Has this phase of camp been tougher than last year's."Today is probably the best that I have felt, but a lot of it probably had to do with the Yankees winning 2-1. That had a lot to do with my good mood. We did a lot today and created a very humid environment for those of you who were at practice. I can't get the heat too much higher than that, but it was hot and sticky in there. And we practiced with noise today. We pumped in music when the offense had the ball so they could practice with having communication problems when it's loud. The only thing we haven't worked on is the silent snap count which will depend upon how loud it gets. If you're in the shotgun, you have to be ready to go silent snap count if that comes into play. Getting more specific to your question, I'm content. I'm never happy, but I'm content where we are right now as we start moving into Georgia Tech. Because normally you are in a one-week ritual as you get ready, so now we are turning it into a two-week, slower pace deal. And what that allows you to do next week is really get into the nuts and bolts of everything Georgia Tech does. Physically you can pull back on them so the freshest they are ever going to be the entire year should be that Saturday night."
Are they beat down now?"No, fortunately we're pretty healthy right now. Legs are heavy, but now when you get into just a two-hour practice, which is now what they are into, they are in that five to seven ritual now. It doesn't take long for them to get their legs underneath them."
What is the reaction of the veterans to your second camp?"I think they are more ready for it. There are fewer surprises. They know what gets me mad and they know when I am quiet, it usually is not a good thing. Because if I'm sitting there not saying anything, it certainly is not because I'm not paying attention. They're usually saying now, what is he thinking because he's not saying anything. But most of these guys have a better understanding of me and my personality and my way of doing things. And they know there are certain ways that Coach Weis and his staff are going to do business, and they're going to be non-negotiable."
Have you adjusted what you do and say to them this year compared to last year?"Absolutely, and one of the things I did this past weekend, which I would not have done last year, on Saturday of this week, I moved practice to Saturday morning and I ended up giving them Saturday night off. I would never have done that last year. Because as a head coach you open yourself up to the societal problems that come with having a Saturday night off. I really believe, having gone to school here, and some of you know because you have been here too, I think there is a quality of life that you have to deal with when you are dealing with these kids too. You have to let them be students sometimes and let them get settled in like everyone else. My expectations, on both the front and the back end, were really hard work and that's what I got. I was able to throw them a bone - you know my phrases by now - I was able to throw them one because I trusted that they understood if they messed it up, that would be the last one they ever got. So far, the reports have turned in clean; so far."
Will you go mainly with one guy at the right tackle spot or will you have a rotation?"I think at the tackle position, you never want to get into an even-steven rotation. I think you'll see multiple guys in the game, but there will be one guy starting and one guy backing up. I know sometimes a lot of people put out a depth chart and they say so-and-so or so-and-so; I will never do that with the first guy. Now, I'll do that with the second guy so when I name a starter, they are going to be a starter. If I put a backup in, it may be either him or him; it might be because situationally one of them will go in, and in another situation, another one would go in. I don't think I would do that, you playing 50 percent and you playing 50 percent unless health or something warranted doing that."
Last year, you had four guys playing the three inside positions. Will you want to do that again this year?"No, I think we will use those three guys as much as we can. And we probably won't swing three guys behind those three guys, but we will probably swing one in the mix so we can get them a blow if we need to. They are just like anyone else, if you go out there and run a bunch of plays, and usually offensive linemen like it when they are playing a whole bunch of plays, they're not usually asking out on you. What I'm saying is, when you have three guys in there, you can take one guy out and the other guy out and the other guy out. You're never taking all three of them out at the same time. You need to play multiple people, but unlike last year where I considered we had four starters for three spots, now we have three starters for three spots and then backups. I'll get to the depth charts in the near future."
What is your philosophy of rotating defensive players?"It all depends on how many plays you are on the field. If the defense is out there going three and out, it's not a defensive thing. But if the defense is out there and they are giving up twelve-play drives, you might be in a rotation in the first drive; it all depends upon the number of plays. It really goes back and forth between offense and defense. Let's say the defense is a little bit tired, but the offense goes on a 13-play drive. Now the defense is ready to go. But if the offense goes out there and goes three and out, and now you're going to have to make some decisions on personnel, based on how long a rest they had on the sidelines. You do it based on what is happening in the game. It's got to be quick thinking now. You have to be able to adjust to what ends up happening."
Do you make those decisions or do you leave it up to the assistant coaches?"It's a combination of both. If you are trying to keep linemen fresh, excluding packages with different personnel groupings, if you want to keep defensive linemen fresh, you have to turn it over to the defensive coach. And when he sees a guy gassed, you go ahead and do it. Usually, if I see a guy gassed, I'll be yelling for a substitution, unrelated to everyone else. I'll be grabbing someone, and saying, get in there. So I see that and I'll do that, but the problem is you have to make sure you have enough guys at these positions where you have enough confidence; you go in and you're not going to have a drop off in performance. I'm not just blowing smoke when I say that, I believe we have enough guys now that I can put another guy in there and not say, oh no, what's going to happen."
