They Said It: Mel Tucker

ATHENS - UGA DC Mel Tucker met with the media on Saturday...

On how the setup will be with head coach Kirby Smart as far as calling plays on defense … 

“It's a team game. We're going to work together as a team, as a staff. You know, obviously I'm going to call the plays and Kirby, he's heavily involved in the defense and I'm very comfortable with that. I think it's going well so far. We're having a lot of fun and we're coaching the players.”

On impressions of head coach Kirby Smart before and after he took this job …

“Kirby, he's just a great coach. He's got a lot of energy. He's got a tremendous passion for the game. He's very well respected amongst the coaches in college and NFL. Just everyone knows he's a stand-up guy. He overall is just a heck of a person.”

On the importance of technique on the defensive side of the ball …

“Yeah, I think the foundation for players and for defenses is technique and fundamentals. If you don't have that, I think you're going to struggle to reach your potential, your full potential. We emphasize technique and fundamentals every day. The players, I think they embrace that and I think they understand that's what's going to make difference.”

On inheriting veteran players in the secondary …

“I really like the guys that we have. Obviously, I'm coaching the secondary, so I work very closely with all those guys in the back end. It's a fun group to coach. You have guys with tremendous experience. You've got Malkom (Parrish), you got Dom (Dominick Sanders), you've got Q (Quincy Mauger), Aaron Davis. Those guys, they are tremendous. And then we have some young guys that I think have a chance to be good players for us. So just overall, the group, they are very, very coachable. I think they work well together. There's really good energy in the room, and I look forward to seeing those guys every day, quite frankly.”

On playing man-to-man defense …

“We work on it every day. We work on press technique, man coverage, with the wide receivers, tight ends and the backs. Again, it's just technique and fundamentals. We do a lot of drill work with these guys. We coach them off the tape, as well. They embrace the techniques that we're teaching them and I think I see constant improvement with these guys, and they have tremendous ability, as well. I feel good about our ability to play man-to-man when we want to and when we need to.”

On the defensive line rotation …

“It's going to be important to keep guys fresh. Regardless of who you play at almost any level, you want to have a really good D-line rotation and keep guys fresh. Teams are going to go fast. That's a big part of college football right now. And so you want to make sure you have a good rotation, have depth, and the more guys that can contribute, the better.”

On the defensive line’s pass rush and the importance of rushing the quarterback …

“I feel good about the guys we have. We talk every day about having a coordinated pass rush and having the rush in, that covers working together to affect the quarterback; and that's one of the things we have to do is affect the quarterback with rush and coverage. I think we have guys that can push the pocket inside. I think we have guys that can give you some rush off the edge, and I think we have more than two or three. I think we have quite a few guys that can get that done. I feel good about it. It's a work-in-progress but we're working on it every day, and the guys, they are getting after it out there.”

On any feedback he has received from his players so far …

“Yeah, I think so. It's been an aggressive installation in this camp so far. You see improvement. You get the feedback from the players. We ask a lot of questions in the meetings. It's dialogue, back and forth. It's a good dynamic. And the guys, I think they are comfortable enough that they don't understand something, they can ask, and we have answers for them. And I see constant improvement. I see guys having a better understanding of what we're trying to do each and every day. So I'm encouraged by that.”

On coaching at the college level compared to coaching in the NFL …

“Very similar. I spent eight years in college and I went 10 years in the NFL and I'm back in college, my second year back. I've never really changed the way I coach players. You just want to be a great teacher, and you want to motivate and develop the players. Coordinator, defense, it's a team effort. It's not just one guy doing it. We have a great coaching staff and we all work together, and with Coach Smart and with the players, and we're going to get it done as a group.”

On what has most impressed him about this defense so far …

“I've been impressed with the energy of this group. When you walk into the meeting room with those guys, you know, they are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, paying attention. They have really good attitudes. They seem like the chemistry is getting better and better, and they are just very coachable, and you can tell, they want to be great. They want to do it the right way. They are pleasers. In terms of things we need to work on, we need to work on everything. And I know that sounds cliche, but every phase of what we're doing: Run defense, pass defense, pad level, things like that, eye discipline, reducing the penalties, things like that, we adjust those things every day. Our goal today, when we go out there today, is to improve in all phases.”

On philosophical similarities with Alabama …

“We'll have to see -- I've got an idea. We've got multiple fronts, multiple coverages, and various packages that we're going to use.

And obviously there's going be to be some carryover from what we've done at Alabama, but we're going to do some new things, as well. We'll just have to see how it all plays out.”

On who is the emotional leader on the defense …

“I’m not sure about that. I see a lot of guys who are leading by example -- and I believe that anyone can be a leader. It can be a young guy; it can be an older guy. You know, you can affect people in a positive way by being more vocal. Some guys want to lead more by example. But I think we have a really good mix of older players and younger players that are working together, and we'll see how the leaders emerge, kind of as we go. We haven't had any adversity yet and that's going to be a big part of how we handle adversity.”

