Today is actually the second phase of training camp. In the second phase of training camp, you have to start working on some of the schemes, both offensively and defensively, that we don't see when we're playing against each other. These periods have to kind of last you the whole year because there are things they are going to practice now that you may or may not see the entire year. You might have a period on defenses where it would be nothing but exotic blitzes. Those blitzes that coordinators draw up in the dirt and then go ahead and install them. You have to be able to practice those and react to those so that the first time you see them on the field you don't say, oh well what do we do now.
In this phase right here, we're dedicating about two-thirds of the practice time to continue to work on techniques, fundamentals, and installation of the systems. The last third of practice, we are working on different offenses and defensive schemes. The defense needs to see several schemes that we don't run on offense that they'll see whether it's early in the year or later in the year. This phase is not dedicated to Georgia Tech. That will actually start on the first day of school, August 22. That is the day we'll kick it over and go into phase three, and there is no reason why in your opening game you need to just take a normal week of evaluation time. We'll slowly start putting in stuff at that time; then game week we will get down to the nuts and bolts and analysis of their personnel for the players' perspective at that time.
With that in mind, what we did today in our afternoon team meeting, we thought it was time to go ahead and pick the guys that are going to join our captains as leaders of the team. What we did was give every player an opportunity to vote for somebody who represents their position. Captains were to be voted for – so like Brady Quinn was eligible to be the leader for the quarterbacks; and he is. Zibby was eligible to be the leader of the secondary; and he is. Travis Thomas was eligible to be the leader of special teams and linebackers and running backs. He was voted as the leader of special teams. Those are three of the positions that will be run dually by the captains and them representing those facets of our football team.
At three positions, we had ties. I tried to use my humor with the team, but they didn't get it, so I'll just tell you my joke didn't go over. I told them we had three ties and I flipped a coin and one of you lost. At the offensive line, they voted even-steven for Ryan Harris and Dan Santucci so they will both be on the leadership committee. Also, on the defensive line, they voted even-steven for Victor Abiamiri and Derek Landri and they will be on the leadership committee. At wide receiver, Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija got the same number of votes, so they'll be on the leadership committee. That leaves three positions, the linebackers will be represented by Maurice Crum; the tight ends will be represented by John Carlson; and the running backs will be represented by Darius Walker. On that note, fire away."
Could you explain who is in charge of the show team."We made a change from last year to this year because of the amount of skilled players that are going to the show team. Last year our numbers were a lot less than this year. So our scout team didn't have as many players that could give quality looks on a lot of weeks. Last year what we had was Jeff Burrow ran the offensive scout team even though he is the defensive GA. And Shane Waldron ran the defensive scout team even though he is the offensive GA. The thought process last year was, they're the guys breaking down the flip side of the offense and defense and, therefore, they would give you the best look at what the opponents' offense and defense was doing. Because we're sending so many quality players down to the show team on both sides of the ball, we didn't feel that we could get an evaluation if these guys should come up or stay down having a defensive GA coaching offensive players and an offensive GA coaching the defensive players. So we flipped them this year. Now Shane is running the offensive show team and Jeff is running the defensive show team. So we have a better analysis of guys who play their side of the ball. If a guy is down one day and up the next day, a lot of people flip-flop so it's a day-to-day thing sometimes. It's not a week-to-week or month-to-month type scenario you end up getting into."
Could you give us an update on Michael Turkovich?"Thank God he is in good shape. He strolled into my office about 3:00 today. What happened, in case you don't know the details, he got banged up on a play, kind of got staggered a little bit, kind of got hit in back of the head; and he went in and played the next play. Coach Latina looked at him and said, ‘He doesn't look right.' So he pulled him out. I waited a couple seconds and looked over there and he said to me, ‘He looks kind of groggy.' So I called our trainers and doctors and fortunately we had a bunch of people there. We told him to kneel down and then to lay down. We felt the right thing to do was not to take any chances and get an ambulance in there and take him to the hospital. I went to see him last night and all our medical people were there. When Coach Latina and his wife came, it gave me the freedom to get out of the hospital. They released him this morning and he was back here this afternoon."
How long do you think he'll be out?"Anytime you get banged up like that, you are in no rush. So they told us they are going to re-evaluate him in about a week. And I told him in my office, you are in no rush. Every player wants to get back on the field as fast as they can, especially when they are in the mix for playing time. You won't have to worry about how fast he gets back but anytime a guy gets knocked woozy, you want to make sure you're looking out for the best interest of the health of that player."
Did he have a concussion?"I was talking to him the whole time and explaining to him what was going on. And he was scared as anything else. When that happens, you don't know if you've cracked a bone; you don't know if it's a spinal injury; you're not really sure and our medical people did a really good job making sure that he wasn't moving. I was talking to him and he was probably sick of me talking to him by the time people got there. I talked to his Dad on the way to the hospital and told him exactly what happened. Because when Mike told him, it was like, I was on a backboard; and now you are a Dad and that is the first thing you hear. You don't hear that you were standing, and we told you to kneel down. You are in Pennsylvania and all of a sudden you hear your kid is on a backboard. Just like any other parent, that's a scary message to be hearing."
What did you learn from the scrimmage the other night?"I knew somebody was going to ask me that. First of all, we're a lot further along at running the operation on both sides of the ball. We have more depth at several positions where you are earning confidence in these players which then allows you to put more players out there. Sometimes where one of the problems comes is you are afraid to put guys out there and it kind of pigeonholes you as far as what you can do schematically. We're going to have to see how it pans out, of course, but we're going to have enough players this year that we have enough confidence in that it at least gives us the versatility to try to do some of the things we want to do."
