"On that note, we can flip it over and talk a little about football."
This is the last time we will see you before the spring game, are there any tweaks at this point?"Isn't that a great thing (laughing)? Barring any unforeseen things, I have kind of split up the teams that I will finalize tomorrow and also establish rules for the game. I have a staff meeting tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. The Tuesday/Thursday schedule is a little different than the Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but our staff doesn't meet in the morning; as a whole staff we meet in the afternoon. At that 2:00 meeting, we are going to tweak the final touches to the spring game rules and rosters. If you want that information, you can have it tomorrow afternoon. If not, I will just give it to everybody on Wednesday. You guys talk with Brian if you need it for stories on Wednesday. Whatever we do, I want to do it as a group so everyone has it on Tuesday or everyone has it on Wednesday."
There are some big shoes to fill at wide receiver, how would you evaluate that situation so far?"Just as I said from the start, David (Grimes) has had an outstanding spring and that's what I would have expected him to do. George (West) had separated himself from the pack; then he cut his hand and has missed some time. But we were really encouraged by George's play. But after that, there is a whole group of players that have all gotten better. So rather than single out any individual, there's a whole group of players that what we have learned from the spring is that we wouldn't be afraid to play them in a game. Now, not being afraid to play them in a game and winning the game are two different things. I haven't gotten to the point where I would jump on the table and say, ‘We're going to win,' yet the way we're playing, but I'll have to say there are a lot more players at the position at the end of the spring that we believe we can play in the game than at the beginning of the spring."
So you have seen improvement at this position then?"From multiple guys, but I wouldn't say any of them have moved ahead the way George has moved ahead."
Will George play in the spring game?"The doctors put his hand in a soft cast today to cover up the stitches and he went out there and practiced. I'm going to wait till Saturday to make that decision. He practiced today, and he'll practice on Wednesday, and I'm going to wait until that day to see if I feel there is any positive in doing it versus the negative of doing it. We will till Saturday to make that decision."
Is David Grimes further advanced now than at the end of last season?"For one thing, you get more pressure on you now because you're going from the number three receiver to the number one receiver. With that responsibility also comes added coverage coming your way. He's really had a nice spring; I've been pleased."
When you recruited him, did you think he would become a number one guy?"I really had no idea what we had at the time. Remember at that time, Stovall (Maurice) hadn't done much, Samardzija (Jeff) wasn't playing. How was I to know those guys would play as well as they did for us. I've been pleased with David's progress."
You said you are going to tell the quarterbacks what the order is in May. When will you tell us?"I'll tell them long before you (laughing). Here's the problem with that whole process. Once you tell them, it's just like telling you anyway. Somehow magically it ends up on the street. So it will probably be fairly close in time. If I feel once the players know, I might be able to keep four or five guys from saying anything, but when the teammates know, it's national news anyway. So it will be pretty close to the same time."
Will it be beneficial to tell them early in the summer so some leadership is developed?"I won't wait; I'm not going to wait. I'm going to do it exactly the way I said I'm going to do it. I'm going to come back and have the last two weeks of May. By the time those two weeks are over, I will have finished the evaluation and let them know. In other words, before we come back for the 2nd session of summer school, this thing is going to be in place."
Will you discuss this with us or will you just release it?"I don't know that yet; I'll have to wait until we get to that point. I'm not going to hide anything; I'll just have to wait to see what the decision is first. We will go with it from there. I'm here the whole month of June; it's not like I'm gong anywhere. We have camps all the time; whether I get it out to you through Brian on a release or whether we call a little mini press conference and do it. The only thing is, I call a mini press conference and it almost turns into another dog and pony show, so it's better if I just go ahead and release it, and it is what it is and we move forward."
How is Luke Schmidt progressing this spring and what are his chances of playing?"He has been here a year now, but he has played himself into the mix more. Last year when Asaph Schwapp went down, it left us with Ashley McConnell and nobody else really the way things were going. At least the position we are in now, we have more depth with quality players at that position; and that's a very, very strong positive. He'll be playing this year; he'll be on the field; Luke will be on the field this year. And he will continue to get better, and he has gotten a lot better, he's way better this year than he was any time last year."
