Fall camp is in high gear for the Red Wolves. As AStateNation gets you ready for the regular season, the 5th Quarter returns, preseason style. Between now and the kickoff against Toledo, each assistant coach will chime in with their own 5th Quarter edition. First up, Tight Ends Coach Dan Dodd.
1st Quarter: What are the strengths of the TE group heading into fall camp, and what are they improving upon the most heading towards the season? – “I think the strengths are that we have great athleticism at that position. You would think losing a great player like Darion Griswold would leave you a bit depleted, but we actually had great depth heading into camp. Now, with Warren Leapheart’s injury we need guys to step up. It's a big loss for us because Warren has played a lot of football for us and we will miss that experience. Blake Mack got moved to tight end last fall, but really got into it during the spring and he's really embraced it well. And I think Jonah Hill adds talented depth for us too and can do some good things at the position. So in all, the athleticism is our strength there. Then looking ahead, with Blake moving over from WR, we've worked hard with the guys on improving our tackle-to-tackle blocking. The guys have worked diligently there and that's where we look to improve as we near the start of the season.”
2nd Quarter: Which guy has shown the most improvement since spring practice ended? – “I would have to say Blake Mack. And due to the position change that makes sense because he had the most room to grow. He was never asked before to play in there with the “Angry Eight.” Now he's in there playing with the big boys. He went from 225lbs to 250lbs and has really transformed his body and is playing well at that weight. That can be a challenge for guys, but he's done a great job with it. So I think, even though it's a work in progress, he's made the biggest strides and I think that's what we were hoping for this offseason.”
3rd Quarter: In your opinion, how, if at all, will the offense look different to the average fan under new Offensive Coordinator, Buster Faulkner? – “I would say, in terms of the TE position, you can expect our group to be catching more balls. Not that it's good or bad but if we caught a ball in practice the last few years we'd celebrate and jump around(laughing). Right now, we're catching anywhere from 8-15 balls in each practice. My guys are excited about that and ready to put that athleticism to good use down the field. So I would look for the tight ends to be more involved in the offensive production this season.”
4th Quarter: This is your 3rd fall camp with Coach Anderson. How do you think he's changed since your first season in Jonesboro? – “I think that when you talk to head coaches, they will tell you it's a “learn while you earn job.” There are so many things about the job that you can't predict, no matter how prepared you think you are for the job. So many things come at you that you can't prepare for until you're confronted with it. With Coach Anderson, I think he's more comfortable in his own skin now. He's experienced a lot in a short amount of time. But he's learned from everything he's encountered and I think he's more relaxed in his role because he has more experience now. And quite honestly, that helps us all be more comfortable in our roles because we know what to expect from him as a head coach than we did that first year. I think he's really enjoying himself and having a ball coaching this team. We all are.”
Overtime: What part of this job gets you excited? - “One of my mentors in this business told me long ago that there's 3 phases in a coach’s career. First there's the phase where you just finished playing and you look like the players, walk like the players and talk like the players. Then there's the second phase that corresponds usually with you having your own kids. You start thinking about the things you do and say and whether or not you'd say or do those things around your own kids. So you mature and clean your act up a bit. Then there's the third phase where you enter the grandfather stage. Now the kids come in your office and shut the door because they want to ask your advice on everything under the sun. That's where I am. My enthusiasm for this job is still strong. I love what I get to do every day. I can't wait to get to the office. I don't have to be the first guy in the office making the coffee, but my love for the job is as strong as ever.”
We would like to thank Coach Dodd for his time during this busy month. Look for the next 5th Quarter right here on AStateNation.