Has there been any one facet of the practices that has been a pleasant surprise?"I'll give you an example. The first day, I wasn't really pleased, and I know the defensive staff wasn't really pleased with us running to the football. One of the things, whether we played well or not, we have always prided ourselves on defense running to the football. In the last two days we addressed it, one of those haymakers, and the last two the tempo of practice has gotten significantly better and for obvious reasons. When you put the pads on, the tempo goes way up because people are not afraid of getting hurt anymore. When you are out there without pads, sometimes people are reluctant to do certain things. We still try to stay up; we don't cut our own guys and take them to the ground very often. Because you are not trying to hurt your own guys but at the same time, there are fundamentals and techniques that require, when you get pads on, to do things physically."
Has anyone stepped up and taken Brandon Hoyte's leadership on the defense?"It's interesting because you have a veteran group on both ends of the front four and the back four. There are the obvious older guys that all have kind of picked it up some. What is going to be interesting is how this all meshes through with the linebacker position because it is really tougher to lead the whole defense when you're playing in the secondary. Usually the guys that are running the show have to be somewhere in the middle. Victor Abiamiri is a great leader but he is playing left defensive end. How can he be telling everyone else what to do? Guys like Victor and Zibby have really helped pick up the pace in practice."
Has there been one guy who has really stood out as far as improvement?"It's tough for me to analyze people without pads on, other than their effort, because you really don't know until they start hitting each other what it really looks like. Probably about a week from now, I'll have a better answer to that question."
Have you spend much time on screen plays?"It's already wearing them out. In the last period of 15 plays, there were five screens. So obviously we have spent a lot of time practicing those things, and there are individual periods where we've run nothing but screens. There are also periods where we run nothing but play-action passes and/or play-action protections."
Are you comfortable enough with veteran returners that you will give Aldridge and West a chance of returning?"I'm going to put whoever gives us the chance to win back there; like Zbikowski last year was our punt-returner. As a kick-returner what do you do? You back up to the goal-line and catch the ball and run - and try to find an opening and hit it. That's what you do. It's a little easier job than a punt-returner to tell you the truth; because as a punt-returner, you're catching the ball with guys about to knock your head off. Kickoff return, guys are still 20 yards away from you when you catch it. I think they can do that. Now, how well they will read that blocking; whether they will run through tackles, I don't know that. But hopefully by the end of spring, we'll have a better idea on the guys that we already have. And then we have a number of guys coming in the door that have return-ability."
If Zibby would ask to return kickoffs, would you let him do that?"He wants to play quarterback. You're barking up the wrong tree here now. Anytime he can touch the ball, he likes to touch the ball. I don't think so."
Are you able to practice special teams and punting inside?"We do everything the same. The only thing that happens, when you're punting the ball and it hits the roof, we have a coach standing there; we still have a ball in play. We play the returner, not the ball. Or we'll actually get the jugs out and use the maximum height that you could use in the bubble and still send spirals back there so they can still work on catching punts. You just tweak it a little bit, what you have to do when you're punting the ball, let's hope the punts are hitting the roof in our place. Let's hope they are getting there because if they're not, we're having trouble with the punter."
You reported earlier that the early enrollees were doing well academically, socially, and so forth. How about football?"I think their eyes are wide open. I think they're saying, "ooh." It's kind of funny because every level these guys go to, it happens again. You should see when rookies come into the NFL. You can have a guy who is a first-round draft choice, and when he first walks into the first practice, he's saying, "wow." The speed of the game, every time you go to a higher level, increases that much. I think they're going through a little bit of that transition, of the speed of the game, themselves right now.