We definitely enjoyed getting out on the field with our players. It's fun in your first spring with guys just trying to get to know them and them getting to know you as well. Just getting to see the skillset of our players, the strengths and the weaknesses, and to work on those things together.
I can tell that these guys want to win. They want to be great, and there are a lot of things that we've got to continue to stress and continue to improve. But we're a young football team particularly on offense. So there are a lot of gains that were made and a lot more that would need to continue over the summer months.
Felt really good about the progress of our specialists and our defense. The running backs and wide receivers played a lot, you could see that they did. There was some youth at other positions. Quarterback, obviously, we're still in a battle going on there between some guys. I thought our tight end position really came out strong in the spring.
You hired your defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable very soon after you were hired. What do you think Dave will bring to the defense this spring both in practice and at games?
He's a very passionate football coach. He loves the game. He and I share very similar philosophical values when it comes to coaching defense, what we believe in. Being tough, being sound, playing with hands. Not trying to have too many calls but being masters of those you have. Just coaching every day with a great attitude and positive energy.
Dave and I both worked at similar places and similar people. I was able to get a great feel for what he brings and just very excited to have a guy like him on my staff. Also a guy that has an ACC background at Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
How does the quarterback position look to you coming out of the spring?
Pete Thomas is in the lead right now just because he's played more. Pete was a starter at Colorado State before he transferred here. So he's a little more game savvy. You can tell he's played and his improvement over the spring was pretty dramatic.
Manny is a younger guy that for Manny, it's tough because he's going into his second year and already having to learn a second offense. So I feel a little bit for him that way. But we're not going to name a starter for a while. I want to see these guys over the summer continue to improve. And we have some freshmen coming in that I know want to show what they have.
How different will this team look on offense and defense because you're the coach now?
Time will tell on that.
Defensively we're somewhere from a shell. They were a four-three team and we still are. So there are more similarities probably on that side of the football.
Offensively we're a no-huddle offense that operates from the pistol or the shotgun, so that part of our offense is a lot different. There are a lot of similar passing concepts and a lot of similar formations. But just how we get into them and the tempo we run them at is a lot different.
What are some of the things that you guys didn't get done that are the main priorities heading into summer?
In the summer or the fall?
Fall camp, summer camp, whatever you want to call it, I guess.
Well, I meet with all the players individually now, talking about things that I think they need to improve on over the summer while we're not allowed to coach them. Hopefully those things our players really have to run their own practices and with the help of the strength staff, get bigger, faster, stronger over the next couple of months to improve on their deficiencies.
Hopefully those things show up when we come back together August 1st. We didn't put everything in. We put in enough and really wanted to find out what we could and couldn't do, and that was get our base packages, our terminologies and our languages taught and teach them our expectations and how we like to do things day-in and day-out. But what we're going to be from an offensive and defensive play standpoint will change a little bit over the summer just because now we know what we have and don't have. There are some recruits coming in that can help fill in some of those gaps as well.
With so many new things going on this spring, did you feel like from practice to the 15, did you feel like you made the kind of progress going into it?
Yeah, I do. I was really happy with the progress we made. There are areas we need to continue to get better at, no doubt, but we definitely learned a lot of things as a team. You make tremendous gains from spring to fall.
Because that spring, the first spring where they don't know what to expect from the coaches, they don't know the language or a lot of things, now they come back and it's a routine. You start to see them get more than they did in the spring because there is a lot more thinking going on in spring practice when they didn't know anything. I look for those things coming up, and the guys have a lot better grasp coming on.
Dave, there is a question about the defense, it seems you had a good spring out of M.J. at linebacker. I was just wondering what you saw out of him that kind of allow him to be atop the depth chart.
M.J. is consistent, he has a great motor, he's vocal. He can run, and he's got a good skillset from a movement standpoint. He's a tough kid that loves football. He can play outside linebacker as well. Really Coach Huxtable was trying to find the combination of three guys that were playing the best and who fit best in the middle out of the three between D.J. Green and Brandon Pittman. And M.J., we felt like those three guys made the most plays.
So there are still some guys competing. I know Zack Gentry had a good spring for us as well. But M.J. is just really productive, high motor, positive guy that we liked having out on the field.