Has there been any decision on the backup quarterback?"Right now in the backup quarterback situation, there's a wide drop off from Brady to the next guy. The obvious answer is Evan Sharpley. Evan is mentally ahead of the two freshmen. That's the obvious answer; and he is. So if you ask me, who is more mentally ready to play, then the answer is Evan. We are not throwing the towel in on Demetrius Jones and Zack Frazer. Zack and Demetrius, however you want to put it, but I think it is way too early for us to sit there and say, you are just show team players. The whole thing is that Evan spent a whole year doing exactly that; all he did was run show teams and come to the games. And I think right now after a few weeks, he just knows the system better than the other guys. If you're asking me who has the edge right now, it's obviously Evan."
Was that Paddy Mullen over at tight end?"We have three or four guys that we are flip-flopping on both sides of the ball; like Paddy is playing show team defensive tackle and working as a blocking tight end. He's already down there as a show team defensive tackle so this gives us an opportunity to cross-train him and get two things out of him at one time."
Who else is doing this?"You're out there (laughing)."
How is Mo Richardson progressing?"He is a young guy with a lot of speed and you know I love speed. Now we have to see if he knows what to do. But he's got a lot of speed."
Can you talk about (Asaph) Schwapp?"I'm prejudiced toward Asaph. He's one of the guys that never says boo; you never have to give him the ball. He doesn't have an unselfish bone in his body. All he wants to do is hit people; that's all he wants to do. And I wouldn't want to get hit by him. Pound-for-pound he might be the strongest guy on the team. He's about a 500+ bencher. This is a strong man and all he wants to do is block and hit people. And it's kind of fun when you give him the ball, because he's one of the guys I told you we're going to give the ball to when we get into a ‘pound it' mentality and the defense is not very happy when that situation occurs. He might only get two yards, but somebody is going to get hit."
Now that the freshmen can come in as early as they are, that has to be a huge advantage."Somebody asked me that last year. I think now because we have more good players in this mix, especially when the numbers were so low last year with scholarship players, you were talking 70-71 players. Now it's 80-81 which is ten more guys. Between the three guys that came in, in mid-year and the other 25 freshmen, plus a couple walk-ons, you are basically talking about a third of your team. Basically they are getting an opportunity to compete and see who can climb up the ladder."
Is Ryan Harris starting to get involved?"He ran a half hour at left tackle today; just against the bags right now. He's chomping at the bit now and we really have to keep him from getting out there too fast because we have a plan and he knows what the plan is. But like any other player, all he wants to do is start practicing earlier rather than later."
Have you had a chance to assess today's special teams practice?"I watched it in person but was too busy to watch the tape yet. We have a staff meeting coming up in a little while and we are going to watch that. To be honest with you I haven't really had the opportunity and I don't usually watch the tape until nighttime. I do know this, what we did different from last year; last year we used to run a lot more reps. This year we cut down the reps but expected every one of them to be full speed; so every rep was a game tempo. So instead of having eight kickoffs, that you're covering four a group; we covered four kickoffs but at full speed. So now you can watch guys running at full speed because what ends up happening after a couple of them they start getting gassed and then you don't see them at full speed anymore."
Is there any separation at the strong side linebacker position?"We're going to use both of them in the first game. I have enough confidence now in Mitchell (Thomas) and Anthony (Vernaglia) where I don't feel that we have to move somebody over to that spot that that spot is going to be one of weakness. I think they complement each other and they both have things that each of them are better at. This is a fair answer to your question and I think they have settled in pretty nicely at that position. I don't think one of them is so much better than the other where we can't play either one. To be honest with you one of my goals was to go to Atlanta and play two guys at different positions. I don't want to be getting into the fourth quarter of a game, with the game on the line, and we're worn out because we only played one-deep the whole game."
Can you compare John Carlson and Marcus Freeman?"You can play either one of those guys and you wouldn't miss a beat. John's a little taller and Marcus might be a little more polished route runner, but both of them can block and both of them can catch and run good routes. I have a lot of confidence in both those guys. It's nice to know that you are going into a season with two guys at that position where you have a lot of confidence."
Geoff Price said your standing behind him is a lot of pressure; what do you say about that?"He's been handling it fine so far. He overstated my pressure that I put on him. It's just good-natured ribbing. He's been doing well so far, and I'm pleased."
Speaking of ribbing, do you have any good lines for Brady because he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated?"Well, it depends on how superstitious you are. I can't be superstitious if he's on the cover, right? I think when you are a high-profile player, that comes with the territory and it's just a part of his growth and growing up and how he can handle those things without getting a big head. I think he has done an admirable job the way he has handled all the media attention and the hype to this point. He takes coaching and is working hard and we're far from perfect. I don't think he's going to be worrying about how many copies his family has, but if you ask his Mom and Dad, they might have a whole bunch of copies. It's tough not to root for this kid; he's a good kid."
How's the chemistry between Brady and Rhema?"It's actually good because Jeff wasn't here the whole summer and that helped their chemistry. Jeff was pitching and didn't get back here until July, so when they were having their captain's practice from June 20 until the end of July, that was his go-to guy. Now you get Jeff back and you've got a guy that you threw to all last year, and a guy you've been throwing to for the last month and a half, that makes for a good situation."
About the backup quarterback, you mentioned the mental part, are they physically what you hoped they would be?"They're both pretty good; they're both pretty good. They're both going to be contenders for starting quarterback at this place."
Are you going to change Demetrius' delivery?"Nope, Demetrius does some things that are different from Zack; that are different from Brady; that are different than Evan. In my case, whoever is the starting quarterback, we build the offense around that guy."
Would you say David Grimes has a pretty good lockdown on the No. 3 spot?"It's not close. That's a fair question and it's also correct. It's not close; he's a clear No. 3. That's his job to lose."