"I want to take you back to our three goals that we had coming into spring. The first goal was to get our edge back, get mentally and physically tougher. I really feel like that our guys came a long way. We strained them physically when we had the pad days. It was a lot of offense versus defense and just basic football.
"Our second goal was to have a basic understanding of the offense and the defense and what I say is the foundation of the offense and the defense. That way they can actually get better in the summer--have a great understanding--instead of developing bad habits. I feel pretty good about where we're at with that. We were very basic by design. There wasn't a whole of scheming. You saw the spring game, a lot of basic football, but I feel like our guys got a good understanding, and I think moving forward in the summer they'll have a chance to get better.
"And our third goal was to develop a two-deep depth chart. When I say depth chart, it was probably more important to put them in the right positions; there were a lot of guys that we moved around, gave them multiple opportunities to try them out in certain positions, and we came up with a post-spring depth chart.
"Now I want to make this clear. These positions are going to be wide open once fall camp starts. We've got young guys coming in. We've got junior college guys coming in. We've actually got guys that we feel like will improve, and a lot of them will have a chance to improve greatly before we go. I am going to start with the defensive side of the football and just kind of take position by position and give you some names of the guys that ended up as far as the depth chart is concerned.
"I'm going to start with the defensive line up front. The thing that stands out to me in terms of the defensive line is we have a bunch of older guys that are experienced, which is a good thing.
"Defensive end: Dee Ford, I've talked about him before being a pass rushing guy. He can really put some pressure on the quarterback. We also have Craig Sanders at the same position after spring. On the other defensive end, Kenneth Carter, a guy who has played inside in the past, Coach (Rodney) Garner moved him outside. He's a very physical guy, and he improved his pass rushing as this spring went on, and Nosa Eguae also had a very solid spring. The thing that stands out is that those are all four older guys, and they've got experience, and that's a good thing.
"Moving inside, Jeffrey Whitaker and Ben Bradley at one of the defensive tackle spots, really the nose spot-- both of those guys did a really nice job. Ben, as the spring went on, you could see that he improved greatly, and that's usually what happens with the junior college guys.
"And then at tackle, Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson, both guys juniors-to-be, both of them are athletic, and I really felt like they improved. Up front that's some veteran guys, and so we feel good with the foundation we have moving forward.
"On the back end, starting with the star position, Justin Garrett; you heard about him during the spring and I really felt like he was one of our more consistent guys. And then Robenson Therezie at that star position. It's a very versatile position that you've got to be able to cover people. You've got to play sometimes inside the box at a linebacker position and then also Coach is going to blitz that position. It takes a very athletic guy, and both of those guys can definitely do that.
"Moving inside to the mike linebacker spot, Kris Frost and Jake Holland at mike. At will, Cassanova McKinzy and JaViere Mitchell. JaViere Mitchell is a guy that Coach thought came on, and I kind of want to put in LaDarius Owens, too, at either of those two positions. You're talking about a guy who has played at defensive end the last couple of years and is moving back to the back end and really came on. He's a guy that really has great effort, and Coach was high on him, and so he'll be in the mix at those linebacker positions also.
"On the back end at corner, I really felt like our corners had a solid spring and Chris Davis and Ryan White at the boundary corner, both of those guys are veteran guys that understand what is going on.
"At the field corner, Jonathon Mincy and Jonathan Jones. Jonathan Jones, he's not a very big guy, but he really laid some good hits. You saw in the spring game when he made an outstanding hit, and then Mincy also had a very solid spring, a veteran guy, also.
"At the safety position Jermaine Whitehead was probably the safety that had just an excellent spring. Coach Cheese was very high on him, and he really did a solid job along with Ryan Smith at that free safety position. At the boundary safety, Josh Holsey is a guy that was playing corner and transitioned the last week or so of practice to safety and just came on really strong, and I wanted to put in Trent Fisher and T.J. Davis. Both of those guys did some solid things. T.J. is a young guy. Trent is a guy that played some last year that really came on with a good spring.
"Demetruce McNeal--we took care of all the off the field issues that we had--so he is going to be in the mix. I didn't put him in the top two right now, but he'll have a chance in the fall. He's a guy that has played before, and he'll have a chance to get back on the field with that. So that's defensively. Coach (Ellis) Johnson overall, he really worked hard on tackling and just the base fundamentals of playing their assignments. I really felt like our tackling improved, and you saw that in the spring game. There were some good open field tackles, and we will continue to work in that direction.
