Nix goes indepth about the offense

Offensive Coordinator Patrick Nix has a few tough decisions to make going into next season. One is choosing a starter from the three new quarterbacks who are hoping to show they are the one to lead the Canes offense. CanesTime.com spoke with Nix about how the offense has looked so far this spring.

Q: Do you think the receivers are better this spring than they were a year ago?
A: "We're deeper and I think that makes us better just because we're deeper right now. When we get the other guys in, we'll be even deeper. Last year at this time, we had three. When two of them got injured, we were down to one scholarship receiver and that made life pretty difficult. At least this year, we're two deep across the board with an extra couple of guys that can help us. It's nice to have a little bit of depth to get through practice and get through spring so that you can run your offense and get a lot done. It's important that these quarterbacks get to run the offense and we don't need to be doing a makeshift thing because of lack of depth. I don't know that we're any better individually but as a group, the depth makes us better."

Q: Now that you have so many good receivers, do you think the spread is something that fits your personnel?
A: "I didn't say we had so many good receivers. I said we have so many receivers. We have two deep which is nice. It's hard. Who are you going to take off the field, Javarris or Coop? Dedrick Epps, Richard Gordon, or Zellner? I can't say that the receivers are better than all of those guys. We're going to put the best eleven on the field. It's just nice to have a little bit more numbers at each position. Tight end and running backs have some depth. We've got a couple fullbacks now and they're young. At least we have some numbers and have some depth at every position"

Q: You had the offense in shotgun formation often in the scrimmage. What are some of the benefits of being in that formation?
A: "Obviously, it takes a little pressure off the quarterbacks as far as not having to worry about taking steps. They're able to catch it and go. The biggest thing is that its something they're used to. In practice, we're underneath a lot more than in the gun because we're trying to get them used to it but in scrimmage you want to be in there and compete so you put them in the position that they're most comfortable in. right now, they're probably a little bit more comfortable in the gun but I think that's changing. I think each one of them are getting a little bit more comfortable underneath which they have to because that's what we're going to be in a lot of the time. They're getting more comfortable as we go."

Q: If Jacory and Robert both turn out to be great, could you see yourself going with whoever has the hot hand?
A: "Who knows? We'll worry about that when it happens. I'd just like to have a hot hand. I think they both are going to be great. We'll worry about ti when it happens."

Q: Center is one of the question marks surrounding the offense. What do you think about that situation?
A: "They're doing good. We've got three of them who are competing and they're all doing pretty good. I think what's hurting them more than anything is that you've got Xavier (Shannon) and Tyler (Horn) who are both new to the system and trying to learn what's going on. Then you've got (Matt) Pipho who's been around but not necessarily played a ton of center. He's played a lot at guard and has bounced back and forth and he's still learning. It's still too early to give a fair evaluation of them because they're all so new to the position and new to the system. They've all done some really good things and one of them will emerge by the time the fall comes around. Right now they're all doing pretty good and it's nice to have some depth at that position."

Q: Last year there wasn't one main tight end like in years past. Do you think this current group of tight ends has shown that they are deserving of being involved in the passing game?
A: "Obviously they're going to be incorporated. I think they all can do good things. They can all catch the ball. They've all got another year of experience. At this place, it's hard to be a tight end because you're constantly compared to some of the best of all time. It's hard to measure up to that. Each one of them has done a good job and has gotten better. Dedrick missing the scrimmage obviously hurt him a little bit. The good thing is I think we completed the ball to 13 different guys so I think everyone is going to be a part of the offense. I think the quarterbacks have done a good job of incorporating everybody into the offense and completing the ball to everybody. There's not just one guy which is very important. If you can spread it out and make the defense have to defend every single position, it's to your benefit."

Q: Is Patrick Hill a fullback or an H-back?
A: "Fullback but we call that H."

A: Coming from juco, is he going to need a year to get ready to go?
A: "This is his year right now during spring practice. It's just like Coop last year. he came in as a freshman in the spring. By the time you get to fall, you're sort of not a freshman anymore. It's kind of like a been there, done that kind of thing. I think Pat, coming from juco and having the spring, is at a huge advantage. He's doing very good. He's given us a very solid blocker that can do some things out of the back field. He can catch the ball and make a few runs here and there. He has been a really positive addition for us and so is John Calhoun. He's done a really good job to be a true freshman stepping on campus for the first time. He's done really good. We'll be able to use those guys in certain role and they'll definitely help out."

