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"(Throwing to tight ends and backs) is one of our main emphases we want to work on this year. Coach (Butch) Davis and Coach (John) Shoop have made that a point, that we have to get more production out of the backs and tight ends (in the passing game). Obviously, that comes from losing three of the best wide receivers in the country, I feel like.
"With them leaving, that's probably 60 or 70 percent of our passing offense, I don't know the stats, but that's a lot to replace. So we're going to have to ask the tight ends and fullbacks and running backs to step up, and we have the guys to do it. We have Shaun (Draughn) is great out of the backfield, we've got me, Christian (Wilson), Ed Barham – any tight end can step up and catch the ball, I think we're all capable of doing that. We just have to find new, creative ways to get us the ball and I think the coaching staff is working hard at doing that.
"I think (T.J. Yates') freshman year, he would have probably always just taken a shot, and last year even, I feel like he's learning each and every day – he gets better at pocket presence – knowing where the pressure is coming from, avoiding it, and finding a check down (throw). Whereas in the past two years, he might feel the pressure, not know how to escape it, and maybe force a deep ball or take a sack. That's something he's worked hard on, and with guys stepping up, the tight ends, the running backs, and fullbacks being there for him, is something he's going to get more and more confidence in doing and finding that check down and keeping the chains moving.
"It's smart football, and that's what T.J. is learning. He's learning that in order to stay on the field you have to complete passes. You don't always have to complete twenty-plus yard passes, you can complete five and ten yard dinks, and maybe make a guy miss and get ten or twelve. That's something that Coach Shoop is instilling in him, and he's learning it more himself the more experience he gets.
"I would argue that I feel like (Yates) has (trust) with me and Shaun and Anthony Elzy just because we've been out there, but even the other tight ends, I feel like Ed Barham has had a great spring, he's stepped up, caught some balls, Christian Wilson has done the same thing.
"The wide receivers, Dwight (Jones), Josh Adams, Greg (Little) – they're all stepping up and proving they are some good wide receivers. Dwight and Josh have just blown me away this spring with what they can do. The big thing for them is going to be learning the offense and getting over that first-year playing aspect – because I think every freshman goes through it. That time where from game one to game four or five, you've got to get over the hump and get to playing like you are not a freshman anymore."
"Coach (Butch Davis) is always talking about how, if we can get our focus on getting the ball more to the backs passing-wise, it will take a little more pressure off the receivers and open up the running game. That's an added attribute to the game. I think a lot of teams don't really see that, but the checkdown I think is a big attribute to a team. I think that we have the backs that have the ability to make something happen when they get a flat route pass.
"I think it is a good thing we're focusing more on that, because it takes away the pressure from the other parts of the offense.
"Being freshmen, me and T.J. (Yates) came in the same (class) and seeing the difference of how the game was played then, compared to how it is now, they never really threw the ball to the backs. If it wasn't a run play, or if it wasn't blocking, the backs weren't involved in our first couple of years. But now it is more like, with him maturing, that's a third option. It is safer to have a ball in the hands of a running back, than it is let T.J. stand back there and get hit, blindsided. That's another outlet that he has seen, growing up in the game.
"If he has the opportunity (for the deep ball), I believe he'll take it. Because he has the arm, I don't see why shouldn't. He has a pretty ball - he can throw the distance, but if its not there, better safe than sorry. I think T.J. has reached that level, and I think his potential has grown with him seeing that.
"T.J. is more comfortable, the chemistry with (the tight ends and backs) is a little bit better, but I think it is still early in the year. As the year goes on, he's gaining their trust, the receivers are gaining his trust, as well in practice they are catching more and more balls, and the chemistry between them is coming together. Even though we are a little bit older in the game, I think that they still have enough time to sprout up as young receivers and step up."