Meaning, once everyone comes back from a week away, position coaches get to judge just how well their players remember what was taught. Or even if they recall at all. For running backs Coach Greg Knox the results were sort of mixed during Tuesday’s practice…and that too is routine.
What isn’t routine is the small number of scholarship backs ninth-year Dan Mullen aide Knox has to practice in spring 2017. Just four are back, and only three are healthy as Alec Murphy is sidelined for now.
That does leave one of the best young Bulldog backs in years though in rising junior Aeris Williams; along with classmate Dontavian Lee, and sophomore Nick Gibson.
How did your backs retain what was installed in practices before the break? “Whooo! They did OK. They did OK. Yeah, we threw a lot at them in the first four days. So coming back after a week off was a little bit tough.”
“But we pressed the recall button, and they did a good job today. There’s still a lot of things we have to polish up but they did a good job.”
After the way he finished the year, does Aeris Williams seem different now? “Well, I think leadership, he’s starting to take that role also. And the confidence factor is there. He’s very confident in what he’s doing, very knowledgeable in what he’s doing. And he’s playing with that confidence that you want a guy to play with.”
What does that look like? “It looks like the word you said. Dominating. He plays like a dominating player. You know, he’s determined on every snap, I don’t want to say perfect but to execute at a high level.”
What was different about him in November compared to earlier in the season? “I asked him that. And he said he got in, he studied more to make sure he knew exactly what was doing. And when he got smarter, he got better. I tell all the guys that. You want to become a better player? You’ve got to become a smarter player.”
“The smarter you are, the better player you’ll be. That’s the bottom line. He did that, he became smarter and he got better and it showed.”
With some snaps opening up how is Dontavian Lee stepping up? “A lot better. Last year he was injured the entire year from summer workouts all the way through until the end. Now he’s finally healthy, he’s doing some good things. He’s just got to get a lot of reps this spring and I think that will help him going into the summer.”
Have you spoke to Aeris about the need to have a big spring? “No. I think he knows how important it is. I think he feeds off of that, knowing he needs to have a good spring. And for that to carry over into the summer and into the fall.”
“So I think they all understand that, the importance of having a good spring and how that can carry over into the fall.”
You had six scholarship backs last year, you have three healthy now. How is Nick Gibson seizing that opportunity? “He’s taking that role, where he knows he’s got to get it done.”
“You know, this is his spring. He’s coming in, getting extra tutoring to make sure he understands exactly what’s going on. And he’s working hard. I’ve seen a great improvement from him. He’s done some good things. So he’s got to continue doing that.”
With fewer guys this spring, do they end up getting more work? “Yeah, and that’s going to help him. Again last year we had a lot of guys. Now like you said there are fewer guys. And he needs that. He needs the amount of snaps he’s getting this spring to help him mentally get better.”
How does playing for a more experienced quarterback change things for Aeris? “Well, that helps him. When you’re lining up next to a guy that has experience, you play with more confidence because you don’t worry about the ‘mesh’ between you and the quarterback on exchanges. So you play with more confidence when you’re lined up next to him.”
“As far as when you’re lined up next to the younger quarterbacks then you’re kind of worried about what’s going on there and hoping the snap and everything is good. So it’s important when you play with a guy like Nick who knows what he’s doing. You can play confident.”