"And in conjunction with that, Munir Prince came over from running back to corner. I think we were about to get a little too light at corner with Gary down so we switched that over. Munir and I talked about this last night and again this morning and we kind of finalized this. He had made all-state as a junior at corner before he played almost exclusively offense his senior year. This was something that was on the back burner that he and I had talked about and I figured the timing was right with Gary missing the spring. The time was right to go ahead and give Munir the opportunity which he was asking for. He was asking for an opportunity to go over and play corner.
"Okay, in addition, a little different than I have done it in the last couple years, we decided with the youth of this team, we thought it would be a good idea to establish some form of leadership in between the coaches and the players. So we went ahead and voted for captains for this coming year. There will be four captains for this coming year; two of them are repeaters. Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) and Travis (Thomas) are the repeaters. The two additions to the program as captains are John Carlson on offense and Maurice Crum on defense. So basically, two guys on offense and two guys on defense and all of them have a say in special teams; John Carlson and Travis Thomas on offense and Zibby and Mo Crum on defense.
"In addition, we usually vote on the leadership committee at the end of training camp but three guys received so much support, I named them to the leadership committee now. Trevor Laws will represent the defensive line, John Sullivan will represent the offensive line, and Geoff Price will represent the specialists.
"Obviously with me talking about the captains, I also got approval for all the fifth-year guys yesterday; so all the fifth-year candidates have been approved to be a part of our team. I've gone through all the proper protocol with the captains and the fifth years. So we have those nine back; and we have four captains; and we've got three guys on the leadership committee; we've got a cracked bone and one out for the spring; and we've got a guy flipping over from offense to defense. What else do you want to hear today (laughing)?"
Have you named the starting quarterback yet?"No (laughing), that's a good question. My son asked me that last night. I said we've had two practices, Charlie. I'll tell you, we've had three."
How bad is the cracked bone?"It's not displaced. It's not all the way through, but its enough that you have to put it in a cast for a minimum of four weeks. We talked about it last night. This is something you can wait on. You just go ahead and put it in a cast and there's no pin, no operation, you just let the thing heal. That's what you do."
Was Munir going to move over anyway at some time?"He had talked about the potential of moving over to corner. But it was just ironic that we had just recently talked about it and this happened at almost the same time. So this morning, he and I got together and he had asked me to consider it; so I said consider it done. He asked me to consider it so we made the move this morning."
What is your impression of the running backs so far?"Obviously I wouldn't do this if I didn't feel pretty good about the running back situation. You know, Travis has looked good. James (Aldridge) has looked good. Junior Jabbie has looked good. Armando Allen has looked good. They have all looked good. The fullbacks have looked good too. Of course, we have only been in shorts for two days and just put the pads on for one. But I think if we felt we were shortchanging the offensive running back situation, especially we still have another one coming in you know, we certainly wouldn't spend the spring going through it just to see if somebody could do it or not."
How do you normally handle players changing positions?"That's a good question. If this would have been a residual effect of Gary being out for four weeks, it's a touchy situation. What you don't want to do psychologically is put a guy in the tank because you are flipping him from one side to the other side just to build depth; down the road depth. But because this had been brought to me for consideration, the timing made it an easy one to do."
So you try to address these topics ahead of time?"For example, Leonard Gordon is listed as a corner/safety. Because out of our safeties, the only one with corner skills is Leonard; so that's why when he is dual listed. He is dual listed for a purpose because he is the only one being cross-trained at both corner and safety. So although for you, Leonard Gordon is just one of the guys out there, for me that is a very valuable person because it provides depth at two positions, not just one."
How is Chris Stewart doing so far? Does he look like a guard playing nose tackle?"So far, so good. But once again, it's his first day in pads. He is obviously a big body and moves around real well. The natural thing when you first start playing that position is to play a little high, but he is very, very athletic. We'll see how it goes, but so far, so good. Right now he looks like a big muchacho playing nose tackle (laughing). Because I'm standing behind the offensive huddle and he is a big, big man."
What are some of the things that are difficult for the guys to grasp in these transitions?"In the last year or so we have moved around a whole bunch. We moved around on the defensive line; we've stunted a whole bunch. Now I'm not saying that we won't move a lot on the defensive line, but learning how to two-gap, learning how to control a blocker and throwing him off and then going and making the play, it's different than when you are stunting most of the time. That's one of the major differences and we set up a drill because this is the first day we were in pads. We set up a drill early in practice where it was just one-on-one with a running back and a defensive lineman on an offensive lineman and a tight end and an outside linebacker and a runner behind them in a limited area. So that the offensive guys were not just driving them off of the ball and the defensive guys weren't just putting their hands in there and throwing them off and then making the play. It's different than when you are just taking a gap all the time."
