A: I really don’t have a concern. You’re always worried about things as a coach, you know. I know we’ve got a mature group – a lot of guys that have played a lot of football. Like when you start any camp, you’re going to talk about doing the little things right and focusing on what you control on a daily basis, and going out there every day with a championship mindset that we’re going to get better. That’s where talking with the leaders this summer is what I expect out of them – not to be a coach-led team, but a player-led team. Y’all set the tempo and the pace and the mindset every day at practice. As a coach, if you want to talk about concerns, that your guys aren’t ready to come every day. They get caught up in media (or) what they’re saying on TV (and) what they’re writing. Just focus on what you can control and that’s kind of what I harp on on a daily basis and try to get guys motivated day in and day out.
Q: What’s the value of having the eight-hour rule, in terms of some of the newcomers?
A: It’s good to get out there. First of all, you get to go in their workouts and see how they’re working and see how they’re running and performing and competing. In the past, you couldn’t go down there and watch them run around and do their workouts (and) agilities, and now you get to see guys move and some of the functional movements, so that’s a positive. The second thing is just to get them on the grass. Obviously, it’s without a ball, but to take some of those guys through football-specific drills and see how guys change direction. It gives you a better idea of what a guy might be capable of doing his freshman year, where in the past going into the season you’re not really sure. You recruited those guys and evaluated them, but now you get to see them move and how they compare to guys on the team. The other thing, obviously, is mentally getting a head start on some things in the classroom with these guys. When they walk in in the summer things are player-led and players teach them what’s going on, but now you get to go in and coach them as a position coach so when they walk in that first meeting, they’re not totally blind on how you’re gonna coach. Now they’re going to get to hear how you coach, how you command them, and they’re going to be able to respond to it a little bit better. And you get a feel of how a guy can take coaching (and) how he needs to be coached, whether he’s a visual guy or a rep guy.
Q: Do you feel better about this offensive line than maybe a team in the past that’s had to replace three starters?
A: I feel really good about where we’re at up front. I think we’ve got some maturity there (and) we’ve got some leadership in that group. I think we’ve got some guys that we feel are a little bit more athletic than we’ve been in the past. The bottom line is we’ve still got to go out and do it. Potential – that doesn’t really mean anything yet. We’ve got a chance to be pretty good up front.
Q: John Theus – left or right?
A: That’s going to be something that works out in camp. Y’all hear it every year. I talk in preseason or spring and you always want to know the five. It’s obviously going to be the best five we feel gives us the best chance to move the ball effectively and score points. So we’ll have to see, but all summer he’s been working at left and right, and Kolton (Houston) will be a guy that works at left and right. Even Watts (Dantzler) is a swing guy from guard to tackle, so we’ve just got to figure out what’s our best combination that’s going to give us the best success. We create competition there for those guys to get on the field.
A: Nick’s very impressive in the weight room. I think we all kind of knew that coming in. He’s very strong. He loves the weight room. Talking to the strength coaches, they say he just comes to work every day and is all about business. (He) doesn’t say a whole lot. It’s hard to get Nick to talk. It was hard to get him to talk during recruiting. It’s still hard to get him to talk now, but he’s a great kid who comes over every day to be focused and ready to get better at whatever the coaches ask him to do in the weight room or whatever Coach (Bryan) McClendon asks him to do on the field when they’re working together. I believe Nick’s going to do well here because of his attitude and his work ethic.
Q: How do you go about managing all the talent you have at that position?
A: Well, obviously you’ve got two of those guys who are veterans – third-year players in Todd (Gurley) and Keith (Marshall). But then you’ve got a second-year player in (Brendan) Douglas who got to play a little bit and got some experience and gained confidence with his teammates and probably gained confidence in himself that he could play and be effective. Then you’ve got two true freshmen. So we’ve got 29 practices to figure out who is going to give us the best chance to provide us some depth and help us win some games. Really, all those guys are going to be involved in special teams, and I think being involved in special teams also gives guys confidence, too, that they can really go out there and play when their number’s called possibly at tailback.
