To this point it's been a lot of controlled contact and work on fundamentals. Now that two a days are starting, we've gone from mini-camp into training camp. This is the time when guys will earn their spots, and some guys will be demoted.
How will the freshman class figure into the movement on the depth chart?
They are going to be battling for a chance to play just like the older guys. Ideally we would redshirt them all -- a player is usually much better at 22 than at 18, but if we feel a guy is in a position to help this team win football games then he will play.
How important is Matt Rumsey this season? Also how is his health.
He's very important. The center is the one guy on the field who touches the ball every play. He's in charge of calling out changes on the line, and running that group. We've got a combined 12 starts among returning players on the offensive line and he's got 11 of them, so we will be counting on his leadership. He's had a minor concussion and had missed the last few practices as a result.
How has Marcus Jones performed so far?
Marcus has made a big jump from where he was at the beginning of the spring. With him we want him to take a small step forward every time he steps on the field. If you do that then when you look back you see how much of a leap has been made. An example of this came in practice last week. He got flushed out of the pocket and tried to force the ball into coverage. The next day, in the same situation, he got flushed out, but made the correct decision. He's just got to keep learning and working hard.
With only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this season, and none with starting experience, how do you balance the reps in practice between Marcus and freshman Thaddeus Lewis?
We're committed to getting a lot of reps for both players. We are operating on a worst case scenario, which is if something happened to Marcus, and then something happened to Thad, and so on. We've got to be prepared for that, just in case.
Thaddeus has done well for us so far. He's got a lot of intangibles that make you believe he could be really good. He's also got a really quick release. I think he's got a chance to be a very good player for us.
With so much youth, what are the focuses for practice?
We're focused more on the team and have scheduled a lot of individual things into our workouts, like teaching the fundamentals. Then we work a lot in 11 on 11 situations. That may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but when you line up there are a lot of things that need to be understood -- how to interact with other groups, assignments, and things like that.
How has Ronnie Drummer looked so far?
He's worked hard to get bigger and more durable, and maybe a little faster. Our philosophy with Ronnie is to get him the ball as much as we can, however we can.
What are some other battles shaping up?
There's a good battle with Requan and Justin at the running back position. The punting position is competitive as well. The kicking game is so important for us this year. Glenn Williams and Adrian Aye-Darko are competing hard for the free safety slot.
How important is the defensive backfield?
Those are the guys whose mistakes are always magnified. If a defensive lineman makes a mistake it may mean an extra six yards, but if one of those guys messes up, it's usually a home run for the other team. People in the stands may not see the D-line mistake, but everyone knows when a DB has made a mistake. Deonto McCormick is settling in nicely at cornerback, and Chris Davis should be better this year at safety. He's a lot more comfortable with the position than he was a year ago. Glenn Williams and Adrian Aye-Darko should also push each other for the other spot.
After last year, what part of the system was the focus of the off-season meetings?
The focus in the off-season wasn't on the system, but who was in the system and how we can better take advantage of those players. You have to take advantage of who you have and make the system fit their strengths.
With the struggles and all around bad luck of the program in recent years, do you ever have to coach up morale?
That's something you have to do every day. Coaching attitude is a big part of getting the job done. I think this year you've seen a lot of the players taking ownership of the situation here, and that is encouraging. Last week we were practicing at night and not getting off the field until around 10:45. I had gone up to watch some film and was getting ready to head home around midnight, when I passed the film room downstairs. There were guys in there watching tape on their own -- that's the dedication, as a coach, you love to see.