Fever veteran linebacker Boris Lee. “It’s crazy to have this kind of talent in the locker room. The players that do get released should not hold their heads down. This is going to be a numbers game, and it’s going to be tough for the coaches to make the cuts.”

In fact, when camp opened Saturday, Shackleford was planning on releasing 10 of his 38 players in camp by this evening.

Instead, it may just be two or three players.

“In years past it has been pretty easy to make the first cuts,” he said.

Players who have impressed Shackleford early include both quarterbacks, Kasey Peters and Dante Warren; wide receiver Dejuan Miller; and the entire offensive line.

“Usually after a few days, you see some separation on the line,” said Shackleford. “There has been no separation. Everybody seems to be on the same program together.”

The Fever have seven offensive linemen in camp, and Shackleford said that number will be needed to be cut down to five.

Veteran Shane McCord, mainly a defensive lineman, can also play on the offensive line.

At any rate, both sides of the line had been hitting each other hard enough the first three days that Shackleford gave them the Monday afternoon practice off to heal.

Only the skill position players were working out in the Toyota Center for the second practice.

And the skeleton drills between the receivers and defensive linebackers and secondary was highly spirited.

The bottom line, said Shackleford, is he thinks his team could be loaded for 2013. But it still has to prove it can win games.

“We’re better on the offensive line at this camp,” he said. “We’re better at defensive back, and I think we’re better at wide receiver. Tre Young wasn’t in camp with us last year and didn’t join us until three games into the season.”

Notes: Miller, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver from Oklahoma, has opened some eyes in camp with his size, speed and hands. ... The team ran out of medium-sized helmets and had to borrow some from local schools until more could be delivered. ... The Fever added DL Bailey Johnson on Monday. He played for the Fever last season. ... DL Pablo Garcia, out of San Jose State, is sidelined with a triceps tear. ... The team moves out of the Toyota Center today and will work out at either Lifequest in Pasco, or outdoors at Badger Mountain Park in Richland the rest of this week. ... Assistant coach Leroy Thompson left the Fever for another job — although Shackleford said he couldn’t say what that job is yet. Zeke Fife, a Hanford High assistant coach, will be a volunteer assistant for the Fever.

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