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Part II: (5:00)
Part III: (5:00)
Part IV: (5:30)
Like a lot of things since I've been here, I think this went slightly better than we expected. I think recruiting did, and off-season conditioning has; and I think the scrimmage did. I think if you had watched us three-and-a-half weeks ago when we started spring practice, you would have been amazed that we completed a pass today. It looked like it might go a whole week and not looked really good throwing the football. That was kind of one of the major emphasis in today's scrimmage. We threw the ball probably a little more than we ran the football, just because we felt like it gave us a great opportunity to get some good protection. We tried to get the receivers, the tight ends and the running backs all involved in the passing game, to help us evaluate the quarterbacks. You don't really evaluate the quarterbacks at times totally on their ability to manage the game a hand the ball off, because eventually the quarterback has to make a play throwing the football.
It's mixed emotions as a head coach, because every time the offense makes a good play, you go, ‘Aw, man,' and you kind of hurt for the defense. And the defense gets a sack – Hilee [Taylor] runs in and gets a sack – and you want to cheer for Hilee. And then you go, ‘Whew,' that's our offense, too. So it's sort of mixed emotions. I was extremely happy that we were able to go as many plays as we did – 65 plays or so – and not to get anybody hurt. It gave us the chance – kind of for the first time – to have some full field special teams work. Although it wasn't live, it will give us a little bit of an idea to the tempo, timing and speed, and to how the ball is going to kick. If there is one guy that has had an outstanding spring, it's Connor Barth. I mean, the guy is kicking the ball as well any kicker I've ever been around. He's going to have to be a huge weapon – not only from the field goal and extra point standpoint, but from the standpoint because of the new college rule that is going to move the kickoff line from the 35 to the 30.
We wanted efficiency. We wanted to be able to evaluate players and their ability to make a play without us making a play for them. When I say making a play for them, it's blitzing, stunting, moving the defensive line, firing a lot of linebackers and stuff; where you can call a lot of stuff from the sidelines to give your defense a chance. At the same time offensively, I don't want to say we dumbed it down, but we kind of took a lot of that motions and shifts and some of the things we might have done on game day, and we said, ‘Let's just go to the line of scrimmage, and let's go play and see what happens.' Not that it was overly simple, but it was certainly not as sophisticated as it will certainly be next season during the season.
The things that stood out… I thought that T.J. Yates had a very, very fine day today. I think his completion percentage was very good. He threw three touchdown passes. I think he has come a long way this spring. We started out 14 practices ago trying to give all four quarterbacks somewhat equal reps. As the spring has gone along, we've kind of skewed the numbers just a little bit to where certain guys... Cam Sexton had a period of time where he had a lot of reps with the ones. T.J. had a lot of reps with the ones. Here in the last week or so, B.J. Phillips has had some reps with the ones. Sometimes it's an unfair thing to try evaluate a running back, wide receiver or quarterback when the opportunities that you give him is not with as good of a supporting cast. So I don't think by any stretch of the imagination that we've settled on a quarterback. That won't be settled probably until at least after the first week of training camp. Then there will come a point and time where will say, ‘We've got two or three weeks before the opening game, and we've got to name a starter.' We'll probably narrow that to two people going into training camp, and say, ‘These are the two guys who have the best chance to compete for the starting job, and give them 75 percent of the opportunities playing with the ones and the twos and see how that unfolds.
The only remorse is, I would like to have run the ball a little more to kind of separate some of the running backs. Throughout spring, I think each one of those guys has shown some things – Anthony Parker-Boyd, Johnny White and Richie Rich – they've all done some good things. Anthony Elzy is a strong powerful kid, who at times we've moved him back to fullback, because he's such a punishing runner. So, he's going to definitely find a home of playing a lot of football for us this fall.
How will the addition of Mike Paulus this summer affect the quarterback rotation?
All of the freshmen, obviously when they first get here, they've got a lot to make up. First we've got to access physically where they are they as far as their conditioning. We've going to try to make a major crusade during that second summer session to get them physically ready to compete with these guys. The mentally the same thing, how quickly can he assimilate all of the things we're trying to do offensively so that he feels comfortable, and that he feels confident that he's not a detriment to the other 10 guys in the huddle. And we're going to put him on the fast track to compete for whatever position he might be. He may compete his brains out and be the third; he might be the second; he might be the first – I don't know. But right now, we'll give him a chance to come in here and find out how quickly he can come in here and learn what we need him to do.
