Coordinators Discuss Scrimmage Impressions

Their boss was away, for the very best of reasons. So as a new daughter meant a most fortunate Friday the 13th for Dan and Megan Mullen, the coach's top assistants took care of the evening scrimmage at Scott Field. Following the two-hour show, Chris Wilson and Les Koenning spoke to media.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Chris Wilson: Q: How did you adjust the scrimmage with Coach Mullen not here? "We do what we always do as coaches. We just do our job. I'm excited for him and Megan and their family, we've got a new Bulldog in the family! And we just stayed the course tonight."

Q: Did the defense begin the scrimmage a little slow? "You could say we started slow. But we have an offense that really executes at a high level. And the one thing that I've learned is you have to give really good guys credit. Because one thing that Tyler can do, he really softens you up because he can really throw the football. If you want to stand in there and load the box up on him, he'll pick you apart at times."

"They were able to establish the run game early, then when we started comitting to the run game he was able to get the ball down the field. So we kind of gelled, but we've got a lot of room for improvement as you can see."

Q: Darius Slay had three picks and could have had four or five? "I'm really excited about Mr. Slay. I really am. Watching him, he is really in his element when he can reach up there and play some man and get close to receivers. He's also a really good tackler, so he is really making a push to be a starter at that position. Which is really what you want, you want to create some depth and competition. So I really like the development of the corner position."

"We're going to play the best guy. We're going to grade the tape and the best guy is going to play. There is no ‘next' so whoever we feel grades out the best at that position is the guy who will start the season."

Q: Did the coverages kind of confuse the quarterbacks? "I don't know if we confused them at all! It's not always the right guy, but when you can put five DBs out on the field it does allow you to disguise and be more multiple."

Q: It seemed Autry was more aggressive this time? "As the guy said, he is who we thought he is! He's that guy! And the one thing that makes him go, when he's not out there thinking he makes us different. I don't always like to say better, I think that is an over-used term, but he really makes us different."

"He's a pass rusher. He can bend, he's explosive off the ball, his change-of-direction is very unique. And what stands out is his ‘punch' in the two- to three-yard area is really impressive."

Q: How has the defense fared overall? "There has been a huge improvement, from the standpoint that there is no more installation. Guys aren't out there just thinking. Tonight if we had had an opponent come in we'd be able to actually play a full game. And that was what was nice, to be able to watch guys making plays not out there thinking. That jump is really big, now the guys know the biggest step for us is to clean-up the fundamentals that are required to execute. We have to execute at a high level. They know what they're doing but now they have to get really fundamentally sound."

Q: Most of the evening the defense seemed to stay in a ‘base' set but with some tweaks on that? "Well, the packages allow you to be simple because you're able to create matchups. So you don't have to be so exotic when you're matching personnel on personnel. Those are things that we've got to see that we can really do in a game. We're still a long, long way from where we need to be but I like the progress that we're making."

"We're matching a lot of combinations out there. You're seeking Kaleb Eulls playing some inside, Devin Jones playing some end. So we're really still in the process of defining who we're going to be. The nice problem is this, that we've got some depth, which from a year ago we didn't have that much. I'm really excited about the direction we're going."

Q: The second defense had a good evening overall as well? "They did. I look at some of those guys and that is where you see the depth development. One of the things we have to really keep focusing on is when you're replacing veterans at the safety position. What are you doing, are you doing the right things to protect, because if those guys make a mistake the other band starts playing! So we've got to go back the next few days and really evaluate, are we putting those guys in the best positions."

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR LES KOENNING: "We were inconsistent. There was too much inconsistency. The defense played good, but we had our opportunities. That is what is upsetting. If we walked out of this game in a SEC deal, we'd be upset because of the opportunities. And give credit to the defense, they played well. But we've got to go and be able to take it consistently and move the football."

"We were erratic. We started off pretty good and, poof, we got complacent on the sideline. And you can't do that. The sign of a good football team is they constantly do it and when the opportunity comes to make a play you make a play. There are no good calls, as you well know; it's all about the people making the plays. And that's what we have to do."

Q: The tight ends did it again, they made big catches? "I think Malcolm played pretty good. There were some dropped balls by Hill a couple of times, and he played good at times. But the issue we've got to understand as a football team, you always want your number called, you want your chance. But when you have the opportunity to make the play, you need to make the play. And that is the key to being a good football player, it's not talking about it, it's doing it."

Q: Does the offensive line still worry you? "Well, a lot of those guys are learning and they're coming along. They've got to speed up. And it wasn't really with the first line. It was a little bit late, but it wasn't really the first line. It was the second line. We don't know why but we'll find out, our center kept snapping the ball on the wrong cadence a bunch of times, not just once. And we've got to get that corrected it's really putting us in long-yardage situations. First down you've got to make positive plays."

"We've got the confidence with our team to throw the ball on first down, now we need to go execute it. Because we're going to be in second-and-long and it will be situations that's all we can do."

Q: It looked like the defensive line was in a zone? "Again, I'll have to see the film before I can make any comments on any of it, it's hard to see because you're trying to get ready for the next play."

Q: Is it hard then to judge Prescott because of those struggles getting plays going? "Well, I got a little angry with Dak because he had some short throws if he could have got the ball off to help. Again, it's a high school mentality, which isn't bad, to throw the deep ball, throw the deep ball. We can't do that, you're a SEC quarterback and you've got to learn to check things down. You've got to learn to take what the defense gives you. And he's going through that learning process. I know he will improve on it because he has too much pride about him."

Q: The backs didn't have many big gains but looked to run hard? "They did."

Q: Were they having trouble getting to the edge? "I could tell you yes or no but I hate to make any comments. Because you're looking up for down-and-distance and it's hard to say this happened. After film I'd be more than happy to talk to you about that one!"

Q: The quarterbacks did have some balls intercepted though? "Well, the one pick on (the pass to Clark) I thought it hit Arceto in the hands, I ran down because I thought he'd caught it. And it went the other way. The one that was really bad was going over the middle. Again, he has to get out of the mentality of the deep ball is the only way to throw it. Just check it down, it's not bad to punt. He has got to learn that. his confidence, you don't want it to deteriorate. But you want him to understand you can't just launch the ball 70 yards, that does nothing for you or your team."

Q: Is Joe Morrow working into the rotation? "I think Joe is showing us spurts at times. He needs to get consistent. We look for consistent play in everybody. He's getting better every day, he's making plays and getting in the end zone. And when he gets in right spots he gets the ball. Just like the last fade-ball we threw to him, he has to consistently make it."

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