Was that a pretty typical practice this morning, Coach?"That's pretty typical and I did a lot of different things. Probably more things in one practice because kind of coordinating with this day, knowing that there's going to be availability. I'll be perfectly honest with you, one of the reasons you do that is because you know a lot of guys are going to be video-taping all of this stuff. Therefore, it ends up on-line. And, therefore, the opponent can see stuff on-line as well. If you give them a little bit, they can get that, but if you give them volumes, you can't game plan all that stuff. I had to think of that too, realizing in this day and age, computer and internet, you have to take that into account so that you are not spoon-feeding your opponent a lot of stuff you end up doing."
How do you determine what you spend most of your time on in practice?"Today you saw at the first part of practice we were putting in multiple tight end pound-it packages, just like earlier in the week we put in multiple wide-receiver spread ‘em out packages. So today's new package that went in was multiple tight end and pound-it. That was the emphasis of the day, and after the break, it was basically a review of the passing game for multiple personnel groups, run and play action for multiple personnel groups, then introducing the goal line - and that is the first time we have been on the goal line and obviously it's not in sync yet, but a least the first time we got to line it up and run a couple plays there at the end of practice."
No Ryan Burkhart today?"I've done kickoffs every day. I tried to rep four guys and then I tried to rep three guys; so what I've been trying to do is rest one guy at least one day and only kick with two guys. So today's day was for the two that kicked. They won't be the same all the time; that's who they were today."
How did you feel about the kicking at the end of practice?"I thought it was a little shoddy. Actually, we've been kicking the ball very consistently the last couple of days. Early in camp we weren't exactly lighting it on fire either. But today I thought it was a little bit inconsistent. And not to make excuses, but the field is pretty tore up and our field gets pretty tore up too. So you can't say that's unrealistic, but I wouldn't call that ideal conditions for kicking. We weren't great today, but I'm not totally disappointed."
Any danger in having Jeff Samardzija as the holder?"Joe Montana used to hold and he's going to the Hall of Fame. I'll risk Samardzija. I'm not being sarcastic. It's an important position because a lot of times you don't notice the little misdirection off of the snap; that holder is the guy that makes it look unnoticeable, and Jeff has great hands."
Munir Prince) looks like. He obviously has to learn some things how this game is played, but I like the way he looks. Obviously, if I put in Luke (Schmidt) and I have been sprinkling in Asaph Schwapp a little bit too in the one-back set; that gives me a couple big bodies that counter the small scat-back type of guys. Now you have the big bodies you can mix it up with; so one team can't just zone in on - okay, this is what they're doing."
You don't have a lot of two-a-days; what is your philosophy on this?"A lot of this is mandated by schedule. The first five days of practice are called acclimazation where you can go on the field for a three-hour practice and that's what we did. We included walk-throughs in there but we went on the field from 2:15 to 5:15. Then it basically goes two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day, one-a-day. I think it's a pretty good idea, but to be honest with you, that's what I've been used to doing in New England, even though you aren't dictated to doing it that way. I just used the same schedule, in fact took the same format, but I did notice New England changed up their schedule a little this year."
Sam Young was running with the first team. Where is he on the depth chart?"I think he's on the first team. Remember Ryan Harris is not here. When Ryan's back, he's the starter. But what this does is give you two things – a legitimate contender over right tackle and a quality backup at left tackle and you can't have enough left tackles; just like quarterbacks. Because when you have a righty quarterback, other than the center, the left tackle is the most important person on your offensive line because he protects the blind-side."
What has he shown that has gotten him to this level so quickly?"He doesn't act like a freshman and that is a critical factor. Linemen, even on the next level, often take years to develop into front-line players. And it's unusual when a guy comes in and you don't notice him and the best thing you can say about an offensive lineman is that you don't notice him, because it means he is usually doing something good. When you notice an offensive lineman, it is because somebody is going by him or he is getting called for holding. So far so good, but remember, we're only at week-in and I don't want to be premature in my judgment but I've been very, very encouraged and excited by his play."
Have any freshmen stood out as possible special team players?"I have my favorite of the day, obviously. I'm pretty predictable on what my answer will be here, but the other day when we ran kickoff team, we liked the power and speed of Toryan Smith and we put him inside, and the first day he did it he didn't understand the tempo and he was about five yards behind everybody else. So today, I knew he was the guy I was going to ride and see if I couldn't get him down there; and getting him down there is one thing but finishing the play like that. It's always exciting to see a freshman step up to that type of level. He did it on one play, so let's not put him in the Hall of Fame yet, but the fact that he did it one time gives you hope that he will do it consistently."
How would you assess your defense at this point?"I like the speed of the defense and I'm much more encouraged at the depth of the defense than I was at any time last year. There was never a time where I could feel the same that I had confidence in more than one-deep. There were times in practice out there, you noticed; we had seven DB's out there. We wouldn't play seven DB's in an entire game last year and we had seven out there at one time. And that brings a smile to my face if we can play four-five-six-or seven; that gives you a lot of flexibility."
