Osceola Opens NIFL Season on March 9th
The time for talk is over. The time for action is now. And Osceola Football is ready for action.
With the National Indoor Football League season beginning at the Silver Spurs Arena on March 9 against the Charlotte Fusion, the team reported to Osceola County last week for team orientation. They received playbooks and equipment Wednesday and Thursday, and formal training camp opened Saturday at Hopkins Park in St. Cloud. Coach Marquette Smith is putting players through two-a-day workouts. Tentatively, the team will work out from 2:30-5:30 and from 7-9:30 Mondays through Wednesdays.
Smith said that where it's normal for 6-7 players to not show for pre-season activites. But he only had one prospective player out of 40 not show. It's another positive sign for the revival of indoor football in Kissimmee and Osceola County. Smith said he learned lessons from last year's experience with the Kissimmee Kreatures that he vowed never to repeat again.
"We're going to have more depth at quarterback, running back and offensive line," Smith said.
It should show in the product on the field. For instance, Smtih goes into camp being able to field two full offensive lines. "Last year I went to camp with four offensive linemen."
And this year's camp features five quarterbacks. Two, Ramon Robinson and Rob Harding (last year's starter) have experience in the indoor game.
The other three, Kewan Newberry, Kevin Jackson and Jose Laureano, the latter a local out of Orlando's Colonial High School, are all great athletes that can make things happen in the offense with their feet.
"They just lack the experience of this league's game. In the Arena League and AFL2 you see almost all man coverage. Here you see it all; cover-2, cover-3, all the coverage you see in the outdoor game. Teams made it hard on Rob to make the reads last year."
Smith is also committed to a power running game. Running backs Adreal Curry (from UCF) and Mike Stevenson (Northern Iowa, alma mater of Kurt Warner) both go 6-1, 260 pounds and should be able to chew up yards behind an offensive line that will average 320 pounds across the front.
For a change of pace, Smith can turn to Ottis Shannon, Indiana's career high school rushing leader (7,530 yards). "He has great hands, so when teams bunch up to stop up run, we can swing out the pass to him," Smith said.
"Change of pace" also describes the receiving corps. There's the big guys (6-2 Ty Law, 6-3 Dabbar Fluellen, 6-0 Novac Traxler) and the little guys (5-10 Jerald Clark, Robinson's favorite target with the UIF Evansville Bluecats last year, 5-8 James Panui, the NIFL's rookie sensation last year, 5-6 Andre Raines). Panui is also a threat returning kickoffs.
And don't let Raines size - or lack of it -- fool you. "He's probably too fast for the indoor game," Smith said.
It is a deeper lineup that will allow Osceola Football to do many of the same things that Smith's team did last year on offense in the first week of the season, when it fell to the Montgomery Maulers but scored 63 points.
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