Is Munir's move permanent?"We're going to give it a fair go. In other words, we are going to give it a legitimate look. This is not just an emergency move where you are moving a guy over to just get another guy over there. This is a guy we are moving over there to get a legitimate look at the position."
How much will his speed help out?"We'll find out because he has it. We'll have to see, but obviously you want corners who can run; and he can do that."
Was Munir frustrated his first year as a running back?"No, no, in fact he likes running back. I think he just sees himself in a position where he thinks he can get on the field faster as a corner than as a running back. When a guy has played on a fairly high level at the high school level, when he has been an all-state corner, I think it isn't asking him to do something that he hasn't done before and recently. Last year, I wouldn't say moving Travis was a desperation move, but it was definitely a move out of need. This is more of a move out of want, than need at this time."
How is the competition going at the safety position?"I think Corwin (Brown) and Bill (Lewis) have been very encouraged a lot more than just the second guy. They have been encouraged throughout the depth chart there. They have mentioned almost every guy in some capacity showing up. I think it's too early to say it's Bruton (David) or it's Herring (Ray) or it's McCarthy (Kyle). I think it's too early to say that but he has also mentioned Gaines (Jashaad) and Sergio Brown so I don't think he is limited to just the second guy along with Zibby."
Are you looking for guys with a particular style back there?"We are looking for guys who make the most plays based off what the scheme is. Once again we are establishing an identity right now and that will clean itself up. I don't think this is going to be tough when it is all said and done. I think it's premature to establish the depth chart at this time though."
Coach Brown said that you don't need to spend much time with the defense. Could you expand on that?"Well, I know all the calls so when I watch the tape I can say, ‘Wasn't that guy supposed to come across the tackle's face?' Because I know the defense, I don't have to go down there and figure out what they are doing on defense because I already know what the defense is. It's kind of fun when I'm standing behind the offense and I hear them make a call and I know what's coming. That will help us cheat in training camp when the offense is going against the defense, knowing those calls. But, unfortunately, the flip side is the defense knows the offensive calls. It's easier now for me to watch tape; it's easy for me to sit there and put on the reels and say, ‘What was he doing on that play?' Remember, a long, long, long time ago, I started out on that side of the ball."
How did you check the defense in the past?"I didn't have to study every call, but there were times when I had to ask a lot of questions because I didn't know the answer to the questions. I would see something happen, and I would have to make sure if it was a mental error or that's what we were doing on that call or had we added a wrinkle that I just didn't know. With this defense, I'm usually on top of it a little bit more. That's probably the best way to say it."
Does the job description of anybody in the secondary change because of a shift with the front seven?"Not really the secondary, it's more the tweener and the outside linebacker. I think that's where the bigger shift is. The guy might be a little undersized at end, but he's a perfect outside linebacker."
The learning curve for the John Ryans, is it the greatest for them on that side of the ball in the spring?"Well, actually, that position ends up being a relatively simple one; either you rush or you drop. Either you rush outside or you rush inside. So it isn't really as complicated; it's a tad bit easier to tell you the truth."
Schematically is it easier to disguise where the pressure is coming from?"Oh yeah, because you have a balanced defense and you can bring it from either side at any time or up the middle. When you are playing an over and under, you have an over-shifted defense or an under-shifted defense. Here's a little coaching tidbit for you. Most people bring pressure off the side guard bubble. What that means is, when you have an over or under defense, that means three down linemen that are on the center or one side or the other, normally the pressure comes from the side away from that. When you have a 34 defense or the configurations where you can reduce a guy to either side, it gives you mirrored sides where you can bring pressure off either side at any time easily without there being any mental error when you go ahead and do that."
Why don't more colleges do that?"There probably are college teams that do this; we just haven't played a whole bunch of them. I know 34 defense is cyclical even in the NFL. It goes in vogue and out of vogue. It just fits our personnel."
With new and young quarterbacks, have you thrown a lot at them in the first three days or have you slowed the tempo?"That's a good question. We are not going at the same pace. The first four practices, we have one set and each day we are putting in something new. It isn't like we don't have a significant installation going in; we're just not putting it in at the same pace. Next Wednesday and Friday, we go to a new mentality and a new mentality the following Monday and Wednesday. Then we are off for Easter and the next Wednesday we go with a new mentality too. So each set ends up grouping multiple days whether it be four days, three days, two days, to put in segments rather than just slapping it against the wall like we had done in the very beginning."
In the off-season, you had mentioned that Ryan Burkhart had improved. Has he shown this yet?"Today we worked on punts. So he kicked the first day and will be kicking again tomorrow. He had a decent first day kicking field goals; better than anytime we had seen him last year."
Is he punting too?"Right now, Price is our punter. It's one step at a time. Right now I want the kickers to kick to see if I can get that straightened out first. Because he's capable of punting, but right now we're trying to get the first things first straightened out and just trying to get them to do their specialty; to do that the best."