You’ve spent the last several weeks with your team. Are you excited to get the season underway?
“I am, and I think they’re more excited than I am. I really do. This is by far the best camp we’ve had since we’ve been here. Lou [Hernandez] had done a tremendous job with our guys over the summer. They were so well prepared; they were in such great shape. There’s been a lot of changes within their bodies and their minds, and they just attacked each and every day the right way.”
Is the familiarity really showing in Year 3 with what you want to accomplish?
“There’s no doubt. There’s a comfort level with the expectations. We’ve kind of created a culture that they know we’re going to go to work every day. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to work fast, and they better buckle up and be ready.”
What have you learned about this group thus far?
“A lot of things. One, they are very young. You have to look around pretty hard to find seniors. At the end of practice when I’m calling guys out to break it down, I have to really look around the group to find somebody. We’re a young football team, but we’re a talented football team. We see that each and every day.”
What can you tell us about the kind of camps that quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky have had?
“We got two guys we can win with. I’m very comfortable in saying that. We’ve got two guys that have really improved as leaders. They’ve grown closer as friends, but they’re competing at the same time. I think they’ve made each other better along the way. That is a position I do feel very comfortable about.”
On the new targeting rule:
“Anything that is going to be taking care of players is good for the game, but I think the difficult part is that it is not reviewable. Three quarters of the targeting penalties that were thrown last year were overruled. You can tell, when it’s bang-bang like that, it is tough on the official. Now we’re talking about a hit that happens around the knees or above the shoulders. Now, if you make contact with him in the chest and then you slide up your helmet hits him under the chin, you’re going to get flagged. It makes it really hard on a defensive player. There’s just a very small strike zone on a quarterback.”
Do you have any idea how many freshmen you’re going to redshirt this year, and when you will ultimately try and make that call on your rookie players?
“We’ve talked about it as a staff; we really have. A lot of that is by position, and also, according to what guys have shown on the special teams. It still boils down to if we feel a guy can help us win this year, and help us win a championship, then we’re going to play him. I’d say right now, we’re probably looking at about half the class, to maybe a few more than half, that we think are going to possibly play for us this year. Now, a lot of things can change. A lot of these guys are an ankle away from having to play, so we have to look at it as a staff. We have to get them ready to play.”
In what area do you think your team will be most improved from last year?
“It’s tough to tell you as young as we are, not knowing how some of these guys are going to respond. We haven’t had a lot of adversity during camp. We had about two days where it hit about 90 degrees; it’s been a country club atmosphere out there, really. We’ve tried to put them in as many uncomfortable situations as possible, but I don’t know. That’s going to be interesting. I’ve got to believe that we’re going to continue to play defense the way we were playing at the end and get better on that side of the ball.”
Did you see more intensity this training camp with more starting spots up in the air?
“No doubt about it. Really across the board, we’ve made a big emphasis this offseason that every spot was up for grabs. It really accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish. We wanted every guy on the football team to think he could have a starting job. You think they should know that, but until you really say that to them, and they realize all they have to do is go out and prove that the team is better when they’re on the field, you see some guys that really get after it, and that’s been a lot of fun to watch.”
What are your thoughts on the added eighth official this season?
“That’s a great question. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be good for college football. One, I think, the mechanics of the way they’re going to use that center judge - he is going to be the guy who places the ball, so all you really need to do is get the ball back to him, so that the ball can be placed quicker, which I think is going to speed up the game, which I’m excited about. I like that. It also takes some pressure off the umpire and the referee. The refs’ eyes will strictly be on the quarterback; he won’t have to worry about an offensive lineman, also. Now you have two sets of eyes on the offensive line. The center judge can see the guard and tackle to his side, where the umpire now has to worry about the center, guard and tackle on the other side...
“The tough thing about it is that we are not using it in nonconference games, but in all the conference games in the ACC, we are using it. So, they will have to bounce back and forth between the mechanics of a seven-man team to an eight-man team and I think that’s the thing that’s going to be a little touchy... In every scrimmage that we’ve had we’ve used both so that our guys can get used to it, because now the center doesn’t have an umpire standing right there in front of him saying don’t snap the ball, now he’s got a center judge on his hip saying hold on, or he’s just getting out of there and going. It also makes it easier for the nose that’s lining up on the center, because before, when the umpire was standing there, he couldn’t get into a stance. He had to wait for the umpire to move out of the way. Now he can get down and be ready to play.”
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