Q: What will Quayvon Hicks do this preseason?
A: Still the same as we ended in spring practice. He’s going to be in John Lilly’s meeting room. When you look at it, he’s tight ends coach and Coach McClendon is the running backs coach, but as I’ve talked about in the spring, there’s going to be a little more cross training with that position and trying to go to more where the tight ends can play on the line, and tight ends off the line at fullback. We still have our Merritt Halls and Taylor Maxeys that are true hammerhead fullbacks. We’re going to try and train some more guys to do both. Jeb Blazevich will be a guy we train to do both as well.
Q: How do you feel about your skilled guys coming off injuries?
A: All the guys looks good. They’ve got a great mindset. They feel good. They’re all anxious to get out there and go again, which is good. (They) haven’t played in a long time and they’re anxious to get out there and show what they can do again, and we’ve just got to be careful with all of them and have that in mind when they’re out there practicing. The way we’re practicing now, we’re really two-spotting every drill. We’ve got to be mindful of these guys coming off injuries.
Q: Are the issues you had with receivers in the spring being resolved?
A: We’ve provided more depth. Obviously we’re going to get Justin (Scott-Wesley) and Malcolm (Mitchell) back, and provide some depth with Isaiah (McKenzie), Shakenneth (Williams), and Rico (Johnson) has gone to defense now. He’s going to start there this fall camp, but we’ve got more depth in there, and we’re also getting a guy that’s a walk-on, Michael Erdman, back who wasn’t there in the spring. I feel better about that position because of depth. We’re going to have 14 receivers when we start camp; that’s scholarship and walk-on. Now it’s a little bit easier to practice and get guys quality reps where you don’t wear them down. We got a little bit worn down in the spring because the numbers were low and the injuries and freshmen weren’t here.
Q: Who will be your backup center?
A: We’ve got to figure out who our backup center is going to be. Hunter Long, Josh Cardiello and Isaiah Wynn are candidates. Glenn Welch, Parker’s brother, is another candidate. Those are guys we’re gonna rep, but we’ve got to develop some depth at that position. Hunter has done it, and so has Josh a little bit. Isaiah is a guy we’re going to put in there, but if Isaiah is one of the better guards, he’ll be playing guard.
A: No. We just kind of talked about it and put our guys that we have offensively on the board and what they have and kind of need. We’re going to see if he can go over there and contribute, and I think we’ll know early on whether he’s going to stay there or come to the offense. Not that it’s easy to play receiver, but if he were to start at offense and go to defense I think the adjustment would be harder on the kid.
Q: How has Todd Gurley progressed since the spring?
A: He’s part of the team and he’s got to go out there and approach every day with the right mindset, kind of like I talked about in the beginning. We’re going to be smart about things we put him through, and we’ve got to practice smart. We’ve got to be able to thud the right way as a team, and be able to practice full speed and not tackle to the ground, which always helps. We’ll challenge him just like we did in the spring. You want to be great, so let’s practice to be great. I really like where he’s at right now. I feel good about that entering camp.
Q: Any frontrunners in the backup quarterback battle?
A: Like always, it’s going to play out in practice reps, and obviously the three scrimmages that we have are going to be very big for those guys. I think at the end of the day, it’s who is going to put us in the best position to be able to win a ball game and execute what we ask him to do. Both of those guys (Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta) have worked extremely hard. Really all those guys, Jacob (Park) included. Every day I start a meeting, I talk about competition in the room. I don’t want them striving to be number two. I want them striving to be number one. I want the coach saying ‘we need to find a way to play this guy right now.’ That’s kind of how I approach it every day.
Q: How much is Clemson on your mind at this point?
A: Obviously Clemson is on our mind in the offseason as we prepare to do our scouting reports and watch those guys, but they’re the first game. It’s going to be the talk because you’re going to ask our guys and they’re going to constantly see it. Really, to be honest, our process is going to be we start camp as what I talked about in the beginning – working to get better every day. That’s our job as coaches – to keep them focused on that. If we’re worried about Clemson and what they’re doing, we’re not going to be ready to play on August 30.