FEVER: Team prepares for season opener

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 25, 2013 

Adam Shackleford took a long look at the bulletin board in his office on Monday.

On it was the Tri-Cities Fever roster, and Shackleford — the team’s head coach — tried to imagine what an opposing coach would think of his team’s strengths.

He quickly came to the conclusion that the Fever defensive secondary will definitely be one of the IFL’s best.

“I like our situation in the secondary,” Shackleford said. “I like what we have. Both motion cover guys (Lionell Singleton and Rudell Crim) have experience.”

And the new players — Donyae Coleman, TraVaun Nixon and Gary Wilburn — have had strong camps.

Singleton, a first-team All-IFL selection last season, likes what he’s seen of his backfield mates in camp.

“I think we’re going to do some good things,” Singleton said. “I think a lot more teams will come out throwing the ball this season. I think this is a passing league, especially with two guys in motion.”

Still, until the team either kicks off or receives the kickoff at 6 p.m. Friday in Colorado, neither Shackleford nor his players know what they have until things start for real.

“I think we have a lot of unknowns,” Shackleford said. “We really like the guys we have. I think we’ve kept the right guys, made the right choices.”

There are more choices to make.

As of Monday afternoon, the Fever roster stood at 29 and that number needs to be down to 25 by Wednesday.

In addition, Shackleford hasn’t named his starting quarterback yet: either Kasey Peters or Dante Warren.

Whatever happens, the Fever coach has once again followed the winning formula that helped Tri-Cities make it to the IFL championship game two seasons running: use a mix of seasoned veterans with talented rookies.

Because of that, Shackleford looks at starting seven rookies Friday night on both sides of the ball. Last season, the team started that same number of rookies on opening night.

In comparison, a number of the other eight IFL teams will start mainly veterans this season. That’s what happens when the league drops from 16 teams in 2012 to nine this season: plenty of veterans are looking for jobs.

Shackleford has been happy with training camp, especially since it’s been so long. Camp opened on Feb. 9.

“I still feel very good about both sides of the ball on the line,” he said.

Former Pasco High star Ryan Tolar will help anchor a big offensive line that will also include Trevon Williams — a 6-foot-3, 330-pounder who played two seasons ago with Colorado and last season was with the New Orleans VooDoo in the Arena Football League.

But things aren’t going to be easy, said Shackleford.

“I don’t think we’re going to scare anybody from the start,” he said. “A lot of teams loaded up with players from other teams last year.”

Regardless, Singleton believes there will be pressure to perform well, based on the past two seasons.

“But I’m ready for the season to start,” he said.

Notes: DB Dennis Rogan is one of the 29 players on the roster, but he hasn’t made it to camp yet. He’s expected to arrive this Friday, so he won’t suit up for the opener. ... This will be the first full weekend of IFL play, with eight of the nine teams in action. Besides the Fever being at Colorado on Friday night, Texas will visit Cedar Rapids. On Saturday, Green Bay visits Chicago, while Sioux Falls is at Nebraska. ... Cedar Rapids picked up a 58-52 win over Chicago on Sunday. Titans quarterback Charles McCullum passed for two touchdowns and ran for another for a 24-7 lead before Cedar Rapids coach Mark Stoute replaced him with last year’s starter, Colton Hansen. He passed for five TDs, as the Titans held off the Slaughter for the victory. McCullum wasn’t injured. He decided that if the Titans had a comfortable lead, he would play Hansen.

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