Apollos look at the sunny side despite wet weather
By Tom Alexander, Orlando Apollos Team Reporter
SAN ANTONIO — Friday’s practice at Orlando Apollos training camp was like a dog’s nose: cold and wet. Forecasters initially expected the rain in San Antonio to hold off until the afternoon, but a light rain began falling as soon as The Apollos got off their buses at the University of the Incarnate Word.
It’s always challenging to play football in inclement weather, but Friday’s less-than-ideal conditions gave The Apollos the opportunity to make adjustments and plans for they will do in that sort of situation during the inaugural Alliance of American Football regular season.
Here are the three key takeaways from Friday’s practice:
1. The defense continues to impress
Playing against other Alliance defenses could likely seem like child’s play to the Apollos offense after having to face the team’s own defense each day. The unit continues to impress. Cornerback Deji Olatoye was in on several good defensive plays, including a great play to bat down a touchdown pass in red zone drills. In addition, The Apollos quarterbacks did a lot more scrambling today to avoid the pass rush, which looks like it will be something other teams should fear.
“We’ve definitely got some dogs on the defense. That’s going to be something to look forward to,” linebacker Reggie Northrup II said.
When asked what the identity of the defense will be, Northrup responded, “Dogs, straight dogs. [The] Apollo Militia. F-L-A: freaks and large athletes,” he said.
- The grind of practice is taking its toll
Friday was the fifth consecutive day of practice for The Apollos, and the grind of training camp and two-a-days at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium is taking its toll. A quirk of the training camp schedule gave the players a day off Sunday following just one practice the day before. Several players are dealing with small, nagging injuries that come with getting into better shape. Others have more serious injuries. Apollos linebacker Ronald Powell was placed on the league’s Reserve/Injured list earlier this week. “We had one or two guys pull muscles, so we probably need to cut back a little bit on our running. We’ll do that over the next couple days, over the weekend,” Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier said after practice.
- The red zone offense is coming together
The Apollos look as if they’re going to be a dangerous red zone team. Wide receiver Jalin Marshall ran for a touchdown on a reverse during combined drills. Not to be outdone, quarterback Austin Appleby rolled out to his right on one play, and just before running out of bounds he threaded the needle to find wide receiver Frankie Hammond for a touchdown. Quarterback Kevin Anderson scored as well, sprinting to the left on an option keeper and finding the end zone. Garrett Gilbert also made several well-placed throws in red zone drills, finding running back Ryan Green on one play for a touchdown.
Later, in a simulated 3rd-and-10 situation, Gilbert completed an excellent pass to wide receiver Donteea Dye Jr. for a first down, placing the ball just over Dye’s shoulder in a spot where the defender could not reach it.
The Apollos canceled Friday afternoon’s scheduled walkthrough because of the weather. The team will practice Saturday before having an off day Sunday. Next week, the team will host a joint practice with The Arizona Hotshots. The joint practice is set for Wednesday, January 16, at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. All Apollos’ practices during training camp are open to the public.