Q&A with Coach Gregg Smith

One of the constants of fall camp has been the ever changing offensive line. Despite all the revisions taking place on the front five this unit has performed well at times. Coach Smith talked to Devils Digest about his group's showing in camp and how they have been able to deal with the various adjustments occurring this month.

Devils Digest: Coming out of fall camp how do you feel about this group as a whole?

Gregg Smith: "I think we made some strides. We're still trying to figure out who will be our starting five and there are a couple of spots that are still open and we have kids competing for these positions. We're making progress."

DD: Perhaps the biggest position change you had is moving Dan Knapp from tight end to left tackle. How do you assess his performance?

GS: "I thought he did a good job. He has worked extremely hard. The run blocking came natural to him because it isn't that different from what he did at tight end. The pass protection was the biggest transition he had to make. He's continuing to work at his technique, get a better understanding of the different aspects of the different protections we use."

DD: At right tackle Evan Finkenberg is just a redshirt freshman, but showed a lot to you last season to just be considered to play at tackle. How do you think he did at fall camp?

GS: "I thought he did pretty well. Like any young player he's a little bit inconsistent in some of the things that he does. One thing about is that he is very coachable, very intelligent and he will do whatever is needed to get the job down."

DD: As a JC transfer Brice Schwab came in here as the projected starting left tackle and he's obviously playing at right guard now. Are you surprised how well he has been doing in his new position or maybe you thought from the start that he could play at guard down the road?

GS: "I didn't think he would play guard, but like I said previously in interviews we need to find our five best players on the field. So we're moving guys around, seeing what positions they can play and move from there. He hasn't been at that position for a while and he has never played there before perhaps since high school. So it's a transition and work in progress but he is a team player. He wants to do what is best for this football team and what's best for him in the long run."

DD: At left guard you're still trying to decide between Adam Tello and Andrew Sampson. Can you talk about that position battle?"

GS: "I thought they both did well. Adam started at right guard and when Brice switched inside we kicked Adam over to left and now he's battling with Andrew who still has to play some (backup) center too. But it's a pretty good competition between those two now."

DD: With all the changes going on it must be comforting to know that your center who anchors the line, Garth Gerhart, will stay put…

GS: "Garth has a very good understanding of the offense and he's a solid football player. He can sit there and guide the front the way we want it to be guided. He's a real plus for us all around."

DD: You mentioned wanting Sampson to play backup center, but you played Kody Kobensky there too. How do you think he has done playing center?

GS: "I think he has done pretty well. It was an adjustment for him, but he is a very good snapper. The hardest thing he has to get used to is snapping the ball and getting in run block or pass set position. So that's stuff he's really working at and he has done a pretty adequate job so far."

DD: Sometimes we forget that JC transfers can struggle their first year just like true freshmen do. Do you feel Chris De Armas is just experiencing that natural learning curve?

GS: "I think so. Sometimes I see flashes of Chris doing some real nice things and then some flashes of Chris not doing so good. But I see more good than bad so that's a sign that he is continuing to improve. When he came in here he was probably not as strong as he wanted to be, so he has worked hard in the weight room. He will be a good player for us down the road."

DD: Can you briefly talk about the true freshmen in the group Jamil Douglas, Tyler Sulka and Sil Ajawara and how they did in camp?

GS: "Jamil will be an outstanding player. He's very athletic, but needs to redshirt so he can get in that weight room and grow. But I love his upside and down the road he will be very good for us. Tyler is kind of the same way. He's just a little undersized so he has to get into the weight room and get bigger. Sil will be a really good guard and is naturally a very strong player. He has good feet but a little bit heavy right now so unlike the other two we have to get some of his weight off. But our strength coach and dietitian are all aware of this stuff and exactly what we need to get done."

DD: With the new offensive scheme being implemented since the spring do you feel that the group has been able to fully grasp this system and is it where in needs to be right now in that regard?

GS: "Not really. You know me, I'm never satisfied and my expectations are high and I want them to have the same expectations for themselves. I don't know if you ever get totally and completely satisfied. It's always a work in progress.

"Are we improving? Without a doubt. But to me you never totally solidify it until you have really accomplished what your goals are at the end of the year." DD: When you look at run blocking versus pass blocking is there one aspect that you are maybe more pleased with than the other coming out of camp?

GS: "Our run blocking has been pretty good and we have run the football pretty well during camp. Obviously, it helps to have talented running backs. Our pass protection looks pretty good but at times we'll have one player break down and that messes up the whole protection. We have to have five guys all playing at the same time all doing the same thing."

DD: When you look at the chemistry aspect of the line do you feel that it's coming along as fast as you want it to?

GS: "I think so. You have guys coming in and out and playing different spots, so you want to make sure that they have a good understanding of what we are trying to do. I have seen some really good things. We still have a lot of work to do and we are at the point right now where we have to play a football game and beat on somebody else than our own guys."


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