Coach Keeps the Snaps Equal and the Mood Light as Four Quarterbacks Compete

So, why play a kids game to settle what quarterback has the temporary title of ‘#1’ each day? Wouldn’t Coach Brian Johnson prefer to evaluate the previous day’s drills, then make one tomorrow’s top Dog?

Nope. “It’s the easiest tiebreaker of all time!” the quarterbacks coach said. “So we go back and do some fun stuff. That is kind of the settle-of-all scores, is old-fashioned rock/paper/scissors. They have a good time with it. It’s obviously best of three, though. You can’t just play once!”


Does doing it that way take any pressure off you? “No, we’ve been very detailed in how we go about splitting up reps. A lot of work and thought goes into the amount of reps that each kid gets, whether it’s with the ones, twos, and threes.”

“We’ve obviously detailed that out for quite some time now. It’s just a matter of keeping consistent with our rep count and making sure they’re getting the necessary work so we get a good evaluation.”


Are you satisfied with splitting the reps? “Yeah, it’s been extremely consistent. 25% split down the middle for everyone, and even numbers with groups. Everybody has the same amount of reps with the ones, twos, and threes. So they’ve done some good work and it hasn’t been an issue for us at all.”


As the depth chart takes shape how will you communicate it? “Just honestly. I mean that’s the only way to do it. And I think once it starts to kind of shake itself out, I think everybody understands that only so many people can play. And I think everybody is pretty good at self-evaluating themselves on a daily basis. You know, each rep is under a bunch of scrutiny and a bunch of eyes are watching.”

“So I think they understand the magnitude of each practice and each rep, but at the same time they go out there and play their individual games and to the strengths of their abilities.”


How different has it been transitioning from when Dak Prescott was the guy? “It’s completely different in terms of organizing practice. Everybody knew Dak was getting all the reps with the ones and they were kind of fighting over the scraps. It’s completely different in that regard.”

“It’s been refreshing though to kind of go back to the basics of teaching the position. Because Dak was at such an advanced level by the end you could kind of jump into graduate-level discussions of football. So to go back to the basics of discussions of day-one, square-one and continue to build and refresh and keep those guys in line has been awesome.”


Can you remember having four guys splitting reps? “It’s very uncommon. And obviously it’s a great problem to have, I really don’t consider it a problem at all. But it is uncommon, you don’t see four guys. Because usually there’s just not that many reps to go around.”

“But we’ve been able to work it out and manage it, and it’s been going fine.”


Nick Tiano is the least-experienced guy, how impressive has he been? “He’s very bright, very intelligent, works extremely hard. He’s a really good football player, I’m excited to see how he continues to develop. But he’s not a typical redshirt freshman. He’s really worked his tail off both in the weightroom and in the film room in his off-season study to put himself in the position he is now.”


Tiano says he has a chance to win this job, do you like that attitude? “Yeah, absolutely. Listen, we wouldn’t be giving him 25% of the reps if we didn’t think he had a chance to help us. That would be counterproductive for us as a program and as a position group.”

“So he’s definitely in the mix of it. I want all those guys to be confident in their abilities. The thing you have to be wary of, and I talk to the guys about this all the time, is play to the individual strengths of your game. And that can happen in a two-man race, a three-man race, a four-man race. Is one guy makes a big play and the next guy thinks oh, I have to make that same big play that that guy made. The defense is not giving you that big play. So continue play to your strengths and it’s all evaluated in the end.”


It was a little unorthodox for Damian Williams to redshirt as a junior, how has he improved? “I think it was good for him. If he didn’t redshirt he’s coming in with one year left.”

“I had a very similar situation, I redshirted my third year in the program (at Utah) as well, because of injury. So I think that allowed him to become a better football player, especially mentally. Because normally when you redshirt as a true freshman you don’t know much anyway.”

“So to have some experience and understand the game, and to be able to sit back for a year and watch it after you know a little bit, it helps you mentally to learn a little bit more and kind of understand from a more macro-perspective of the game.”


When you get to game week would you like to have the split down? “Yeah, ideally you wouldn’t like that. You’d like to get it down. But it’s hard to say exactly how it’s going to shake out. If we had a crystal ball to see how it would shake out we probably wouldn’t be here right now!”

“We’ll continue to let it develop and play out and watch these guys compete at a high level.”


Does having competed for and won a college job yourself help you keep the room loose? “Yeah, you have to have levity in the room. I think that’s kind of one of the most underrated things, is having that levity, having that fine balance of being extremely critical of yourself in your play on film, coaching you to get better; but at the same time having sort of a relaxed environment so everybody is not up-tight and they can learn and find a way to get better.”

“All four guys are great. I couldn’t ask for a better group to go out and compete every day. There are no issues with anything like that. So it’s been fun.”


Coach Mullen said at SEC Media Days he looks for the ‘it factor’. Is it more apparent from a guy working second and third teams instead of with Fred Ross and Donald Gray? “That’s the beauty of evaluation and getting all those guys reps with the ones, twos, and threes. Because you put them in a bunch of adverse situations.”

“I mean, you might get a rep with the third group and it might not be much blocking going on! And you’ve got to find a way to get the ball out and manage the offense and make the guys around you better. Then you get a chance to play with guys like Fred and Donald and Malik and they make a bunch of plays for you.”

“So that’s been the beauty of this evaluation. Those guys have the opportunity to be put in a bunch of different situations.”

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