"Offensively up front, Greg Robinson at left tackle had a very good spring. I think everyone understands how athletic he is. He's starting to settle down. Shon Coleman--we were very curious how Shon Coleman would come on and he got better and better. You can see his body is starting to react in a very positive way. We're very proud of Shon and his progression. At left guard, Alex Kozan and Devonte Danzey. Those are two guys that played a little bit of center, played a little bit of right guard and started settling down into that left guard position; both those guys have a lot of ability.
"At center Reese Dismukes probably had the best spring of any lineman up front. He showed a lot of leadership ability and really led the way, and then Tunde (Fariyike) also played center, and we feel like he improved. I know we had the one bad snap on the miscommunication there in the spring game, but I feel like he improved at the center position. Then right guard-- Chad Slade, a veteran guy that has played before; and Jordan Diamond, a young guy. We kind of moved him around early, then he settled down in there. He's a guy with a lot of potential that is a big, strong guy.
"Then right tackle--Patrick Miller really improved throughout the spring. He's a very tough guy and Avery Young is a guy who couldn't go 100 percent because of his shoulder and all of that, but he did a lot of the stuff against the scout team. He's a very smart guy and a very athletic guy.
"Moving to the tailback position, I went ahead and put all three of these guys in here. Tre (Mason) is a guy, I've said before, we kind of know what Tre can do. He had an injury early in spring camp to his ankle, which allowed the other two guys, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, to get a lot of reps and both of those guys, it was good for them. You saw Cameron. He had an outstanding spring game. He's one of those downhill guys that falls forward. Corey Grant had a very good spring, and he's a speed guy that, once he gets out in the open, it's hard to catch him.
"At the quarterback position we have not made any decisions. It's a dead heat at this point between Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. We gave equal reps throughout the spring. Toward the end of the spring we were able to evaluate them better, and both of those guys are capable of running our offense. I will be curious to see their progress once we get to fall camp on that.
"At our H-back position Jay Prosch was one of the highlights of the whole spring. He is a hard-nosed guy. That is a dirty work type of position for us. It takes a smart guy. He and Ricky Parks are playing that position. Ricky is a young guy that is coming on. I felt like he improved, also, learning a new position.
"At tight end, C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse. C.J. is a guy that is getting used to playing with his hand down, and we worked hard on the blocking part. Now, he is a threat vertically in the passing game, but we worked hard on that; Fulse has some experience with his hand down.
"At the flanker position, Trovon Reed and Ricardo Louis; I felt like both had a solid spring. That's a position that we ask to do a little bit more than just a regular receiver. We feel like that position needs to have some running back skills, and both of those guys carried the football some during the spring.
"Our X position, Jaylon Denson and Sammie Coates. Both of those guys kind of settled down into that position, and at times made some very good plays. We just talked about being consistent, but both of those guys are big, physical guys.
"And then slot receiver, Quan Bray. Quan is one of those real versatile guys. I can take you back a couple of years ago when he was actually playing the tailback position, so he's got running back skills. You'll see us try to get the ball to him in space and let him do his thing as far as that goes.
"And then, really, our "Y" position as far as our three receivers: C.J. Uzomah, Brandon Fulse and I want to throw Melvin Ray in there, too. Melvin Ray has kind of established himself as an inside receiver. He's a strong guy that can do a lot of the dirty work.
"That's kind of where we left spring. Like we told the guys, we've got you in positions where we feel like you can be successful; now the key is getting better over the summer. These young guys coming in are going to have a chance to compete for every one of these positions.
"Our coaches have kind of transitioned. Our coaches hit the road recruiting and our players have finals this week. We'll give them about a week and a half to two weeks off to get mentally refreshed, and we'll come back and they'll hit the weight room and everything that goes with that.
"Overall, I like where our team is mentally coming out of spring. We learned a lot of things as a coaching staff, but I like where we're at. We've got some work to do -- as a matter of fact, we've got a lot of work to do -- but I like where our mindset is. I feel like our team is closer together, and that was important."
On the return game: "We did try a lot of different guys out, but we did not go live a whole lot, so I am not ready to say ‘here is our punt returner. Here is our kick returner.' There are five or six guys who have a chance. I will tell you that coming out of spring, Cody Parkey and Steven Clark are our kickers, but I think that was probably already a good chance."
Who would start at quarterback if there was a game this Saturday? "The good thing is that we do not have to play this Saturday. If we did we would have already prepared, had a plan, and named a starter, but it is a little unfair to ask that without us having a real game."
