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"This being the major one, single opportunity to have some really significant scrimmage time, you probably couldn't have asked for it to have gone much better. The weather cooperated certainly, we got a chance, we had 68 scrimmage plays, which is probably about the same number you would have in an actual game.
"I think that almost every kid on our football team had a chance, probably had somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 to 25 scrimmage opportunities and scrimmages in the spring are great opportunities for your football team to learn. They will learn more today than they probably will have learned in the previous five or six practices we've had because the training wheels come off, there's no coaches in the huddle, there's nobody whispering in your ear, you get a chance to see what they actually know and whether they can go out there and play, and when they dig themselves in a bad hole, can they dig themselves out of a hole? How are they going to respond? How are they going to play?
"We'll learn a lot about these kids. Fortunately, we've got four more practices and we'll kind of fix and tweak some of the things that they didn't do well today. I think the most important thing is that we improved as a football team. The highlights of some of the things, going into practice, we talked about: We wanted to find out about our receiving corps, could those guys, would those guys, make some plays? Throughout the course of the day a lot of guys got a chance to catch some balls. Dwight Jones had a few opportunities, Josh Adams had some, Zack Pianalto had some, Todd Harrelson got a few – we were looking, kind of eagerly, as to the quality of level of the things that Jamal Womble could bring to the depth of the running back position. I think that was an encouraging thing today. He ran very physical, he's got the ability to make some people miss in the hole, which you saw that today, and catch the ball out of the backfield, so that part of it was encouraging.
"I'm interested, and I can't comment right now, but I'm interested to watch some of our second team offensive linemen to find out how did those guys get a chance to go? If you paid real close attention to the scrimmage today, you probably saw, during one session of it we went our first team offense and our first-team defense against each other. Then we flipped it, and allowed both sides with the 2's, went against the 1's, because sometimes you want to see how they play against somebody who is, perceptionally at least, a little bit better than them, or higher than them on the depth chart and that's a pretty good barometer, although our second team defensive line and linebackers are pretty good so there's not a big, dramatic fall-off there.
"I think another interesting thing that I'm looking forward to is grading the film and taking a look at is our linebackers, to find out how some of our young linebackers played today. Zach Brown made some plays, Herman Davidson, I mean at least they showed up in the stat category, now how they actually played, we'll find out when we take a look at the film.
"Overall it was a good day, we got a chance to put Grant Schallock under a little bit of pressure, though probably, clearly it will be significantly greater pressure in the fall. He went out there and did a nice job, boomed some punts down the field, been working on our gunners, so we were able to sprinkle in this year, some special teams situations that we weren't able to do in previous years.
"I thought that in the early part of practice when we did the field goals, I was very pleased with both batteries of the snappers, the holders, and the kickers, I thought they did a very good job.
"So on the whole I thought it was a positive day, we'll grade it, look at it, and try to continue to look better next week."
Where do you feel like the receiving group is at in replacing last year's starters?
"They're still learning. They're still learning how to run routes and work their technique and read defenses. They're young, but they're so eager to learn. We were watching film of Hakeem [Nicks] from his freshman year and he wasn't like he was this past year."
Who has emerged from the receiving group?
"Dwight [Jones], Josh Adams, Rashad Mason is doing a very good job, Todd Harrelson – they're all doing a great job coming out there and making plays against our defense."
How much of a benefit has it been to enroll early?
"It's benefited a lot. I'm not going to say I know the offense, but right now I'm comfortable with it. If I came in the summer with the other freshmen, I wouldn't be as comfortable. And now I can mix in with the flow rather than learning this summer."
Your teammates have raved about you. What are you doing that impresses them?
"I'm working hard every day. I'm trying to ask every player what I'm doing [and] what I can work on. I'm in the film room. I'm just doing the little things to get better every day."
Who do you spend time with in the film room?
"Dwight Jones, sometimes I'm in there with Brandon Tate, I go in there with Hakeem Nicks sometimes and we just talk about things I need to work on."
What things are they telling you that you need to work on?
"Right now, it's being a little bit more physical – getting off the line on the jam. In high school, I didn't have that. And if they did jam me, it was easy to get off."
How would you assess the team's progress?
"From the first practice, you knew something was different about the team… We came out there and it was upbeat from day one – everybody was running around, the intensity has been high, the energy has been good. It was a great practice overall."
Why do you think that is?
"We were 8-5 last season, but we could have easily just have won 10 games or 11 games with those close losses. We know this team is on the cusp of being great. By practicing hard we know we can do that."
So you saw the team pick up where it left off last fall?
"That's about right, except, I think, in the spring we improved. Going into training camp, I can honestly – at least in my running back group and the offense – I know that everyone has gotten better."
What's it like to go through what you went through last year and now be working with the starting unit?
"It feels good. I knew my time was going to come. I'm just trying to work hard everyday, just trying to get better every day in practice. Everybody might think there's stress on my shoulders, but I know what I can do. I'm just trying to go out there and make plays, stay focused, and do what I can for the team."
Where do you feel the passing game is at right now?
"We're coming along just fine. It's still March, so we've got a long way to go. But I think every week, every day, everybody on offense, defense is getting better. The receivers are getting more chemistry with the quarterbacks."
What's it like to work the entire spring with the starting linebacking group?
"It's great. I'm still kind of unsettled, but it's great. I love to be out there on the field to help the defense and help the team win."
Did you expect to make the leap to the starting group so soon?
"Yeah, I put a lot of work into it. After the bowl game, I had the mentality that I have to get stronger, better, faster so that I can get out on the field and help make plays."