Towson coach Rob Ambrose talks with his players during the Northwestern… (AP photo )
After Towson's football practices, players tend to avoid defensive tackle Yaky Ibia.
Drenched in sweat, his cleats squish with every step he takes and his jersey is soaked all the way through as if he had just climbed out of a pool. Wide receiver Hakeem Moore won't slap the 295-pound lineman on the back or shake his hand, preferring to bump fists to avoid his teammate's sweat.
But Ibia prefers to look at the mass of sweat as a sign of how hard he worked through one of coach Rob Ambrose's practices, which push him to the brink every time.
"There's definitely times that during practice you find yourself tired," said Ibia, who was named Wednesday to the Colonial Athletic Association preseason team. "And it's for the good because in that fourth quarter, our team might be tired, but we've been through practice. [The coach's] whole thing is to try to make practice harder than the game so that when the game comes, you just flow naturally and you just do what you do."
Since taking control of Towson's football team last season, Ambrose has pushed his players to their limits while trying to win the team's first CAA championship, an effort the team will begin Aug.4 when summer camp starts.
In his first year as Tigers coach, Ambrose had his fair share of struggles, largely because of injuries, on the way to a 2-9 record. Towson started 10 offensive linemen and four quarterbacks and was depleted at several other positions by the season's end.
A season later, Ambrose and his staff have reconstructed the roster, bringing in recruits as well as transfers to create more competition during practice, something Ambrose believes is a key to improvement.
"When you lay the banner out there that you earn your spot and you have to earn the right to keep your spot, competition always exists, and that makes the guy up front get better," Ambrose said. "If [the backup] worked hard enough and doesn't pass him, then the team got better because that guy wouldn't let him. ÃÂ So when they're constantly competing with each other to be successful and that's the norm, that's the standard, we go from being average to being really good."
That mentality has carried over to the players.
"If you work hard that week and you outplayed that senior, that sophomore, that junior, you were going to play," Moore said. "It's about who did the job better, who was going to help us win this ballgame the best."
There will be plenty of competition on the field when summer camp starts for the Tigers on Wednesday, and Ambrose doesn't plan to cut his players any slack. Though the goals he has set for the team are "limited," he anticipates seeing a better product on the field Sept.2 when the Tigers' season opens with a Thursday night game at Indiana.
"We're going to compete our faces off, and I guarantee that the result on the field will be better than it was a year ago," he said.