Bulldogs Take Thursday Practice Indoors

They could have done without the lightning part. Other than that, the Bulldogs were glad about Thursday's morning storm. It sent them inside for the first time this preseason, to practice in the more comfortable confines of the Palmeiro Center. Without, said defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, any loss in efficiency or effort.

"It's different, from a standpoint of there's A/C and tighter quarters," said Wilson in today's post-practice media session. "But the overall practice was good. We had a bunch of guys flying around, we were able to get a lot of good work and teaching done. So we were able to get in a really good practice, it's a great that we have that building available to us."

What was the difference today from yesterday's two-a-day?
"Just like every day, improvement. It was another day of installation for us, the fourth day of our installation. So there was some newness, you've got three installations that have already been in and now you have the fourth installation. There was a lot of learning today compared to the last two days."

"We were able to have a normal practice. That's the great thing about our facility. I think it's about 110, 120 yards total, so we were able to get down on our end and get a lot of individual work defensively. And then go on the offensive side and get a lot of work done. That part of it was really easy, really functional."

You run the defensive line, have you seen any changes on the offensive line going against them?
"Absolutely. The one thing we have offensive-line wise is we have some experience. You've got some depth coming back. As we always talk about and Coach Mullen emphasizes, you're only as good as you are up front. You look at guys like Blaine Clausell and Tobias Smith being back and Gabe Jackson and Dillon Day who is an older guy, you've got a really good solid group of veteran players. And they make us strain every day to get better."

Has Denico Autry's arrival helped spur Shane McCardell to make progress?
"I know it didn't hurt! So from the standpoint of him looking over and seeing a guy as talented with a high motor, it think it really has helped Shane a lot, to see how guys perform. Denico has won a national championship, he's been an all-American, obviously he's done it at the junior college level but he still attained both. So he's really been good for Shane and the rest of our guys."

"Shane is more confident, he's got more knowledge of our system and that's what makes him different. And he's really turned into a more physical football player than I've ever seen him be."

Does the two-deep adjust daily?
"It goes on every practice. Our depth charts change daily. Who is consistent, who is beating guys out. The worst thing think you can do is make that assessment after the season because typically it's too late. So on a daily basis we're always trying to evaluate who are the guys that give us the best chance to win a football game."

Is this the best depth you've had?
"Yes! Absolutely!"

Talk about the depth at linebacker now?
"You look at a guy like Ferlando Bohanna who hasn't played much. Christian Holmes, Chris Hughes, I mean these are guys who have taken those steps to really becoming SEC football players. And that's the biggest thing. You can't teach experience, so the more reps we can get these guys the more opportunity to see them grow and hopefully become really good players."

How has Autry handled being in camp, has he been able to stay humble?
"He's never talked about it. He's never mentioned his stats and what he's been able to do. He's a really humble kid. And he's really a Mississippi State kid, via North Carolina; but he's humble, he's tough, he works his behind off. He fits exactly who we are as a program."

How have newcomers adjusted?
"The stars don't matter much now! There's not a lot of four stars and three stars and five stars out there now! They're just a bunch of guys out there who try to get used to the speed of the game. The biggest thing when we talk to young guys like Will Redmond and Cedric Jiles, very talented guys but the speed of the game is just so fast, every day they've got to find a way to improve."

Do you feel differently in your second year as coordinator, changing things like practice schedules or how you change things this fall?
"All of the above! You realize what you need and what you want more than anything. You sit back and say these are must-haves, and those are likes if you like them. Then what you do is you really begin to define your package based off your players. That's been the biggest thing, knowing who your guys are and knowing what they're capable of doing and building a defense based off of that. I believe that's what it's all about at the end of the day."

How has the scheme or system adapted since you came here?
"The biggest thing when we came in here is John Banks was a sophomore, Corey Broomfield was a sophomore. You had Wade Bonner, Charles Mitchell…just the guys being in the same system for three years and knowing the ins-and-outs of it and the plusses and minuses. It's really made them confident, playing fast. Now you're looking at your secondary as well as your front and you've got guys that have been in this system three or four years and are very confident in it. So that's kind of fun."

Are there things Nick James has to work on to see the field this year?
"Everything. Everything. The worst thing we can do when a guy comes in highly-touted is think that all of a sudden he's going to be Fletcher Cox. Fletcher Cox wasn't Fletcher Cox until his sophomore year, that's when he became really that guy. So you look at a guy like Quay Evans and Nick James, they have different talents, really they're different. But in the same sense they're 18 years old, they're just now finding out what dorm to go to, what time breakfast check is. So they've got a lot going on. But talent-wise they are very different is what I can say!"

How has Curtis Virges stepped up?
"I've really been pleased with Curtis. His maturity has been great. His leadership has been even better. He's really getting it. So I expect really a great year from that young man this year. He's really put his work in, he's put the time in."

Is it too early to project Evans will compete for a starting job?
"Yeah, it's too soon for that. Quay is just trying to learn how to line up and go hard right now. So is Nick, so is Jordan Washington, all those guys. Like I say we'd rather play them late than early so we just keep going along with that process."

Is this the physically biggest group you have had?
"I think this is my 19th or 20th season, don't quote me on that! But this is the largest group of guys I've had in one class at one time that can really play, I think. They have a really bright future."

Have you noticed the physical strength of the whole team now?
"When you look out there they look like a SEC football team. There were some things we knew we needed to improve…and we still need that. But what you see is when they walk off the bus they look like a SEC football team. You look at Nick and Josh and P.J. Jones, just to talk about some guys; Preston Smith and Darius Slay. They look like a SEC football team. Now it's getting them to play that way on a consistent basis."

Could Kaleb Eulls move inside or stay at end?
"I like to in certain packages see him at end, certain packages like to see him play inside. The biggest thing is you want your best players to create matchup problems for guys. So when you've got guys who can do a lot of things that's really what you want. You want defensive ends who can be linebackers, and you want defensive tackles who can be defensive ends like Fletcher was for us. So we're kind of multiple in that regard."

Do you ever consider stealing a linebacker like Benardrick McKinney and making him an end?
"Hey, I'd play my Momma if she could get me a sack! I'll just be honest with you! You look at a guy like John Banks who had 4.5 or 5 sacks. So I don't care who it is, if I can find a guy who can get off the edge and get pressure and get the quarterback, we'll use him."

Has any lineman been moved around for an experiment so far?
"Not really. It's too early in camp. What we're trying to do right now is see who can play for you. So right now no, we haven't gone in that direction."

Two freshmen played last year, P.J. Jones and Preston Smith, how are they doing?
"Their stock is really high. Preston's stock is up, he had a great summer. P.J. had a great summer, he's put on a lot of weight. He's about 290 pounds and carrying that weight extremely well. So their stock is really high."


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