Offensive lineman Leonardo Bates expects consistent play this season from the New Orleans VooDoo, a franchise in the Arena Football League which he believes has benefited from an offseason overhaul of its coaching staff, administration and roster.
A lack of consistency plagued the 2014 VooDoo, especially on offense where the unit ranked 13th out of 14 AFL teams in scoring (42.8 ppg) and total offense (243.9). Coupled with a rash of injuries, the Voodoo struggled to a 3-15 record.
“Last year, we had streaks where the offense looked pretty good and then the very next play, we’d lose a fumble or throw an interception,” said Bates, a New Orleans native and product of Higgins High School. “No, it’s not going to be that way. We’re going to be consistent.”
The VooDoo, under first-year coach Dean Cokinos, open the 2015 season March 28 against the Jacksonville Sharks at the Smoothie King Center. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Bates said players, rookies and veterans alike, have embraced the teachings of Cokinos, who expects players to not just perform, but utilize practiced techniques. Any other way is wrong.
Not that there’s just one way to play.
Bates said the coaching staff has taught new techniques to the players, allowing them to expand their playing toolbox, especially on game days.
“They expect a certain result, and they do everything in their power to get it,” said Bates, who played college football at Louisiana-Lafayette from 2008-12. “And they expect us to give it. I like that.”
Also new this season: the VooDoo will compete in the AFL’s East Division with the Cleveland Gladiators and Philadelphia Soul.
The VooDoo are scheduled to trim its roster to 24 by Saturday, per league rules.
“The biggest thing I’m seeing right now is competition,” Cokinos said after the first week of practice. “We’ve got a lot of guys fighting, competing. We’re going to have a lot of hard decisions here going forward.”
One of the most important decisions will be at quarterback, where the VooDoo return Adam Kennedy, who earned the starting job late last season after injuries decimated the position, including former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. The VooDoo also have second-year AFL pro Brian Reader and rookie Brendon Kay in camp.
In seven starts last season, Kennedy threw for 1,535 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Other players with Louisiana ties on the training camp roster include LSU product Josh Downs (Bastrop), who is on injured reserve, and former Ole Miss standout Daverin Geralds (Baton Rouge), who is on league suspension.
On Saturday, the VooDoo will host a meet for the public from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Short Stop Po Boy’s in Metairie. The event offers fans a chance to interact with VooDoo players, coaches, front office staff, the VooDoo Dolls and team mascots.