You had a lot of different looks on defense today. Are you still trying to settle in on some things?"I think we're well on our way, and just like everyone else, there are things that we will hold off on and never show, except in a very exclusive setting. The only game that you have the element of surprise is the first one. Because once you play your hand, everyone has it on tape and it allows them the opportunity to prepare for it. The teams that play the best are the teams that can adjust to things they're not ready for in a game. The only real weapon you have, as far as schematics go, is before you have actually used them."
Do you guys check websites for other teams?"I have people who monitor them all the time. You would be ignorant not to do that. Although I don't read them, when one of you guys tears me up, I hear about it. And you want to know who I usually hear it from, the blond that lives in my house."
You used a lot of linebackers today, can you talk about the competition there?"It's way too early to anoint anything etched in stone. But obviously we are encouraged by Travis. Or the answer to the question before this would have been, let's get him back to the offense right now. If we thought, a week-in that this thing with Travis wasn't working, we would pull the plug right now and move on. Mo (Crum) has settled in nicely and I like the competition, and it has been good competition over there, with Mitchell (Thomas) and Vernaglia (Anthony) and those guys. There are a lot of other guys who are moving up in our eyes. It isn't just the depth chart. I can give you two or three deep but how many of those guys are you really going to play. Just because a guy is listed second doesn't mean you are confident you can play him and rest him. I'm worrying about going to Atlanta and putting out two full teams on defense and if you don't have enough guys to do that, you can get worn out and you can end up losing because you don't have enough stamina. So that's where we are in the position of what we're doing right now."
Does the size of the inside linebackers concern you?"In a 4-man front defense, size is not a factor. Size is a factor in a 3-4 defense. When you have a 3-4 defense and you have 2-guard bubbles, those guys are getting blocked by guards. Guards have clean runs right at ‘em and they have to be able to fend them off, knock down a guard, and get off of them and make a play. Here they're covered up. You're covered up when you have four down linemen so it lets you run to the ball, so size is not really as important in a 4-3 defense as it is in a 3-4 defense."
Are there any other freshmen not acting like freshmen?"You don't really want to anoint anyone but it's hard not to like Darrin Walls cover ability. He and Raeshon McNeil are both playing at a very high level for young guys. It's going to be multiple freshmen in the two-deep. It won't be just a couple. They have to earn that spot first. We expected these young corners to come in here and provide us with good depth and compete for playing time; and they're doing exactly that."
The Irish Eyes drill that you used, is that the same as the Oklahoma?"Sometimes people call the Oklahoma drill where you have two guards and a center against two down linemen and a middle linebacker. We do this drill too where it's 3-on-3 or an outside linebacker and a defensive end against a tackle and a tight end. This one-on-one in a restricted area is one that really makes people sustain blocks on offense and get off blocks on defense."
Is there any consideration of red-shirting some of the freshmen?"Because we graduate everybody in four years, and you're supposed to be on the four-year plan and the fifth year is to be determined when the fifth year comes around, because we don't talk about red-shirt, we talk about fifth-year senior, we just have to go by what you see and if there's no reason to put him on the field, just to waste a guy. That wouldn't make any sense. As Parcels used to call it, they need a year in Joplin because Mickey Mantle got sent down to Joplin and he used to say, hey, he needs a year in Joplin and I use it and nobody has any idea what I'm saying. There are guys here that definitely need a year in Joplin."
Any update on Derrell Hand?"It looks to me like he's in the three or four week mode."
Why do you start practice and then do a team stretch?"Because why do you want to do an extended cool down - period. In other words when you do that at a low tempo early in practice and then you stretch, now you have your muscles loose. So if you start off with a stretch and have a long extended period, you'd have guys standing around at a very low tempo for 20 minutes and then you're asking them to crank it back up. I still intertwine a couple of those periods in there, you notice, but they're shorter periods. There are 7 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes, but they're still teaching periods. But the long one we always do on the front end, so when the teaching is going on and you're not expecting there to be tempo, it's not in a time when they're already loose."
How is Brian Mattes progressing?"I think his experience gives him an edge over guys that are less experienced. Last year Brian was after the 4-3 we were playing inside. He was our seventh guy, our swing guy that was ready to play in any position. That experience and how he practiced; you don't see him much in games except at finish-up time, but last year he was being coached as if he was one of the starters; and that puts you mentally in a different frame of mind than somebody who might have been running on the show team or might not have ever been getting any reps in practice. A couple of those younger guys who are pretty good players like Duncan (Paul) and Turkovich (Michael) they were more in that mode where they were in a finish-the-game mode, where Mattes was actually was going to be the first guy in at either tackle so he had to prepare accordingly."