On head coach Kirby Smart relying on him … 

“Kirby's doing a great job. He really is ultimately -- he's prepared every single day. I mean, he's an attention to detail guy. Everything is detailed out to the second. The staff is working well together, and he leans on all of us in different ways. We have a lot of experience on our staff on both sides of the ball, and he always asks for input, which great leaders always do that. And what ever I can do to help Coach Smart, I'm going to do.”

On the ambition for him to become a head coach one day …

“You know, the way I approach it is -- I'm going to approach this job and I'm approaching this job as though this will be the last job that I'll ever have. This is the only job I'm going to ever have and that's going to be my focus day-in and day-out. And then, you know, you never know what the future holds, but I feel like it's a privilege to be here and to be the defensive coordinator here at the University of Georgia. I feel like that's a privilege and I'm excited to be here. I'm not thinking about or focusing on anything else.”

On the defensive line …

“I like our group. We have a good mixture of size and athleticism. I think we have stoutness up front. We have pass rush ability on the edges. I think we have some young guys that are going to be able to contribute for us. We're going to have to see how they go. We haven't scrimmaged yet and we haven't been in live situations yet but I feel great about the group. We're going to have as many people -- we're going to assign roles to as many people as we can. The more guys that have roles, I think the better that we're going to be. And so we're looking for guys that can play for us; that can play winter football for us, and we look to have a strong rotation up front.”

On junior linebacker Lorenzo Carter …

“I tell you what, Lorenzo, obviously he's a tremendous athlete. He responds well to coaching. I've been impressed with him. He runs to the ball. He gives great effort. He works at it every single day. He's a team guy. He has a very consistent, positive attitude towards what we're doing and that's what you're looking for from your players. Someone asked about leadership earlier; I see that he's a guy that's going to be able to provide leadership for our group.”

On the development of freshman Mecole Hardman …

“Mecole, he's doing fine. High expectations for all these new guys that come in, highly-recruited players. But when we get them here, we're just working and working hard. Trying to get these guys dialed in to the techniques and fundamentals of what we want them to do and how we want them to do it, and he's responding well. He's a hard worker. He's got a great attitude. He works well with his teammates. He fits well in the room. And he always wants to know, "Coach, was that good? Is that how you want me to do it?" And he's always paying attention in meetings and things like that. I think his future is very bright.”

On taking in the atmosphere of the Athens community and the University of Georgia …

“Bulldog Nation is tremendous. I probably can't say enough. My family and myself, we're very excited to come here and I think we've settled in. The kids started school. Things seem to be going well there. It's just a great town, great community. Everyone's moving in the same direction it seems like, and it's good, positive energy just around the university and around this program. Like I said, I feel like it's a privilege to be here and it's a blessing, and I can't say enough great things about this place.”

On the competition and how he will decide who starts …

“There's nothing set in stone. From a competition standpoint, the guys are competing for roles. There's no one on our defense that has anything cemented in in terms of starting. But those roles will be defined as we go based on production. But the more guys that have roles, the better and so we want everyone that's here to be able to contribute in a positive way to our defense. And so that's our goal; to develop everyone and bring everyone along at a good pace so that we have more guys that are capable of playing winning football for us.”

On junior defensive back Malkom Parrish …

“Malkom, he is a tough, hard-nosed football player, very well respected in our locker room and on our staff. He is one of the hardest workers that we have. He's very durable. He takes all of his reps. He's focused in on his techniques. I see improvement in him. I mean, he's just so coachable. He wants to be great, and he puts it out there every day. And so you know, the guys like that, and we have tons of guys like him. But those are guys that motivate you as a coach. Those are guys that you look forward to coaching to those guys every day, because you know what you're going to get and it's contagious. I think he's doing fine.”

On live tackling in practice …

“We'll have to see. I don't have a crystal ball. But whatever the tempo is of the day, whether it's tag-off or it's thud, or high and hard, try and stay off ground, or it's fall live to the ground, I'm sure our guys will do or attempt to do what we ask them to do.”

On inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann …

“Coach Shumann, first of all, he's a tremendous person, high-integrity guy, just like all of our coaches are. And I got to know him last year at Alabama. High, I mean, high-level intelligence, tremendous passion for the game, excellent teacher. Cares about the players. Good staff guy, staff chemistry guy, and extremely, extremely hard worker. Very detailed, has a great understanding of our program from a scheme standpoint defensively, but also just how we operate as a program in general. So he's a tremendous asset to our staff.”

On Glenn Schumann’s maturity as a young coach …

“It doesn't surprise me. When I met him a year ago, I mean, you could see right away that he has a great understanding of the game. This is a great opportunity for him and I think the players respond well to him. I see improvement from that position, from the spring to now, and they improve every day. And that's our jobs as coaches, to teach, motivate and develop players, I see that happening.”

On overall defensive philosophy …

“Again, and I really feel strongly about this: It is not a Mel Tucker defense. It is the University of Georgia defense, and it's going to be a team effort. Our foundation is going to be in the best condition, to play with technique and fundamentals, play smart, play fast, play physical and just overall, a brand of relentless defense and relentless football — high velocity, nonstop. We want to stop the run, and we want to affect the quarterback with rush and coverage. We want to force takeaways, we want to be great in special situations and make people he can which check don't give up big plays. In a nutshell, that's what we're trying to do.”


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