Mullen Evaluates Thursday Football Practice

How do you evaluate this week's practice now that contact is underway? "It's good. They're still learning. I like our energy level. It was a little sloppy for me today, things we'll get cleaned-up both sides of the ball. Offense, too many missed assignments, bad snaps, fumbled snaps, dropped passes, missed reads, missed assignments in protection. That's OK, effort to me was good."

"And I don't want to be coaching effort, you've got to come out here with unbelievable effort. Defense, we made some big plays but gave up a bunch of big plays. And you can't do that, we've got to have the consistency. So, effort good today."

"Performance, right now in installation a lot of stuff in and a lot of guys—especially younger guys. I think (when) the ones go you see pretty good football being played. The twos go, it's good football, it's not great. Ones maybe great, twos good, and three is sloppy. Those are the guys that don't have all the experience, they've got to continue to get it and take big steps."

Is Nick Fitzgerald grasping the offense more? "He's coming along. It's going fast for him, I mean a much more complicated offense than he's run; going against much a more complicated defense than he's ever seen. So he's working at it. He's got a great attitude and he's working hard at it. I could tell him today I'm OK if he's making the right reads, that's good. Because then we can coach the other parts, coach his balance and his footwork. It means he's getting what is going on and then his mind is processing things. His body has got to catch up to his mind with the technique of things. But these are great reps he's getting out here, a guy that still should be in high school, shouldn't really be here until the summer. So he'll be way ahead come the summer."

Even with so many returning players there still seems to be a lot of competition at some spots? "Well, tons. I want to be two-deep at least across the board. I mean everybody loves that this guy is the starter, but I mean for us I love guys rolling. Getting guys in getting playing time and getting reps. That's the competition. I think guys see within our program they're not always just competing for a starting job; they're competing for reps. Because they know if they earn reps they might not start but they're going to get plays in a game. So that kind of gives a lot of guys confidence and drive even on top of that, that if they perform well they're going to be able to get in the game."

Several true freshmen played last year, how does that carry over to their first spring? "To me now nobody is a freshman any more out on the field. Anybody that has played obviously you see a much more confident player when you're installing. Because they've done it in a live game situation. So I think their performance usually is a little bit higher when you get out here to practice because their confidence is higher."

In today's kick coverage and protect drills there looked to be a lot of good athletes competing? "We do, and guys know that 20% of the snaps in a game are special teams. Look at a guy like a Christian Holmes, a big special teams player for us. At the end of the year snaps played, he's in the top-half of the team and that's playing mostly special teams. So I think guys when they look at it and they learn at the college level how important special teams are and what impact they can make, the guys realize they can earn spots, they can earn playing time. And they have important on the roles on the team if they perform well in the special teams."

What have you seen from the two field goal kickers? "Pretty good. Sobes (Evan Sobiesk) did a pretty good job today. He kind of pushed the longer one, but then came back and made a 47-yarder there at the end. And those were for sprints at the end, we tried to put keep them in pressure situations! So I think he's done a pretty good job. Westin Graves shows he has some talent. What we've got to do is find a way to put him in some pressure situations, like kind of we did today and see how he deals with it."

What did you tell Sobiesk, this is almost his job now? "Well, that was kind of the discussion. That's your job, get your focus on that and go be the guy. That's important. They get razzed a lot, they knew they had my confidence last year every day. So I know what they can do. And I think they've just got to continue to build that confidence in themselves, in their abilities. And when that happens they're going to be premier kickers."

How valuable was getting Sobiesk kicks last season? "Obviously I want to make all of them. We missed some, but you know what? I think that's a learning experience. They missed some and now here they are going to be a year older and maybe they perform at the level they wanted to. But they know the team has got confidence, the team believes in them, they can continue to work. And I think that will allow them to handle those pressure situations much better next year."

What will you be looking for from Saturday's scrimmage? "See who can play. You know, get the coaches out of the way and make guys go make plays and get in the stadium.

"There's a lot of guys that have played in there, what I want to see from older guys is good football. I tell them offense, defense, I want to see good football. I don't want to see defense dominating because offense is bad, or offense dominating because defense is bad. I want to see good football being played. If they dominate with good football being played? That's a great team. But also then a lot of young guys getting opportunity in a live situation to go make plays and show what you can do."

People were surprised to hear Coach Orgeron would be here today? "I mean, he's a premier coach in the country. Going back, I know he was on staff at Syracuse with John Hevesy, and was on staff with me for two days at Syracuse when I got hired there before he went out to S.C. for the first time. Obviously his expertise as one of the top d-line coaches in the country, with all the great d-lines he had at Miami. And defensive coordinator, assistant head coach, all the success he had ad S.C. and the national championships."

"You look last year, I mean as good a job done by a head coach I think as you'll find, to have as hard a situation to take over and do the job he did is amazing. So it's great to see all these high school coaches get to see somebody that has had the success in every phase. A guy I have tremendous respect for and think is a fabulous football coach."

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