Familiarity with Denard:
I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what his skill level is. I don’t know yet, and won’t know until we do it, how it will translate into what we want to do. We’re going to take his skill level and make it fit for what’s best for offense. So we may not look exactly like we looked at San Diego State or we looked at Auburn, we may be a little different, but we’re going to see to it that his skills get explored.
Denard's knowledge of the playbook:
No, we’re still...it’s really not that time yet. We’ll be more into football mode once we get into spring football. We’ll take that slow. A little but at a time. I have a philosophy as a coordinator in that I don’t have installation days cast in stone so to speak. We’ll put a group of plays in and we’ll see how it takes; if it looks like it takes, good, then we’ll put the next plays in. It may be three days after we put the first play in. It may be the next day. The football end of it, we’re still kind of in the embryonic stage, but we'll get that coached.
What kind of transition he'll have to make:
It’s different for different quarterbacks, because I’ve had every flavor of quarterback. I say different flavor. I’ve had tall guys, short guys, guys who can move, guys who couldn’t. Really, I think the things that we’re looking for is the ability to manage the offense number one, get us in good plays. Number two is, when we ask you to throw it, throw it accurately, and number three, when there’s breakdowns, in particular the passing game, can you create. The first two, you can be a good system quarterback. The third one is what separates the good quarterbacks from the great quarterbacks.
Denard scrambling and creating as opposed to designed runs:
Well, there will be a mixture of both, we’re going to keep, because he’s such a good runner and he’s proven that, we’re going to keep some designed quarterback runs. Now, he’s not going to rush for 1700 yards, I’m going to say that, I already told him that. We’re not going to do that, cause he, from what I understand, ten out of 12 games he had to leave. We’re not going to beat him up. We’re going to put more of the onus of running the football With our running backs, but we’re not going to eliminate him. We’re going to run the ball, we’re going to have designed runs, and we’re going to have improv runs, obviously because he has that dimension to him, so to answer that question, probably a nebulous answer to that question, but that’s really the approach we’re taking; where a year ago, at San Diego State, we had no quarterback designed runs. Zero. We’ll have, obviously, more here.
How Denard feels about that:
Oh, he’s fine. Denard wants to be a next level player. He’s like every kid on our team. He wants to be a next level player, and he knows that being developed the way we’re developing him now gives him the best chance to be that next level player, and so he’s very receptive to it. He could still rush for 1000 yards and pass for the 700 he didn’t rush for. That being said, who knows. Things could change as the season goes along and he might run more, but the likelihood of him rushing for what he rushed for a year ago is very unlikely.
Anyone he can compare Denard to?
I’ve never had anyone exactly like him. I’ve had two quarterbacks similar. I had a kid at Boise State that none of you will know who he is, a kid named Tony Hilde, a lot of designed runs too. He was not afraid to run the ball. He didn’t rush for over 1,000 yards, but he ran the ball. And then I had Cade McNown at UCLA, who again, we had some quarterback designed runs, but Cade was a good improve guy who could create even when he didn’t scramble or run the ball. He would buy time to make throws, those types of things. He was similar, but no one just like Denard.
Is Denard a next level player?
I can’t judge that yet, because I haven’t coached him in our offense, but he certainly has next level skills. Based on what I’ve seen on tape, he definitely has that.
As a quarterback?
Possibly. Possibly. A lot of people would say, well you know, they didn’t think Michael Vick – well he’s about the same height as Michael Vick and he’s probably faster, so now it’s a matter of developing his passing skills so he can play at the next level, because he has those other things. Those other things that you can’t coach. You can’t script 40 and 50 yard runs. You don’t do that and not many quarterbacks do that, so now it’s a matter of shoring up his game.
What about Devin Gardner? How does he fit?
Oh, you heard what Brady said there. There’s no sense of entitlement here. We have complete respect for what’s been accomplished by Denard and anyone else who has been in the lineup. But by the same token, everyone is going to have to prove to us that they can play their position, quarterback, LT, C, RB,. We’re going to start with the guys that finished. Ok. The guys that finished. Then we’ll see where we go from there, but you can be assured that somebody in that lineup will be different than what finished.
Will the zone blocking scheme continue?
That’s part of our package, but no. We are not primarily a zone team. We have the zone, we run the zone. But we’re a combination of zone, gap and insert schemes where we’ll run all that stuff. And we have found, again, as you go through it, you kind of find out what you’re good at, what you’re better at as you go and tend to explore those options more. But at San Diego State, we were a power team. We ran it, ran it and ran it. We’re going to run it here. At Auburn, we were more of a zone team. That’s what we were better at. That’s what we did. Some of the guys, you are going to find out what we’re all about. We’re not going to be a spread team. So, if we’re not going to be a spread team, what direction are we going to go, and are we still going to maintain some of the spread concepts to exploit his running ability. We have all that available to us.
So the zone read is dead?
No, it’s not dead, it’s just not a priority. If that makes any sense. We’re not a spread team, but can we lineup in a shotgun and still zone read? Heck yeah. Absolutely we can, but it’s not going to be something that’s featured as much as it has in the past, because we’re taking a different approach to offense.
Emphasis on size of the linemen:
Well, Aaron Wellman, who’s our strength coach, who I consider as much an expert on this as anybody, will tell you that he will try take every kid, see what his maximum efficiency is with regard to their playing weight and work from there. No. Are we trying to get bigger? Not necessarily, but if we can get bigger and not lose any speed or game speed? Heck yes. So it’s so different for every kid, but I don’t see, as a coordinator, I don’t see a necessity to have all 350-lb offensive linemen. That may not be efficient. They may not play the best that way. We take them each on an individual basis and see how they can best perform based on their weight.
The fullback position:
John McColgan, again, he sure looks like one. Fred Jackson’s still going to do what he’s done in the past, which is cross train everybody. A guy like Stephen Hopkins, who has a football profile like I had with Ronnie Brown at Auburn. He had a fullback profile, yet he was a tailback and what we did is he became a hybrid. We taught him how to play a little bit of tailback, we taught him how to play a little bit of fullback, and we’ll see which one fits. Every guy is going to be able to play both positions, yet they may not play it all year. We’re unlikely to have Vince Smith ever line up at fullback, but by the same token, he’s going to learn, because there may be one play, one play, where we want to sneak him in there, get him out for a pass or something, so they're all going to be cross trained at both positions, knowing that there’s not a lot of fullbacks, and because we do have a few more tight ends, we can supplement that.
How have the running backs received that?
Oh yeah, running backs are fired up now and doing probably what a lot of them did in high school. You know, the running backs, if it goes how we’d like it to go, they will probably be the biggest beneficiary of the transition.