Tom Herman: He's clearly the leader for the offensive team and you could tell that from day one because the players really rally around him. My job is to try and make him better and to improve his skills. Some players are just born with those skills and he's one those type of kids. The thing with Austen right now is that he has some mechanical issues that he needs to work on because he's not as accurate throwing right now as we want him to be. The great thing with him is that he really works his tail off and he really wants to be great which is very important. I think part of the problem is that he has to process a lot of new information right now and I think once he feels comfortable in the offense, the fundamental stuff will come back. The other great thing about him is that he understands all of this and I really think the sky is the limit for him.
CSR: How is Jerome Tiller progressing with the offense?
TH: When I first saw him I wasn't sure about him but after being with him for fifteen practices he showed that in due time he clearly has the ability to win games in the Big 12. The thing I like about him is that he has extreme football smarts and he just really knows the game. He definitely has some issues with fundamentals but most redshirt freshmen are expected to at that point in their career. The great thing about Jerome was that he got better every day and there was clear tangible evidence that he was really improving. I also really like that he was noticing it and realizing that he could definitely be a good player. His release is already better and he is throwing more accurately. It was really a pleasant surprise the way he improved over the fifteen practices.
CSR: Is Alexander Robinson clearly the starter at running back?
TH: Definitely and really he's at another level right now. He's a tough runner who makes people miss but he also blocks and catches the ball very well. He just pretty much never misses an assignment which is huge. The other two guys are definitely making strides for us. Bo (Williams) is a strider with some speed and Jeremiah (Schwartz) is a bruiser that needs to learn that he needs to be that on every play. With him we want more Bo Jackson than him sometimes trying to be Barry Sanders. Both of them got better throughout the spring but at the moment they are behind Alexander in regards to fundamentals and footwork.
CSR: Many people feel that wide receiver is your deepest position. Do you agree?
TH: We've got depth in numbers but we're still looking for some of the guys to become playmakers for us. The two guys that really stepped up during the practices were Marquis Hamilton and Sedrick Johnson. We obviously didn't get to see much of Darius Darks because of his injury but considering he was able to catch forty passes as a freshman, I definitely think he have a chance to be a players for us. So those are really the three that we can count on right now and we will also be looking at the two junior college kids when they come in because we're going to need four to five guys that we can count on each week to make plays for us. The other guys are just need to step up and separate themselves from the rest.
CSR: How are things looking at the tight end position?
TH: I'm real happy with that group. Derrick Catlett has been a big surprise to me because Collin Franklin is probably the better pass catcher but Catlett just kept going in and making blocks for us so I would say that I have a lot of confidence in those two and I think they will really give us quality reps throughout a game. (Kurt) Hammerschmidt needs to continue to get better because physically he is what you want but he needs to be more committed as a blocker.
CSR: How happy are you with the offensive line play so far?
TH: I thought they got a lot better during the fifteen practices. Coach Bleil really did a great job with them and I feel they really understand the offense the best of any of the groups on offense. They are kind of like the wide receivers in that we've got five guys that we are really happy with but the problem is that you really need six or seven for each game because you have to have back-ups that can step up if needed. We have a couple of guys that I think can step up and take on those roles but we just haven't seen it yet. Right now our starters would be Ben Lamaak at left tackle, Hayworth Hicks at left guard, Alex Alvarez at center, Reggie Stephens at right guard, and Kelechi Osemele at right tackle.
CSR: What are you most pleased about at this point with your offense?
TH: I would say that we showed an excellent energy level for fifteen practices and the effort far exceeded what I expected from a team that had gone 5-19 the last two seasons. Light bulbs really went on the last 4-5 practices and I really started to understand the tempo and pace that we need to play at in order to win games. Early on we would make a few plays but then mess it up with a penalty or a turnover. That started to change for the better as time went on.
CSR: What clearly needs to improve before the season opener?
TH: We need to increase our awareness of how urgent every situation on offense is during a game. We have to be great on third down and we have to have guys that make it urgent and make it important if we want to win. We have to be better in the red zone and with our two-minute offense. I just don't think we're at the point where we understand that urgency yet.