Talk about the progress of middle linebacker Jerel Hudson this summer.
"I hope ol' Jerel will get his weight down. I wish he would. I think you are talking about two rounds different. If he tries to play at 285 instead of 265, I think he's talking two rounds different whatever that is. If they are going to take him in the third, they will take him in the fifth. If they are going take him in the first, you will drop to third. I that much will make a difference. Plus, we have some dadgum freshmen linebackers who can play. We can move some folks up in there. What Mickey plans to do I don't know. I can't tell if Mickey is just talking -- is he planning on it or is he trying to warn the kid publicly. If Jerel wants his future as a linebacker, he better lose weight. I don't worry about it from my standpoint. We can solve it. We can move him here. We can find a slot. We already moved him to tackle two springs ago."
While other programs such as Florida and Miami have been in the news here lately, it has been a quiet offseason for your team.
"There is so much luck involved in this thing. The way our society is today. You pick that paper and even if you didn't know anything about football you read about everybody else and you say, 'Boy what is going on.' You get 100 guys together out there. ... every morning I wake up and nothing has been said I say, 'Oh boy, I lucked another day. Because kids are kids. People are people. That is a good sign, but again I am very reluctant to say anything about it because it don't take but one more day for it to happen.
Have you put the golf clubs down?
"I still got them because I want to get into the heat. I want to get into the heat everyday if I can. I will either go out and walk or if somebody wants to play golf and I can, I will do that. Just to get out into the heat. Just like yesterday. I went out yesterday afternoon and played golf -- I am not serious about it as I was because my mind is getting on football - but last night I had cramps for the first time in a long time. I am talking about I woke up and my legs were cramping bad. You catch it and hope it don't get any worse. That thing, for the first time, when up to the top of my leg. Some of these players they get out there and those things go up their buttocks -- I don't know how they stand it. These things are painful. I went through that. I got up and drank up a glass of water. Then maybe an hour later, I got one in this other leg. That's what happens when I get out in the sun usually at the start of the season (cramps) until my body gets acclimated to it. That's why I want to go out and either play golf in the afternoon or walk or do something everyday."
Everyone wants to compare last year to this year, but does this year feel different because of the positive things you are hearing?
"There is no comparison between this year and last year. There's no comparison. Not just because we've got most of them coming back. I think it's the fact it's the absence of a boy dying. I think that was big on us. It was on our minds. Our team's mind. Our player's mind. On our coach's mind. On everybody's mind. We lost a player. We must not lose another one. Just that gone. I will be honest with you. I don't know when I've been as excited about a year as I have been this year, in a long time. Just like recruiting. When we had that recruiting year, when I said how excited I was, I believe it's the most excited I've been in a while. Because there's some skill out there (in the freshman class).
"You're hoping there's a [Warrick) Dunn out there, who can come in and give you about 10 touchdowns how he did. We won a national championship in '93 and he contributed enough for us to do it. Without his contribution we wouldn't have made it. Now he didn't win a national championship for us. But without his contribution I don't think we would have made it. There are some guys out there this year that have some skills that I'm very interested in. I think that was one reason I was so excited about them.
"Then, of course, after having a year like you had last year, then having these boys back, I think it's more excitable. You've been through some tough games, lost games you didn't think you'd lose and you survived it. Now you've got 'em back. You don't have to tell the boys, 'Hey boys, if you don't do this, look what can happen.' It's already happened. It's an exciting year to me."
What's your approach with quarterback Chris Rix this preseason?
"My approach to be he's the first-team quarterback. If anybody wants to try to beat him out, there he is. I want competition. I don't want players to ever think something is closed. It's not closed. Nothing is closed. Defensive noseguard ain't closed. Defensive end ain't closed. But if you said who would you start today it would be him (Rix). Can he be beat out? I don't know. Let's see what happens. At least we have a starting place. This time a year ago there were about 15 positions we didn't even have a starting place."
You appear to have question marks at both fullback and at tight end?
