NEW ORLEANS — Kurt Rocco proved last season he can make the big throws. Now VooDoo coach Pat O’Hara wants Rocco to improve his accuracy on the short variety.
One season after Rocco passed for 5,317 yards and 107 touchdowns, both franchise records, the third-year quarterback enters this spring after an offseason of work on his mechanics.
His work will continue Monday as the VooDoo hold its first practice in full pads. Players reported Friday afternoon.
Training camp practices, to be held at Tad Gormley Stadium, are open to the public. The VooDoo will play its lone preseason game March 6 at San Antonio and open the regular season March 24 against Orlando.
At 6-foot-6, Rocco possess a unique combination of size with a quick release. Now, his passes need to reach their targets more often.
“It’s time for the next step in his progression — consistency in his play,” O’Hara said.
Rocco’s completion percentage last season (60.4) was a decrease from his rookie campaign of 2011, when he threw considerably less passes. He became a starter early in the season for the Cleveland Gladiators and completed 64.4 percent of his passes (3,834 yards, 72 TDs, 14 INTs).
Rocco’s biggest challenge with the VooDoo last season proved to be passes off three-step drops — hitches and slants, both vital in quick-throw offenses of the Arena Football League.
“The angles are different when throwing to the sideline,” Rocco said of the league’s indoor field. “I’m working to get my feet underneath me and square.”
Still, Rocco’s improvements in his first season with the Voodoo allowed the franchise to transform from a league-worst 3-15 record to a spot in the 2012 playoffs. His ability to continue improve this spring could send the Voodoo back to the postseason.
If he does achieve that accomplishment, it will occur without former VooDoo receiver Josh Bush.
Last season, Bush led the team with a career-high 115 passes for 1,799 yards and 37 TDs. His receiving yards set a team record.
One of his replacements might be former Sarah Reed standout Donovan Morgan, a veteran receiver of the Arena Football League who was granted a trade to the VooDoo in November. Last season, Morgan caught 79 passes for 1,020 yards and 26 TDs, helping the Philadelphia Soul reach ArenaBowl XXV.
Back this season for the VooDoo is nose guard Marlon Favorite, who prepped at Archbishop Shaw and played college football at LSU.
O’Hara, who enters his second season as VooDoo coach, also wants Rocco to decrease his interceptions, which last season totaled 17.
Perhaps the best way?
Know when to throw the football away, one of the most difficult lessons for any quarterback, on any level, to learn.
“It’s to do something that feels wrong,” said O’Hara, a former Arena Football League quarterback. “What feels wrong is to throw the ball away and give up on a play.
“There were times he did that. And times where — we all do it — he tried to do a little too much.”