During Liberty’s practices so far this offseason, coach Steve Valach has kept a vigilant eye on one stat that could go a long way in determining his team’s season: turnover margin.
That’s right, Valach records every turnover created and every turnover lost during practice. Right now, he points out rather quickly, his group holds a plus four turnover margin, although it should be noted that Valach counts anytime his offense lets the ball hit the ground as a turnover.
For Valach, it’s become the calling card of this offseason and the thing that he reiterates daily to his players.
“Are we a powerhouse? Not by any means,” he said. “But if we take care of the football and play good defense, we’re going to be in a lot of games.”
Valach cites turnovers as one of the biggest reasons why his team went 4-6 last year; the Patriots had a minus-15 ratio a year ago. So where does that turnover margin number need to be in order for the Patriots to have a chance this season?
“By the end of the season, if we’re in double digits with that ratio, we’ll be a playoff team,” Valach said.
Valach said his team’s meat and potatoes are with the skill position players, who are led by wide receivers Tynan Gilmore (5-10, 165) and Scott Dean (5-10, 170). Those guys will team up with first-year quarterback Robbie Thomas (6-3, 185) to form the core of Liberty’s offense.
“Decent team speed and skill position players are a strength,” Valach said.
On the flip side, Liberty isn’t an exceptionally big team, although the Patriots do return Nick Short (6-1, 210) on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Not a lot of depth,” Valach said, “and we’re not real big. But we’re pretty disciplined and pretty tough so I think that gives us a shot. I think we make up for it with that.”
And with those turnovers. That’s something Valach came back to again and again: His team must win those turnover battles in order to be competitive.
“It’s a good group that really understands the big team, little me concept,” Valach said. “That’s a big point of emphasis. Put your ego to the side and really do everything you can to contribute to making the team better.”
Players to watch:
Comments from coach Steve Valach.
WR/DB Tynan Gilmore, 5-10, 170: “He’s really been a three-year starter and a good player.”
WR/LB Scott Dean, 5-10, 170: “He’s just a real good football player.”
QB Robbie Thomas, 6-3, 185: “We really like him. He’s a good athlete back there.”
OL/DE Nick Short, 6-1, 210: “He was honorable mention defensive end last year.”
RB/LB Alex Batali, 5-10, 185: “He’s a returning starter for us.”
Game to watch:
@ Eastside Catholic on Aug. 31. Eastside Catholic should be tough this year and gives Liberty a good gauge right away.
Can Robbie Thomas and his skill players make up for the Patriots being slightly undersized and a little light on depth?