"I am not even worried about that fullback thing at all unless we got a bunch more injuries. I hated to lose Greg Tony because he was a walkon that I liked ever since he has been here. Last year he could have helped us but he missed nine games. He had a good spring and I was kind of excited about him. But the two guys behind him still give you what you are looking for at fullback -- another guard. Another blocker. Will we see more one back than you have seen? Maybe. If we got into two backs and it was successful, why do something else? I think we can solve that (tight end) by moving some other offensive linemen over there. What does a tight end do first? No. 1, he's got to be able to block. That's first. That's nearly first, second and third -- block. Now, if you have one like you had three years ago in (Melvin) Pearsall now you can run and throw. When the kids ask me why don't you throw to the tight end? Well, why don't you catch like Pearsall. When you start catching like Pearsall we will start throwing passes to you. With a tight end situations, you can take some of these offensive linemen and make a tight end out of them, they might even be better. They are blockers. They are big. That's why I don't worry about that."
What does it mean to have veterans such as Anquan Boldin and Robert Morgan back after missing last season?
"It will be hard for me to put in words how much it meant losing Anquan Boldin last year. And losing Robert Morgan and Anquan, that's double tough. Those two guys might could have given you enough to have gotten you by N.C. State. And to have gotten to you by North Carolina when it was 9-7 your favor, third quarter. And maybe settled us down against Miami and Florida. Just getting those two back is going to mean so much to this football team maturity wise. Now, gosh, I hope we don't get them all hurt again."
Are you eager to see how the incoming freshmen perform, especially your tailbacks?
"Where (Lorenzo) Booker and Hollywood (Thomas Clayton) and some of those other guys can come along is. ... we talk about the fullback we have, yeah, they are all blockers. Well, you put one of those guys at fullback in a passing situation, now you have the skill of a tailback at fullback. I think with our team concept is we are going to see who can handle it. Got to find who can handle it. Like when (Warrick) Dunn came in here as a freshman. I had no idea he was going to play. No idea. The kid is going to be a pretty good defensive back. When we hit Dunn -- it must have been the third game of the season against North Carolina -- in the flat with a flare and he went in about 25 yards for a touchdown, that's when said, 'Oh, we got something. They can't tackle him.' Now, we have to find out what Booker and them do in that situation. They might be naturals. What will they do out there? We learned a lot about Willie Reid. Willie Reid excited me as much as any player we had this spring. I am excited about Willie Reid. He can catch the football. And he can run with it."
Since Rix has a season under his belt, do you plan to open the offense up any more?
"We started off very plain (last year). We tried to start running the football a little bit more to take the load of it. But the way modern football is, it's hard to do that anymore. They bring too many people up to tackle. I am sitting up here watching Iowa State and they got nine people up there on that line. I don't care how good of blockers you got. They got more people than you, there's somebody you can't block. So we started off very plain. Very pure. We added during the season, and then at the end of the year ... where (offensive coaches) really modified was in the check-off game. They began checking off as much as we did the year before with Chris Weinke. Against Virginia Tech I bet they checked off 30 percent of the time or even more. Thank goodness we have that behind us. I don't have to go out there this year to see if he can check off."
You are obviously excited about the approaching season. Why is that?
"What it's based on is potential coming back. To be honest with you, it's probably not going to be as good as it will be next year. You started eight sophomores on defense, and that reminds me of 1978 when we started eight sophomores on defense. In 1979 we went undefeated and in 1980 we nearly went undefeated. Mickey (Andrews, defensive coordinator) and them still might need another year. Offensively, I think we're going to be a pretty mature bunch of guys."
Talk about Eric Powell's progress.
"He got on the wrong foot at the bowl game. I told him no spring training. Go academics and I will evaluate how he's doing. From what I understand, he's doing good. It is so tough on those kids. I came that close to just telling him to forget about it (football). I think it would hurt him. I think it would ruin his whole incentive to get a education. If he don't want to go back (home), then I don't want him to go back. I think he cares. I think he wants to make something of himself."