In year three of Coach Blake Anderson’s tenure with the Red Wolves the roster looks completely different than it did in his first year. During that season, depth was not a word used often, if at all, when describing any part of the roster. Now there is quality depth and quantity of depth at most positions. One of those positions is the running back spot. Even though the Red Wolves said goodbye last season to leading rusher Michael Gordon, they have a stable of backs in place to step up and replace Gordon’s production. The coach in charge of managing this group is Norval McKenzie, one of the three new coaches on Coach Anderson’s staff who has hit the ground running since arriving in Jonesboro. AstateNation’s 5th Quarter Preseason series continues below with Coach Early.
1st Quarter: Which guys in the running back group have been pleasant surprises or shown great improvements since the spring at this point in fall camp? – “Jonathan White and Warren Wand are both having a great camp. Those two haven’t missed a beat since ending spring practice and have started camp off strong. They’re doing a great job leading by example on the field by competing hard and giving maximum effort every day. Plus, their attention to the little things is great to see. I think our whole group is making progress and showing some good things to me and the coaching staff. I just need to get them to the point of doing that on a consistent basis like the two guys I mentioned and we’ll be set up for a productive season.”
2nd Quarter: How would you compare fall camp here under Coach Anderson compared to other camps you’ve experienced at other schools? – “I think this is a very competitive atmosphere. The practices are high-spirited from the word go. Instilling the need for maximum effort and intensity every day and on every play is what makes this program successful. We want to operate at a high tempo, but you can’t do that in games unless it’s something you’ve done every day, all day leading up to the games. I think the culture Coach Anderson has created produces that effort from the players and they’re having fun doing it. It’s impressive to see on a daily basis and fun to be a part of it all as a coach.”
3rd Quarter: You’ve had some time now to get yourself integrated into the program. How would you describe your role in offensive staff room? – “I would say right now I’ve just worked really hard in getting comfortable with the terminology we use here in our offense so that I can be a better communicator with my position group. My job I to make sure my guys play their roles in our offense effectively and with a high football I.Q. Now, in the fall, I think I’ve been able to settle in and have a better working knowledge of our scheme. What I mean is, I can take my position group and increase the mental learning for them based on what Coach Faulkner is trying to accomplish that day in practice. The better they execute the mental reps, the better they execute the plays when their number is called.”
4th Quarter: What are some of the positive things you’ve seen in the scrimmages from your guys, and what are some of the things you still want to see improvements made? – “Overall, our leaders are doing a great job competing and doing what we’re supposed to in terms of making plays and stretching our bodies out to get those extra yards each play. We’re catching the ball out of the backfield well, and I also think the guys are doing a better job in picking up pressure and blitz assignments. Where I think we can continue to get better is in our alignment, assignment, and execution. Those little details that can improve our efficiency on every play and increase our production. Sometimes live situations can force our guys to forget the little details we work on in practice. We have to get better at taking what we learn in practice and executing it in the same way when we’re in live situations in scrimmages and the upcoming games. I would like some guys to respond better when they enter the game. You can’t do your own thing once the lights come on. You have to do what you’ve practiced and what you’ve been taught and the good thing is I think our guys are coachable and they’re improving in those areas so far in camp.”
Overtime: What was your favorite memory of this summer? – “The birth of my son was my favorite memory of the summer. It’s been hectic, but I’ve loved every minute of it. We may have gotten a break from football, but there have been no breaks in our household(laughing). But it’s just been awesome to see him every day and see my wife become the mother she’s become. That’s what I’ll always remember about this summer.”
We would like to thank Coach McKenzie for his time with the 5th Quarter. Look for more editions of the 5th Quarter with other staff members on AStateNation.