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Part II (6:06)
Opening remarks -
I thought, of all the three weeks of practice, clearly, and it should be this way, but I thought we made the most progress as a football team this week. We had an opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on some unique situations today. We had about an hour-and-fifteen-minute scrimmage. We had a red zone scrimmage. We had a full field scrimmage. ... We also put in kickoff returns, kickoff coverages, punts and field goals in those scrimmage situations to kind of simulate game type situations. If you're in a red zone, if you're moving the ball and scoring touchdowns or if not you're going for a field goal.
For players -- I'll [start] with the defense -- guys that I think have had a tremendous week of practice... I think Trimane Goddard, Hilee Taylor and Kentwan Balmer -- those guys are playing really, really well. I think that for the first time this spring, Durell Mapp really started to flash. With the scheme change, I think he's been feeling, thinking his way through things. But this week you could see his natural instincts put him in a position to make some plays. Darius Powell and Darrius Massenburg, those guys really played good as defensive ends. This is the dream I have, and I know John Blake feels the same way, we want to have eight quality guys. We want to play -- every single Saturday -- eight defensive linemen. If we've got to play 65-70 snaps, maybe those starters might play 45 and the others guys might play 30 of them. I think that's what we're trying to find out is who can be those eight guys.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hakeem [Nicks] had a very nice week. He scored a couple of touchdowns in some scrimmage situations. T.J. Yates made a real significant move this week in practice. He did some very good things in the red zone. He had a very good red zone seven-on-seven. He took the first-team offense today and drove the ball 75 yards. Unfortunately we got down inside and turned the ball over, but it wasn't his fault. He is doing some really good things. The offensive line - Garrett Reynolds is playing extremely well. And another guy who is doing some really good stuff is Richard Quinn. He's starting to do a nice job blocking, and he's catching the ball well. Kenton Thornton, today he was probably the hero of the entire day. If we had been keeping stats, I think he probably had as many as six or seven catches in a full speed scrimmage situation. He's got good hands. He's making some plays. So that part of it I think is good. Another guy who did some good stuff this week is Dirk Engram. Dirk did some good things in some scrimmage situations. And Connor [Barth] is doing a nice job. He's about 'Mr. Automatic.' Other than death and taxes, he's about the most sure thing I've seen in a long time.
We've got a lot to do for next week. We've got four practices left. Obviously the spring game at the end will be a little bit more intense and sophisticated, but a little bit like we did today. We'll probably do some things for the first 30 or 45 minutes, then we'll scrimmage for about an-hour-and-fifteen minutes. A very similar situational type things. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week, we've still got a lot of stuff to cover. We've got to install our goal line package. We've got some considerable work to do. We've had four two-minute drills in the last four practices, and that's something we'll continue to work on. There will be three or four games next year that I know for a fact will come down to the last three or four minutes. We've either got to score a touchdown or a field goal to win, or we've got to stop somebody. It's one of those drills that it takes a lot of confidence, a lot of execution and a lot of repetition.
On the quarterback position -
We're clearly unsettled, obviously right now still, at the quarterback position. It's still a position that's up in the air, and it probably will be that until at some point during training camp. At some point, we're going to have to pull the trigger and make a decision, and I would guess that somewhere after about the first week of training camp, it's time to move on. We're going to have to pick somebody, and say that this is the guy that is going to get the lion's share of the preparation for the opening game. I think that we are probably on track for the most part.
On John Shoop -
John is the offensive coordinator. He has a fundamental philosophy of things, and that's part of the interview process. When you interview coordinators, you're looking for somebody that has similar ideas and philosophies that their belief system about what is it going to be? Are they going to be a four wide receiver, throw it every down, or are they going to be a four tight end and run it every down? We don't want to be any of that. I thought that he [Shoop] had the mind, I thought he had the background, and I thought that he had the package that was very, very similar to all the places that I had ever been, whether it was the Dallas Cowboys, or the University of Miami, or the stuff we did at Cleveland. Basically, you take that umbrella of all these things, and these ideas, and you incorporate some of the ideas of the other assistant coaches, because each one of those guys brings some strengths -- things that Charlie Williams did with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and says, ‘Hey, this was something that was really, really good for us.' Then you look at it, and say, ‘OK, now what can our kids do?' And that really is the bottom line. You look at what your players can do, and you can say, ‘Those are great ideas, and maybe a year from now, when we gain more experience, and the talent level because of playing and experience gets a little bit better, we'll do some of those things, but what can we do to win things now?'
On balancing the offense between run and pass -
The perfect scenario for me is that I would like for people not to be able to typecast us. I want an identity, and the identity is that they really don't know exactly what it is. Not because of smoke and mirrors, from that standpoint, but I guess the way I would phrase that is I've asked recruits this, and I've asked other people, if you look at the teams that won three Super Bowls in Dallas, and you said, ‘OK, tell me exactly what was that offense….' Was that a run offense? And people would say, ‘Well yeah. They had Emmitt Smith and Daryl Johnston. That was a run offense.' And you'd say, ‘Well, what about Jay Novacek and Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper and Troy Aikman, throwing for 4,000 yards?' You really, truly want to be able to win games, and you'd like to have balance. I don't know that we'll ever have games that we'll have 35 runs and 35 passes, but you'd like to be able to be so effective at both of them, Davis added. That's eventually where we got at Miami. After two or three really good recruiting classes, were we a running team? And people would say, ‘Sure, yeah Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis. But how about Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne and Kenny Dorsey and [Jeremy] Shockey and all those guys? You want to be good in both phases, and that's the goal here.
On practicing at a fast pace -
First of all, obviously, the clock in college football...it is a faster-paced game. There's going to be less time. You've got 15 seconds (or) 25 seconds. As a matter of fact, in 2008, they're going to institute the NFL 40-second clock, which is going to make you play at a faster tempo and a faster pace. You want to get a lot of plays off. You want to kind of play at a faster pace, particularly if you are well on offense. You want to be able to put pressure on the defense. From a practice standpoint, it allows you to run more plays. With a faster, quicker paced tempo, in the course of practice, we might conceivably get off 115 to 120 plays. If we practiced at a slower tempo, we might only run 85 or 90. It's just so we can get more reps and more preparation. The game is fast. I think that you have to simulate. That's the toughest thing for kids coming from high school to college, and college to the NFL, is understanding how fast game tempo really is. You want their mind to quiet down, you want their mind to play slow, but you want their body to play fast, Davis added. The experience, the fans, the band, the blimp in the air, and all that stuff, is not a bigger experience, that it causes them to have anxiety. The game is so fast on Saturday.
On his philosophy on redshirting freshmen -
I would venture to say that maybe half of the incoming freshmen, I think, will have a significant opportunity to play next fall. They may play on some special teams. They may play as backups. They may get some significant playing time, he added. To me, the real acid test of any freshman is, can their role be big enough that they're going to help you win football games? If they can come in, and whatever it is, if it's 15 plays a game, and they can be the difference as a third wide receiver, or help you in the nickel package, and you might win two more games because of them playing, then they're playing. There's mixed feelings about that. It gives them potentially extra eligibility, but it sure didn't help them as far as game experience, and they weren't involved much in any game planning. I think their football knowledge is certainly lacking, going through meetings and a lack of game plans and just understanding the game.