March 26, 2012
You lost Jewel Hampton. What's your plan to fill that void?
"Well, we have four good running backs in camp. It's definitely running back by committee. That will be one of the goals of spring ball, seeing how the backs work together and how to work them together. We'll make that assessment as we go through spring ball."
Talk about the quarterback situation
"Paul (McIntosh) can't do anything this spring. So we're looking at Kory (Faulkner), who started seven games last year. We want to see how he's developed his game in the offseason. It's an opportunity for Kory to really make a step forward. That's his goal on spring. AJ Hill is going to get more reps, and we have a couple young quarterbacks that want to get in the mix. It's going to be competitive at the quarterback position. We know what Paul can do; we just need to see if he can get healthy enough to come back and be a factor."
Who do you look to be the leader?
"We've been working on that since January with our offseason strength and conditioning program. That's taken shape already, and this morning I thought we hit the ground running. Our leadership guys have already been established and have taken charge on the field. Now we want to make it more football-field leadership and not just the weight room."
How do you feel like the first day went?
"I thought it was fun to get out here first day. Coaches have to get back in a rhythm; players have to get back in a rhythm. You want to see that recall from last year offensively and defensively. I was pretty impressed. We were able to do a lot with our schemes. You could still tell it was the first day. There were some mental errors being made. There was a sloppy play here or there, but it was a good start. It was something we can definitely build upon."
How do you measure success in the spring?
"You want to set your depth chart more than anything else. We'll be looking at schemes--what we do well and what we don't do well--but the biggest part is just player evaluation. You want to find the players who are going to step up and be your go-to guys. If we can accomplish that, I think we've had a good spring."
Did you think this was a snappy practice and things were crisp?
"It was good. We had a good tempo. We carried over a good attitude from our offseason conditioning and weight training, so I think that was a natural fit coming into the first day of practice. Now, come Wednesday, everything should be even more normal for them, and they'll have a better idea of what to expect and anticipate. You want an even more crisp practice come Wednesday."
What are some of the biggest changes?
"It's just tweaks. We'll run the pistol. We'll do some things with personnel and formations where you'll see guys in another spot, just trying to incorporate people into offensive schemes. Defensively, we're really just going to focus on the fundamentals. You're going to see us do live tackling drills during the course of practice, working on the fundamentals that can make you a great defensive team."
What other schools did the coaches go in the offseason?
"Offensively, we went to Oklahoma. We talked about there tempo game--how they adjust from one tempo to the next. That will be something we work on here, offensively. Defensively, we went to Georgia Tech. They're a 3-4 team, so we're just working on things that 3-4 teams need to do to be good, certainly refining our zone blitz game to make it a little bit better. Both of those visits were very beneficial for us."
Can you explain the theme this spring, "Get Better"?
"Our theme this year is "Get Better." The rationale behind it is when you look at our games last year, we were in every game. We had a chance to win every game, but we just didn't do it. The bottom line is we weren't good enough to finish the way we needed to. That's what we need to accomplish. We need to finish the game and be a little better than what we were last year. That's the theme, "Get Better." Everything we do, we need to do a little bit better."
Defensive line was one of your strengths last year. What makes you think they can be just as strong this year?
"The experience factor on the defensive line, especially now with Ken Boatright having a year under his belt and Kayon Swanson going into his senior year and Eze Obiora playing as well, that makes for a pretty talented line. And with some outside linebackers that have some experience, I'm excited to see just what this front seven is capable of doing."
What are your thoughts on the offensive line after losing Bryan Boemer and David Pickard?
"We have to find the right fit. We lost Boemer and Pickard, so there's a couple of spots open. The key on the line is to have the same five guys week in and week out. Last year we juggled because we had to with injuries. We really want to find five guys we can count on day in and day out."
How do you evaluate the quarterback spot with Paul McIntosh out for the spring?
"Paul being out really opens some doors for the other guys. For Kory (Faulkner), we want to see if he's taken that extra step in his development, and from today, I really liked what I saw. He had the confidence and made some throws that were extremely impressive. That's what I want to see. It's also going to give A.J. Hill a chance to step up and get some quality reps and push hard to prove what he can do. And it gives our young guys a chance to step forward and be contributors. We know what Paul is going to be a competitor when he gets back, but right now it affords us the luxury of seeing where the other quarterbacks are at in their development."
Kayon Swanson had a great year last year. Is there something you've challenged him on to improve this year?
"Well, we're always challenging Kayon to get better and be more consistent. He has a very impressive high-end game. If he can get to that level play in and play out, where he's being a factor and making offenses account for him, that's what we're looking for from him."