Is Melvin Ray behind Quan Bray at wide receiver?: "He is more of the Y on the line. Quan is more of the slot receiver, third receiver to the field, the second receiver off the ball. That Y is more of an on-the-ball type position that Kodi Burns played, a lot of dirty work. It takes a really tough, physical guy that can block a linebacker, but at the same time can run a route. That is kind of where we settled him in."
Will new quarterbacks come in this summer with the opportunity to start?"Everybody coming in, every position will have the opportunity to start. We feel good about a lot of these guys we signed and them having a chance to play, so whether it's the running back or quarterback, all positions will be open."
Is he disheartened that neither QB has won the starting job? "Not necessarily. Sometimes that is not a negative. Sometimes it's positive, and you have two guys that you feel like can do it. It is just a matter of giving everybody a fair chance. The quarterback position is a key position that you want to make sure that when you make the decision you are 100 percent right, so we will see who gives us the best chance to win."
Where was Onterio McCalebb listed on the depth chart in his offense? "He is a tailback. You saw Onterio did a lot of speed sweeping, but he also played traditional tailback."
On the challenges for the new quarterbacks coming in" "The challenge for the new guys coming in is during the summer. They have got to have a good understanding of the offense and they have got to have a good understanding of the receivers. There is a window of time, whether it is two weeks or three weeks, that you have to make a decision. Some coaches will wait until the last day before to see who the starter is. My experience is, the earlier the better so that you can start with getting everything that goes with being a leader."
On Nick Marshall's position" "We are planning on him playing the quarterback position."
On choosing the starting quarterback: "That is--in college football and football period--that is the position that you only play one guy, and everything that goes with that, whether you are the starter, or the backup trying to earn a position. It is a very tough position to play and to be successful, but the special ones thrive on that."
Will those new QBs enroll this summer? "With the quarterbacks, obviously the earlier the better if you want to have a chance to compete for the job. It is tough for somebody just to show up in August and win the job because you do not know your receivers. All three quarterbacks are scheduled to be here as early as possible."
What positions was it hard to determine the starter?"I do not think there is any position that really stands out. In spring you are just trying to get two guys in one position. At certain positions you have a little bit more depth, but there really is not one position that stands out right now."
On the junior college transfers' performance this spring? "There is no doubt that all three guys will help us. All three improved greatly from the first practice, but that is to be expected. They are all coming from different types of backgrounds. It was a shock to our players that had been here before, much less the new guys coming in. We saw great improvement, specifically the last week to week and a half of spring ball, from those guys."
On Joshua Holsey? "He is a guy that is a very good tackler. He had a very good spring at the corner position before we moved him. As a coach you are evaluating guys and you may have two or three at the same position early in the spring that you say ‘He may be one of our best 11 guys' so you move around and mix and match. When we put him at safety, he looked like a natural and just made plays. In the spring game he played safety and corner--that's hard to do especially for a young guy."
On Demetruce McNeal and safety positions: "He has the ability to play both and you are liable to see in fall camp us mix and match, and go back and forth. I want to make this clear that we put guys in positions that are not set in stone, as far as the safeties or even the cornerback positions. Demetruce has the ability to play both, which he has played both at times in his career, and played both well."
On Demetruce's good standing with the program" "Yes, he is in good standing. Correct. The issues are taken care of."
On Big Cat Weekend: "We are really looking forward to that. That has been a big plus for us in the past, and we are gearing up for another big one.
On what the assistant coaches will accomplish in the next few weeks" "They are hitting the road recruiting. We are out there developing relationships, trying to identify the players that fit in our system. After a spring with our coaching staff, I am very impressed. We have got excellent coaches that were all together on the same page and they are doing a great job in the recruiting area also."
On how involved he will be with coaching the quarterback. "I will be involved in the fall on the offensive side, not specifically coaching a position, but I will be involved in the day to day things as far as the offense goes."
On the NFL draft: "As far as a head coach, you want as many of your guys drafted as possible. We recruit players that want to go to the next level. We feel great about our staff here and we feel great about the future. One thing that you will see is that each year we are going to have more and more guys drafted."
On giving a scholarship to any walk-ons after this spring: "Not at this point right now, but we do have some guys that we feel like have a good chance to earn one, and to help us on the field. "
On Quan Bray as the slot receiver: "That is his spot. Two years ago that was a position that he kind of settled into in this offense, but he is going to give us some versatility to do a lot of different things with him. Corey Grant worked at that spot in the spring, and at times did some very good things. He will be both. He has got the versatility to be both (tailback and receiver)."
His thoughts on a nine-game conference schedule: "Commissioner (Mike) Slive is going to do what is best for the SEC and I feel like he will make the best decision for our conference."