03/06/2009 6:14 PM
Head Coach Adam Shackleford (center) opens his third training camp with the Shock on March 9th.
And so it begins – the Road back to the Arena Cup for the Spokane Shock. Since a heart-breaking defeat in the 2008 ArenaCup, Head Coach Adam Shackleford and Director of Player Personnel Ryan Rigmaiden began carefully constructing a 35-man roster in the hopes of not only returning to the ArenaCup but winning it.
Their journey to the 2009 ArenaCup begins on March 9th with the start of training camp. Unlike previous seasons, Shackleford’s roster is full of veterans (including 10 returning players from last season) and a talented corps of rookies. With the talent on this roster, Shackleford has his sights on a second trip to the Arena Cup in his third season as Head Coach of the Shock.
“We had a short off-season this year, but for this last month it seems like it couldn’t get here quick enough,” Shackleford said. “We’re excited to see the product on the field – we have a talented group of veterans and a loaded group of rookies. In fact, this may be the best group of rookies we have ever had. It’s going to be tremendous competition and it’s going to be very interesting to see how this thing turns out.”
One of the most interesting position battles, according to Shackleford, will be on the offensive line. Last year, Shackleford brought in five linemen for three starting spots; this year, nine will be coming into training camp.
“Out of those nine players, all of them can do it. They are all worthy of playing in this league,” Shackleford explained. “That will be a very interesting battle.”
Amongst this group, no player is shorter then 6-foot-2 and no player is lighter than 300 pounds. Shackleford said that he plans on keeping four of the nine players during the regular season. They will be competing for three starting spots.
One of the most notable changes to the Shock’s offensive line is the departure of C Rico Ochoa, who retired last season. Ochoa, who was named the third best linemen of all-time in the af2, will be replaced by one of three players: returner Kyle Young
, rookie Lorenzo Breland
, or former E.W.U Eagle (and rookie) Matt Alfred
Young seems to be the early favorite to earn the starting center positions as the only returning player. Despite playing right guard last year, center is his natural position.
On the defensive side of the ball, Shackleford said that he expects a competitive battle in the secondary as well.
DB Sergio Gilliam
headlines this group after a record-setting season last year with 20 interceptions (regular season and post-season) and was honored as the Rookie of the Year. Gilliam will be joined by af-2 veteran Virgil Gray
and Aaron Williams
. Last season, Gray was a member of the Lubbock Renegades and led the team in tackles (88.5), interceptions (8) and was second on the team in pass break-ups. Williams spent last season with the Amarillo Dusters and was named 1st
-Team all-af2 after he recorded 12 interceptions, 61 tackles, 19 pass break-ups. In the post-season, Williams recorded two interceptions, including one against the Shock in the Conference Championship game.
Gilliam and Gray will be joined by an impressive group of athletic rookies, headlined by Stanley Franks.
“Every player that we bring in has an opportunity to make this roster; they are here for a reason.” Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Alex Sirianni said. “But, I’ve heard a lot about Stanley Franks. I’ve heard he’s an outstanding player; he had an excellent college career and his film was very impressive. I’m expecting a lot of things out of him this year – but I’m expecting a lot big things out of all of our rookies. This is an impressive group of players we are bringing into camp.”
For Spokane fans, their first opportunity to see the 2009 edition of the team will be on March 18th. That night, the Shock will host the Arkansas Twisters for a preseason game. The Twisters are lead by former Head Coach Chris Siegfried and QB Kyle Rowley; both were a key component in the Shock’s 2006 ArenaCup Championship team.
According to Director of Ticket Sales Andrew Dolan, plenty of great seats are still available for the game.
“Most of the seats that we have available are half the price of what they are during the regular season,” Dolan said. “This will be a chance for our fans to see the 2009 team from seats that are normally not available during the regular season. This will also be the first chance for our fans to see the 2009 edition of the Shock and some familiar faces from the Twisters.”
From a coaching perspective, this game will be a “great opportunity” to evaluate players, according to Sirianni, and it will be treated just like a regular season game.
“If I handed you our game-day schedule from the Arena Cup, it will look just the same as our schedule will for the 18th,” Sirianni explained. “We will play this game to win it but at the same time we have to look at the big picture. It’s unfortunate to lose a preseason game, but it’s flat-out embarrassing to lose a player for the year.”
Tickets for the preseason game can be purchased by clicking here
35 players will come into camp and only 22 will remain (19 of which are active) on the roster during the regular season. The road to the Arena Cup starts here, but before the journey begins Shackleford and his staff will have some tough decisions to make.
“Cutting players is the worst part of my job, but it is something that has to be done,” Shackleford explained. “I’ve made a commitment to this city, and to the owners that I want to put the best team on the field possible. That doesn’t always mean it will be the most-liked team, or the team that will win the fan-poll – it means the best football players are going to play.”