How is your group looking a couple days away from the opener?
Coach Charles Clark: “They are doing good. The guys are coming together, starting to gel as a group. With so many guys that are experienced in the secondary, they have played a lot of games together. So the camaraderie is really good, the communication is really good and the guys are getting ready to get out and play Friday.”
You have experience at the top of the depth chart at cornerback, and a lot of inexperience behind it. Have the experienced players like Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon been helping bring the young guys along?
“Yeah. It helps me because they can explain some things on-the-go. And for that reason, I don't always have the seniors going with the ones. I mix it up so they can communicate with the younger guys and get those guys caught up.”
Is there anything Chidobe Awuzie is better at today than he was at the end of last season?
“He is definitely playing the ball better in the air and he continues to communicate and get everybody on the same page.”
Awuzie has started to receive some national attention. Are you concerned at all about all those pats on the back he has received?
“No, I think he humbles himself a lot, which means I don't have to do as much. He does a pretty good job at that. And I think the other guys around him, he wants to make sure those guys are good, too, as far as playing together as a team in order to win.”
Do you or safeties coach Joe Tumpkin coach the nickel backs in practice?
“We both do. Most of the time we meet as a secondary group so the conversation is in one room, and it goes back-and-forth between Coach Tumpkin and myself.”
What are your expectations for Isaiah Oliver this fall?
“I look for him to definitely get a lot of playing time this year. He will be starting in some packages and definitely being able to help us. The way he ended last year, helping in some situations, I feel he can just pick up from there and continue to improve.”
Oliver performed well in the decathlon this spring... does having a player with that raw athleticism make your job easier?
“When you have the athletes, I think we all become better coaches. That is the number one thing, is having athletes to do it and that goes back to recruiting.”
Correct me if I am wrong, it seemed like in the past Ahkello Witherspoon was not quite as consistent as he needed to be. What have you seen from him this preseason?
“I have seen him really focus and concentrate on his consistency. He knows that. He has been told that by several people so I think that is one thing he went into the off-season concentrating on. And he stayed healthy, that is another thing. I am proud of him for that and look forward to watching him play Friday.”
Tony Julmisse practiced both ways this preseason and drew a lot of praise as a freshman. How difficult was it to get him prepared given that he was cross-training on both sides of the ball? And where do you see him fitting in on defense?
“It is tough in general as a freshman to learn everything but we found different ways to get him reps, to get him to develop along with the rest of the freshmen. He has really good cover skills so we'll definitely look at him at corner first.”
Another freshmen that has drawn praise from his teammates is Ronnie Blackmon...
“Him and Trey Udoffia, both of those guys, are doing some really good things. We're just trying to rotate them in and get them in some different packages. They definitely have to show up on special teams as well.”