5th Quarter – Spring Edition with Head Coach Blake Anderson
1st Quarter: How did the spring go for you in your new role in coaching the quarterbacks and calling the plays? – “I probably had the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I enjoyed getting to know those guys closer and working with them on a daily basis. I think even the guys on the staff noticed and mentioned they noticed a change in my demeanor and an extra pep in my step. What this really did as well is give me a different perspective on what I see in the offense. I think every day that you work with a group and learn more and more what they’re capable of your perspective is changed a bit. You learn where and how you need to make adjustments to tailor the scheme to what this group can do and put them in a position to succeed. Moving forward I think we learned more of what our identity can be next season, but some of that will change as we move into fall camp as well. Finding our identity is something I’m focused on with the offense for the upcoming season. In terms of the play-calling roll I just really love the strategy of football and calling plays. I’m competitive and that came out in me against our defense. I have a great relationship with the coaches on the defensive side of the ball and we had fun going at each other. Every day we tried to beat each other and I think it pushed us as coaches and I think that competitiveness spread amongst the players too. We had a very competitive spring session. ”
2nd Quarter: In your eyes, how was this spring different from last year’s spring practice sessions? – “Well, first off, the most obvious change for us was the physicality of this spring compared to last year. We were much more physical in everything we did. We challenged them when we came back in January to go out have the most accountable spring possible. That accountability meant doing the mental work, bringing high energy every day, and then upping the ante on our physicality throughout the spring. What I think we saw carry over form the end of the season was this team reaching that point where the players take over and hold each other accountable without the coaches having to do it. That showed in their offseason workouts with Coach Shadeed and it carried over into our spring practices. We told them this would be the most physical spring since we’ve been here and that we were going to hit and we were going to tackle a lot. They never even blinked. They accepted it and made this spring productive. The players held each other accountable and that’s a product of being here for four years now and creating this type of culture. It doesn’t happen overnight, but now you can see its taken hold in that locker room. I really think this spring was our most accountable, productive, and physical spring we’ve had yet here.
3rd Quarter: What was the biggest surprise to you this spring? – “Honestly, I was surprised that we didn’t hit the wall that you expect every team to hit at some point each spring. The first few days you come out and you’re excited to be on the field again. Then, inevitably, you get tired and beat up as you come down the homestretch with practice and school. You hit that wall and the coaches have to jump in and motivate you to get back up. Well, we never hit that wall. The coaches never had to push guys to increase their effort. The players kept themselves up and their energy and focus up the entire spring. That was surprising because human nature usually goes the other way. But our team pushed hard from Day 1 through the end of the spring game so I’m proud of our guys for that. The key now will be to replicate that in fall camp and throughout the season.”
4th Quarter: Who are some of the names that had the type of spring that sets them up for a big fall camp and season? – “I could name multiple guys. There are guys at every stage of development that really progressed further this spring. Chris Murray and Omar Bayless took huge steps forward and I can’t wait to see them line up again in the fall. On the line, Lanard Bonner really separated himself as somebody who’s going to be a great player and an elite lineman at this level. His talent became more and more obvious to us every day. I was also pleased with the progress of Justice Hansen. Some of that progress was due to the fact that he had Logan Bonner there pushing him with every single rep. Collectively, that’s really pushed both of them forward like we had hoped going into the spring. I mean, the first stat that stands out is that fact that I think we only threw 3-4 interceptions this spring and we threw the ball a lot this spring. I can’t wait to see them continue to push each other more. I could name more on the offense too. Defensively, Dee Liner, at times, became unblockable. He’s primed for a huge year. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones continued to progress as an every-down player who at times was also unblockable. I can’t even mention the defense without calling out Justin Clifton. The guy is just consistent day in and day out. Blaise Taylor and Kyle Wilson had great springs. Two new guys were immediate contributors were Ronheem Bingham and Tony Adams. Finally a guy that’s been here awhile who turned in a great spring and some dominant performances at times this spring was Donovan Ransom.”
Overtime: What’s the one thing on your mind the most as you head into the offseason and into fall camp? – “Honestly, I’m just excited the culture of this group right now. There’s something about these guys that has carried over from the end of the season, into winter workouts, and into the spring session. They love each other, yet competed at the highest level every day against each other. There were winners and losers every day and so it got chippy, it got physical, but it didn’t fracture the group. If anything, it brought all of us closer together. It’s become infectious and makes everybody excited to come to work every day. So that’s what I’m thinking about a lot because when you have that aspect of the puzzle in place, you can do so many more things as a coaching staff to put them in a position to be successful next season.”