Q: With so many options at H-back and tight end, do you see yourselves constantly running guys on and off the field every other play?
A: "Not every play but the good thing is that they'll be fresh. A guy may play five snaps in a row and then switch while the defensive ends and linebackers are having to play a lot more. Hopefully that will give us and advantage of keeping guys fresh. Each one of them will play twenty snaps instead of one guy having to play forty. It's nice to be able to have a lot of different personnel groups for defenses to have to worry about."

Q: You have five running backs in Javarris, Cooper, McNeal, Chambers and Derron. Will you also be rotating the five to keep everyone fresh?
A: "At tailback you're going to have injuries. It's going to happen. Look at last year, at the end we only had one. We had five going in and ended up with one. At that position we're going to have injuries and we know it. At this point, you're building depth so when the injuries happen you're ready. We're going to find the two or three guys that are going to get it done and play them until the injury bug hits the position and then we'll move to the next guy. Very few places in the nation don't have injuries at that position because it's the most physical position on the field as far as carrying the ball and taking the hits and the protections and everything else."

Q: With so much talent and depth at running back, is that your most difficult position to decide who is going to play?
A: "No. we don't the 230 lb back that you can feature thirty times. Those are the guys that can play and not get hurt. Our guys are not that big and strong like that. You've got to play other guys or they're going to end up getting hurt. It's nice to have a few guys that you can go to so that you don't have to pound one the whole game and get them hurt unnecessarily."

Q: From what you've seen so far this spring, what is the biggest thing the offense needs to improve on?
A: "Everything. There's not a single thing we don't need to improve on."

Q: How do you feel the quarterbacks did in the scrimmage?
A: "They've had a good spring. I don't just look at a scrimmage. We've done way too much to just look at one thing. They've done a good job. They've done a good job of handling the pressure and we've put a lot on them and asked them to do a lot and for the most part they've answered it. They're all great workers. They spend a lot of time at it and really enjoy it. They're fun to coach because they enjoy it and they want to be here and want to work and get better. Those kind of guys are fun to be around and each one of them are like that. They all get along so that makes it fun. They've all had a good spring. There's a long way to go and we've got a lot to do but each one of them has done a good job and gotten better each day. I think that's the goal of spring, just get better each day and learn a little bit each day."

Q: Do Jermaine McKenzie and Aldarius Johnson add playmaking ability to the wide receiver group?
A: "If they can't make plays they're probably not going to play. I hope they can make plays. We'll find out. We haven't seen if Jermaine can make plays or not because he hasn't been out here more than a few days in pads. We're still waiting to see him. We hope he can and think he'll be able to. Aldarius has made some here and there but being a freshman, you hold your breath and wait and see. The good thing is we have a lot more depth at the position with Hank and Ryan and Sam and Khalil and Kayne and those two."

Q: At what point do you have to make a decision as far as who is going to be taking snaps in the fall?
A: "Probably game week next year and it might not even be then. They better all be ready because at this point, you're one play away from playing. Being this young, they all need reps because if you put all your eggs in one basket and he gets hurt early, you're done. You've got to get them all ready just in case."

Q: How important is the spring game compared to regular practices?
A: "It's just another day. If they don't treat everyday like a spring game then we've got problems. That's the great thing about these guys. Every day is very important to them. There's only fifteen of them so you better treat every day like it's your last day to practice."

Q: Does it add a little bit of pressure them having the people there watching?
A: "Not at all. There's a lot of pressure on them out there every single day. They are getting ripped by every single direction."

Q: So an excellent spring game performance does not matter more than practice?
A: "It means he had a good day. If he has one good day out of fifteen, we'll see how it stacks up against the rest of them. If he has fourteen bad and one good, I'd rather have the guy who has fourteen good and one bad."

Q: Do you tell the guys everyday that they have the chance to be the starting quarterback at the University of Miami ?
A: "Pretty much. I also tell them that they have the chance to be the starting quarterback at the University of Miami when they make a bad play. When they make a good play, I tell them it's pretty good and when they make a bad play I tell them that's good enough to have you watching from the stands."

Q: Are you scared of having three freshman quarterbacks or does it excite you?
A: "I've started a freshman twice before in my career. It's actually kind of fun because you get a clean slate and you get to build on them. These guys have been fun to build on. They're workers. They do a great job. They're gym rats. They love being around and love hanging out with the guys and hanging out in the coaches offices. That's fun. That's how I am. It's fun to have guys like that."


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