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"The biggest news of the day is the announcement that T.J. Yates is going to be the starting quarterback for the James Madison game…One of the things that certainly goes into the decision-making process is that it's a body of work, and at this particular time right now, we felt like – taking into consideration spring practice, taking into consideration summer preparation, training camp, all those kinds of things – at this stage right now, T.J. deserves the opportunity to be starter against James Madison…
As I told the other three quarterbacks, I would be extraordinarily disappointed if all of them don't accept that as a challenge. And I told T.J., I would be disappointed in those guys if they don't try to beat you out, and try to take that job away from you…
Just because you have earned the opportunity to be the starter now, doesn't mean that it's etched in stone [or] that it will stay that way forever. That we expect you to continue to grow, to study, to learn – your performance, your mechanics, your technique, the execution of the offense, the grasp of the offense…If you ever hit a plateau and think that you've arrived and that you're as good as you're going to get, be careful because there is going to be people chasing you down, trying to get that opportunity…
I also shared with them – which I truly, firmly believe – I think that we will clearly play certainly more than one quarterback during the course of the season, that there's a opportunity for a second quarterback to play at times [and] there's a possibility that a third quarterback might get an opportunity to play at some point during the course of the season…
And this is what I know as a coach – that I don't think I've ever coached on a football team – certainly at least not in Division I college football or in the NFL – where the starting quarterback at one point or another didn't potentially have an opportunity to get knocked out of the game. We won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, and each of those two seasons – ironically – Troy Aikman missed a significant amount of games during the course of that season…
That's why I challenged all three of the other quarterbacks. I said ‘you are literally one sprained ankle away from going in the game and the entire team is counting on you to deliver a performance to give us a chance to win the football game. So you have to prepare every single week as if you're the starter. Because if you don't, then you're going to let not only yourself down, but you're going to certainly let your teammates down and I know that they don't want that to happen.'
I think that there is good position competition there. I think that the three guys that were not named as the starter today – they're going to continue to strive to get better. They're in practice, they're going to get coached, they're going to get coaching opportunities and reps and I think that it will be a very, very healthy environment."
What's T.J. done that's impressed you?
"There's no one single thing that made T.J. the starter. I think that it was a group of things. It was the work ethic that he put into it, the study of film, the grasping of the offense, the execution of the offense. These guys have been under the microscope pretty closely for the better part of training camp, but [also] at the end of spring practice last year, of the ability to make the throws that we need to have, the ability to command the offense, the huddle presence – there's a lot of things. But by no stretch of the imagination, clearly, is T.J. Yates the finished product. I expect this kid's going to get better, as I hope all four of them will get better. They're young, they're all inexperienced, [and] none of them have played very much…
At this point, we feel like that T.J. gives us the best opportunity to play the best we can offensively for Week One. Right now, all I'm really concerned about is the first game."
On whether Yates' ability to make the right decisions played a role in the decision:
"I think that those are some of the attributes. I think the other one – and we can't lose sight of this, because this is also important – there will be in every game, there's going to be opportunities to make big plays. There may be three, there may be two, there may be six where a quarterback has a chance to make a critical play. It might be a completion on third down, it might be that they bust a coverage and somebody's running wide open for a touchdown, and at this point in time, he has demonstrated the ability on a more consistent basis to be able to capitalize on those big-play opportunities.
Not that he's going to manufacture a la John Elway or Troy Aikman at this stage, but if those things present themselves, he has demonstrated the ability to capitalize and make some big plays…In particular with young inexperienced quarterbacks, I think the number one thing is that they must be able to manage the game. They must be able to discern what is risk and what is reward, and the fine line between the opportunity to make the big play and the opportunity to throw an interception, or to take you out of the chance at a big play."
Is the depth chart set behind Yates?
"No, it's not. Right now we're still working with all three of those guys, giving them opportunities to see in the next couple of days, or maybe the next week, who will emerge as the No. 2 quarterback…Nothing is etched in stone. Guys are going to continue to compete for positions throughout the course of this whole year.
This whole football team is so unbelievably inexperienced and young that there are going to be guys that the lights come on in Week 1, some in Week 3 [and] some in Week 5. And I expect this to be a football team that will continue to get better as the season goes along. You may see guys that are third-team, and all of a sudden, a month later, he might be challenging to be a starter at one of the positions on the team."
On Yates' accuracy:
"I think he's getting better…It's very evident that he is a stronger quarterback and a stronger person than he was in the springtime. I think he has wisely used these last 4-5-6 months [in] the lifting part of it. He's bigger, he's stronger. You can tell the speed of the ball that he's throwing – the accuracy, how far he can throw the ball, and I think that's a direct credit to how hard [strength and conditioning coach] Jeff [Connors] worked him, and he worked himself."
On if the first two quarterbacks will take 100 percent of the snaps:
"As we get into game week, and it's the 6-7-8 practices that we will devote exclusively [to the first game] – the starting quarterback will probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 to maybe 80 percent of the practice reps during the course of the week. The other one will probably get 20 percent, and the third quarterback will probably get five percent of the reps -- maybe with the first group -- in preparation for the game against James Madison."
How far has the team come so far in camp?
"One of the things that we've tried to do in practice is we've tried to stick in every practice at least two, sometimes three, significant special situations. Today we worked on back-up offense, coming off our goal line. We worked in the kicking game on certain situations. We did another two-minute drill – this one where there was less than a minute to go in the ball game. And every day, that's revealing, because something generally almost always comes up that is a great, great learning [and] teaching moment.
They learned a valuable one today – the punt team went out there and only ten guys ran out onto the field when we were kicking from the three-yard line. And immediately, everybody's instinct was to call timeout… We don't want to waste a timeout, particularly if it's the end of the ball game and you need to save all of your timeouts. All they're going to do is penalize you a yard-and-a-half, you're still kicking out of the back of your endzone, but save the [timeout]. I think those kinds of things are fabulous for your team."