Dan McCarney: We improved as a team, there is no doubt about it. I was glad to see that. These kids have come ready to be coached, ready to practice, and ready to improve in every practice we've had so far. I'm pleased with the progress.
We went about an hour and 15 minutes of practice and then got a 60-play scrimmage after that. The best part was we got a lot of situations, different down-and-distance plays, and it was real competitive. I was glad with what we got done tonight.
CN: What were some of the highlights of the scrimmage?
McCarney: I don't like to just go out there and play. I like to put them in situations where they know down and distance, areas of the field, and what we're trying to emphasize. We got some work out in the middle of the field, and a lot of second-and-long, third-and-medium and third-and-long segments. We're always going to go red zone, goal-line, and two minute. We got some two-point play work and put the game on the line.
I knew on the field that Austin Flynn was one of our starting wide receivers watching him scrimmage tonight, and I knew that after watching tape. I don't know who else is going to be a starter, but I know who one of them is going to be when we line up on September 3rd. He's catching everybody, has natural hands, and runs real good routes. There is no doubt in my mind he's a starting wide receiver…period end of story.
CN: Did any one side of the ball seem to have an advantage?
McCarney: There were a lot of good plays on both sides of the ball. Nobody really dominated anything. There were good things on both sides and they came through and made some plays when they had to. I like what I'm seeing with this team.
You're always looking for some young guys to continue their rise from a performance standpoint, and I think we're seeing a little bit of that. Brandon Hunley got another interception tonight and I'm real impressed with his progress. We need him to come through as one of those young defensive backs. Adam Carper is doing a lot of good things. He's not ready for September 3rd yet, but he's just learning and getting better.
I thought our offensive line was a little more physical tonight, especially in some goal-line situations down there in the red zone. I thought they came off the ball a little better than we have the past few scrimmages. It was the same (starting) five tonight that were the last few practices.
CN: Are the tight ends showing some improvement, too?
McCarney: Ben Barkema is definitely our number one tight end. There is no question Walter Nickel will play, and is going to help our football team next year. There will never be a game where we only play one tight end, so Nickel will definitely be in the mix. We'll continue to give he and Tyler Lorenzen lots of opportunities and hope they can help our football team. There is no question those two can help us in the passing game.
CN: How is the secondary coming along, particularly at the cornerback position with LaMarcus Hicks?
McCarney: I'm real happy with LaMarcus and the job he's doing. Our number one secondary is really playing well together and as a unit. They look like a number one secondary. LaMarcus has some huge shoes to fill. I sure was not expecting him to be the leader that Ellis Hobbs was in the program, but he's playing better than I thought he could at this stage of playing corner. It's a major difference from being a nickel back to going out there as a starting corner.
Then we've got to continue bringing all of those young guys along. Caleb Berg and Hunley are guys that continue to show up that are not in the starting group. Those are probably the two most impressive guys that are not with the starting unit.
CN: Have the injured players you've talked about returned to practice yet?
McCarney: Nik Moser is back full go and has been practicing and scrimmaging. Starting Monday he was back and is doing. Scott Stephenson is inside drills and individual, but didn't scrimmage. We're getting him more and more work. He's one of the most physical football players on our team, but he just needs more practice. We'll keep giving more stuff every day and hopefully these last six workouts he'll get more work. If he stays on the practice field and gets coached, he's going to be one of our starting five.
CN: Did the kicking game improved today over the Saturday scrimmage?
McCarney: Tony Yelk has been out with a quad pull so he hasn't practiced yet this week. Bret Culbertson is definitely our number one PAT/field goal guy and that hasn't changed. When Tony's back healthy he will really challenged Troy Blankenship for that number one punting job.