Some of the freshmen today said they're just working to get on the bus. Do you have thoughts on certain freshman players who might work into your game plan?"That was a good answer they gave then. If that's what they thought, that was a good answer. Before we send a depth chart to Georgia Tech, I'll make sure I give them to you first because I don't think I should send them down to them without you having them first. I'm getting closer to having them, but let me get to there first. I want to make sure people aren't given anything; I want them to be earned. I don't want to hand somebody a job and they say, I can relax now because I'm going. It just doesn't work that way."
Do you have to get creative in practice to keep them interested?"Well, the bad thing is to this point, is that we go so much offense against defense. That's why phase two of this year's camp dictated to competing against ourselves for two-thirds of the practice. But come tomorrow, that will totally change, as one-third of the practice will be dictated to us going against each other and two-thirds will be dictated to getting ready for your opponent. I don't believe in spending a lot of time of the good guys going against the lesser guys. I believe in practicing the good guys against the good guys because, if not, you'll never know what you've got."
What's it going to take for you to decide on your kicker?"Brian (Polian) and I met on this very subject this morning. We are trying to be totally objective and not go day-to-day. Because what happens is, a guy will come out here some day and he'll make five out of six field goals and the next day he'll go out there and make two out of six. One day you'll say, he's my guy and the next day you'll want to cut him. So what you have to do is add all that information together and then make an objective decision rather than subjective. Last year we had D.J. (Fitzpatrick) punt, kick off, and kick field goals. There is a very good chance this year that will be three different people. They'll all have one defined goal as the primary guy. There is a very good chance that's the way it will play out. Really, in this game you have to go by get-off, if one guy is kicking his field goals and getting it off at 1.2 and the other one is getting it off at 1.4 and the numbers are pretty close, you want the guy who is getting it off at 1.2. Because that means there is less chance of something bad happening by something being slow when it comes to it."
Are you trying to get inside the kicker's head?"I try to get inside all of their heads. But am I trying to put them in the tank – no. I want them to step up and be the guy. That's all I want. I really don't care, I just want them to step up and be the guy."
Do you feel you are in the head coach mode at this time?"I did spend a lot more time with the defense in the spring. Because basically there are certain things as an offensive coach where you know where you would attack an opponent's defense. So if I was playing against our defense, there are certain things I would do to try and exploit what they do. So the easiest thing for me to do, rather than try to be the defensive coordinator, is say look, if I was going against you, here's what I would do and if I were you, here's what takes that away. So that's what I really did this spring. I just said there are certain situations we have to do something about or else we are just going to get beat again. And it isn't like you have changed your whole playbook, it's just that you have put in those whether it's five or ten things, the things that you want to see in there that you know, when it comes right down to it, you want to see in there week-in and week-out. Rick (Minter) calls the defense; I don't call the defense. But at the same time, I feel that I have a lot better handle on what they are calling and at the same time, I think they have a better understanding how I like to play the entire game. When it comes right down to it, my primary role, besides running the team, is going to be calling plays on offense."
You have been aggressive on offense. Would you like to see an aggressive defense?"I'm an aggressive person by nature as a coach. It's interesting because somebody emailed me a stat the other day that in the NFL last year Bill Belichick went for it on fourth and one more than any other coach in the NFL and Parcels was third. Someone said isn't it ironic with your grooming, that's the mentality there. And both of those guys were defensive guys first, but maybe I was brainwashed into how that is how you are to play the game."
Is the three-phase approach different this year from last year?"We didn't even know, in some cases, who was going to play last year. It's totally different this year from last year. Because right up until game week, there were jobs, starting jobs, that were still in question. Now most of those jobs that are in question aren't those starting jobs. They're the starters in multiple packages and they're the backups in all different cases. There are a lot more players involved in the mix now, than there was a year ago."
Other than his running abilities, what intangibles does Darius Walker bring to the game?"I would say his number one attribute is that he is very gifted at reading fronts. He is one of those guys who sees where the holes are. He has great peripheral vision and he can usually get the ball back to that spot. Another thing I like about Darius is the things he perceives as weaknesses, he will work on a lot. For example, blitz pickup. Last year at this time, I didn't know if he would pick up the blitz or not. This year I have total confidence he will pick up the blitz. He earned that but that is something you have to work on. That just doesn't happen by accident. You have to go stick your face in there and be fundamentally sound and be technically sound. It's easy to see what happens when the guy has the ball in his hands, but it is the other things that come into play and one of the things, is blitz pickup."
How has Trevor Laws improved the most from last year?"He looks like he is in very good shape and standing from behind the offense, he looks exceptionally quick off the ball."