What are your thoughts on the running backs?
Napier: We have two incoming guys who might provide us a little bit more depth at the position. Running back is a position that potentially a freshman can impact your team. We're looking forward to seeing what kind of shape those guys show up in. If one of those guys can emerge, I feel good about Jamie (Harper) and Andre (Ellington). I think Rod (McDowell ) is growing up still. He's still feeling his way through it mentally. He has his strengths and weaknesses as a player. Overall, I think we're in pretty good position as we get ready for the season.
How do you feel about the way Tajh (Boyd) developed this spring with the possibility that you might need him this fall?
Napier: I think Tajh was typical of a red shirt freshman year—the spring practice was typical for a red shirt freshmen—very much like the other red shirt freshmen on offense. Bryce (McNeal), Brandon (Thomas) and Roderick (McDowell), all three were comparable, in terms of the process. I think Tajh got an extremely experience, in terms of getting a chance to be the quarterback with the first group over half the time. I think he figured out that this is going to take great effort and attention to detail and preparation to be a successful division one quarterback and ability alone is not going to be good enough. I think he's excited about the summer and the chance to have more time to prepare. Now that he knows what is expected, just like most football players that are that age, they tend to approach the off-season each day a little bit differently. It was difficult for him, like it has been for most red shirt freshmen in their spring practice. Very much like Kyle (Parker), I think this summer will be a great opportunity to take some steps forward in his development.
Is it just footwork and decision making—the biggest things he's got to work on this summer?
Napier: There are three areas we're trying to attack this summer. Procedurally, making sure he's very sound and understands everything we're trying accomplish. We're trying to attack decision making and ultimately having a thought process for each play—eliminating the mental aspect where you can truly use your physical skills and compete at a high level—enjoy and relish the opportunity to compete, similar to the way you saw Kyle play down the stretch. I think he finally became comfortable mentally and knew what it took to prepare. He was confident in what he knew. The knowledge that he had in his preparation throughout the week, he was able to really be a competitor and enjoy that. Tajh is in that same stage. He's different in terms of who he is and what type of background he has. It's all relative to the people that we've been around and the experiences that we've had. The third area is to increase his knowledge of the game of football—down and distance, field position, defense, in particular. That's an area I feel like he really needs a lot of room to improve.
Do you feel the baseball and injuries kind of hurt Kyle at all this spring?
Napier: I think from having done it last year, he's more consistent and more effective and better prepared. He's physically more polished in all the areas. He was a football player every day. Is he capable of being effective, fresh off a three game series? Yea. I think he's got uncanny athletic ability and just a knack to play the game. He's got quite a foundation, in terms of the kid having to get ready to play 14 games. The recall and retention from that, not to mention last spring and last preseason, he's got a great understanding of what we're doing. He's had to prepare for several different defenses and he's practice against our defense, knowing what they're trying to do. He's capable of coming out there and being effective in between baseball practice and games. He'll be the first to tell you that you can't do it at the highest level you could do it, if you were doing it all the time. Once he's a football player full-time, I think his game will get better…similar to maybe how I think he'll do from the spring game on in baseball. I think he'll do better because he's solely doing baseball now. You're going to get what you devote your time to. I think that it's great that he gets to live his dream of doing both sports in college. We're fortunate to have him on our team and Jack (Leggett) is fortunate to have him on his team. He can impact both our programs in a significant manner. For us, spring practice is not as significant as it is to the big picture, when he shows up for fall camp. We've got plenty of time to get him polished up fundamentally and moving in the right direction, football-wise.
What areas can Parker improve? With only 14 starts, there's probably a lot of upside to tap in to.
Napier: I really believe the kid has untapped potential, in terms of the way he played down the stretch. He's played 14 games and been through a season. I think his best football his ahead of him now that he knows how to prepare. He played some of his better games down the stretch. If he can duplicate those and maybe play a little bit better because he's going to be a little less stressed and focused on what's relevant to him playing well on Saturdays. Fundamentally, he's got a few things that are fixable. They just come with being there every day…Just in terms of managing the game, procedurally, he's got a great foundation laid there, just being a returning starter. I think, for him, more than anything, it's just the opportunity to get out there and get the repetition in order to become very consistent.
How do you feel about your receivers? Is there really one guy that stood out?
Napier: Terrance Ashe, to me, he's the guy you know you can count on right now today. In terms of accountability and dependability, knowing his role and know his job, understanding the big picture, I think he's capable. I think Dwayne Allen is the most dynamic guy we've got. I've told you guys many times before that it's all about players and getting your best guy the ball, giving those guys and opportunity to go win the game for you. He'll be one of those guys we plan around. We're not going to leave the stadium and say he didn't have his chance. In terms of the rest of the guys, I saw flashes from guys that have lot of ability. I think Bryce McNeal has a lot of ability. I think Brandon Clear has a lot of ability. Are they consistent? Are they dependable? Are they accountable? Do they see the big picture? I think they took huge steps in that direction this spring. I wouldn't have given you a wooden nickel for Brandon Clear last year at this time. Right now, today, I think this guy's going to impact our team. He's matured. He's now been through a season. He's lived and learned, to some degree.
Building for the present and future
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