On Hakeem Nicks -
He's pretty good. He's got a great personality. He loves to practice. I think that all great players I've ever been around, whether it's Charles Haley, Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith – they absolutely love to practice, because it's their chance to get better. What you saw today, we get to see every single day in practice, he's making great catches. I don't think there's ever been a receiver that hasn't had good hands. I don't care if you run a 4.2 or 4.3, and you can have every move and you can look like a break dancer. But if you can't catch, you can't play. You can be open all day long, and if you're only going to catch 50 percent… The things I love about him is that he catches the ball. He catches the ball in traffic. He competes for the ball. He's a huge, big target. He's physical. You hate sometimes making comparisons to receivers sometimes, OK? But his game is an awful lot like Michael Irvin's, because he was never a 4.4-guy. He was a mid-4.5-guy, and that's probably somewhere where Hakeem is. But he's big. He's 215 pounds. He can push out, he can shove, he physical and he can hold his ground. And the other thing that I like – and you can't play for me if you're not a complete player – is he can block. I don't want prima donna receivers where they can catch seven passes for 120 yards, and the 35 times we run the football, it's like we're playing with 10. He's a willing blocker. He'll go in and block guys, and I think that makes you the complete player. That's what NFL teams are looking for. They're not looking for guys that don't play well without the ball.
Is it still a three-way tie at QB?
Absolutely. I think so. I think T.J. has clearly established himself. He came from off the pace. Everyone felt like the job was Cam [Sexton's] to lose, and Cam's still in the race. But I think what T.J. has done his he's proven himself as a worthy candidate for the starting job.
Where does that come from?
It's a gradual process. Clearly, every single one of these guys' heads were spinning the first couple of weeks. But every single day, we had a lot of pass under pressure; we had a lot of blitz drills; we had a lot of two-minute drives. Those are poised, confident drill enhancing things for quarterbacks. To go out there when it's light pressure, to stand in the pocket and have the poise to not look at the ground and look downfield to find receivers that are open. It's also his ability to assimilate all the audibles, and all the things that John Shoop has asked him to do. I mean he's doing some things right now we couldn't get our three quarterbacks with the Cleveland Browns to do. He's doing some things going up to the line of scrimmage and getting us out of bad plays and into… It may not get you into a great play, but if can get you out of a bad play and get you into a decent play that keeps you on track, and that's been very impressive in his favor.
Are you going to try to rest a little bit now?
Who me? You don't know me real well do you? We're trying to win all the games we can win next year. I'm doing great, and I appreciate you asking. Things are going good. I've got one chemo treatment left to go, and I'm looking forward spring recruiting, vacation and get a chance to maybe try and hit a golf ball every now and then. And Roy [Williams] keeps calling. He wants to play golf, and I keep telling him, I said, ‘Look, I'm not that big of a pigeon.' I can't sit over here and coach a football team and expect to go out on the golf course, and you've been hitting practice balls and stuff like that. I said give me a month or so and then we'll go play.
Would you evaluate your linebackers?
Speed and inexperience is a pretty good assessment of this entire football team. I told the Lettermen last night, ‘If we're not the youngest team in college football next year, I'll be shocked.' I don't know another team… We've got 10 seniors, but I think three of those seniors are walk-ons. We've got 10 juniors, and two or three of those are walk-ons. So when you look at the youth and lack of experience of this whole football team… There are some good, young, talented players, but they've got a lot to do to grow up. I think the testament is to Wake Forest last year winning the ACC championship, and somebody told me that 19 of the starters were seniors; and that's a good formula for winning a championship.
But back to your question about the linebackers and stuff – this is a formula that I love. I love the fact that Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, as has Zack Pianalto, at mid-term. If you ask those three guys they will tell you this has been a Godsend for them. To come in here compete, to start to learn…I mean, they will be light years ahead of those that come in the fall. Traditionally, historically, we enjoyed a lot of that… We had some guys that were grey shirts at Miami, where we postponed their admittance into school until December. We'd like to have five or six of those guys every single year. Particularly quarterbacks. We talked to Mike Paulus, and his school prevented. We would have loved to have gotten him in here this spring, and any of the other guys that you think would have the opportunity to make a major contribution in the fall. But Quan and Bruce are very, very athletic kids. And it's a big transition for them, because they've haven't ever played linebacker. They were such good athletes in high school that played in the secondary, played quarterback and a lot of different things. It's a huge challenge for kids that have never played in traffic. When you're out there on the perimeter regardless of what side of the ball your own, and all of sudden, you're down there where the war is going on, and there's a lot of bodies flying around. It takes a little bit of time to feel the way. I think both of these guys are going to be good players. I think they'll be in a position to help us certainly on special teams and with some depth.