When you have a two-sport athlete that is struggling, for example Evan Sharpley's situation, do you feel either sport is taking away from the other one?"I can't speak for the baseball team; I just know that Evan has been here for all the football practices. If anything is more positive in light of what he has done, he has put a heavy emphasis on football. I am assuming, without knowing, that baseball probably correspondingly has suffered some. I really don't know the facts or figures, but that's probably what's happening. With Will (Yeatman), he has been with us less than Evan and he has been very productive over there on that lacrosse team."
How would you compare Evan now as to this time last year?"I don't think it's even close from where Evan was last year at this time to now. Last year at this time, he was just trying to get into the mix to be a backup. Now, he's in the mix to be a starter. If you're looking for me to slip, I'm not slipping though (laughing). You'll be trying a long time to get me to slip."
Are you getting an identity of the defense and what you feel it can do?"The positive thing now is we have a lot less holes. We have a lot fewer question marks at this stage than at the beginning of the spring. Now after going through the spring, we can zero in on what we have identified as the major problems. And there are some, but there are just a lot less problems now than when we got started, because we didn't know exactly what we had when we were starting in the spring."
What has stood out about Travis Thomas's transition from the defense to the offense this year?"I think he has brought toughness and competitiveness to that other side of the ball because he would like to have the ball in his hands all the time. He has made the whole group better by how hard he works. He is one of the hardest working guys that we have on the entire team."
How is Konrad Reuland coming along?"He is progressing nicely. The interesting thing is I can't evaluate the competition between the two guys fairly because I haven't had Will here enough to judge. That's going to be an interesting battle here, because Will has done some really nice things in a limited amount of time. And Konrad has just been consistent every day. We all know who number one is, but it is going to be a nice battle to see who number two is."
Is that something that will be playing out into the fall?"I think that will go deep into training camp, because you're going to need both of them this year anyway. You're going to need both of them somewhere along the line, so I think that will be a healthy thing. Taking off on that question, a lot of the questions of who's first will be taken care of, but now the competition will be for twos instead of being for ones. So the whole competition changes when you start to settle in on that first group. Now, it's two versus three as far as how the competition settles in. That Asaph Schmidt competition is a nice competition. But that's a competition for one that might go deep into camp. So in a lot of cases, there is competition for one; but in other situations, there is competition for two."
Has Asaph shaken off the rust and shown some improvement?"Today was the best day he has had all spring. There wasn't anybody out there in practice today who wouldn't have said the same thing. Today was his best day. I've been not so nice to Asaph recently, and he had a very positive response today. That's the best day he's had. You saw no signs of a limited Asaph today."
What are your thoughts on the rule changes, especially the clock?"What I thought they did with the clock originally was not a very smart idea. So what they did with the clock, I thought was a good idea. Obviously, the biggest ramification than the clock is what they did with the field position with the kickoff team. I think that's going to change the field position in the game and two things are going to happen. The offense should get better field position and there should be a lot more plays in the game. You'll probably see scoring back up this year across the board; but not necessarily with us because we have a different type of team. But I think you'll see scoring in the country up a bunch."
Did the rule changes last year hurt you?"There were some games you had less yardage, maybe less points, but so did they. It's all relative. I think it was figured at 10-12 percent less plays. Those 12 percent less plays are significant numbers of plays in a game."
Did you anticipate that extent of change?"I knew there would be a decrease but I didn't think it would be to that extent to tell you the truth. The game would definitely run faster and you would see the volume of plays going down, especially against teams like Navy and Air Force who were going to hold the ball a good portion anyway."
Did it affect your play-calling in any way?"It affected the play-calling early in the game because you would be a little more aggressive early in the game to make sure you got points on the board. So all of a sudden before you know it, it's the end of the third quarter. In a game like UCLA, where you don't score points, you are just kind of stagnant out there, all of a sudden it's the fourth quarter and you are down and you are scrambling to be fortunate to eke out a win at the end of the game."
Has your recruiting message to high school coaches and recruits changed this year from your first year?"I think the number one thing going out in the spring, in my case being the head coach, is sending a message to those players about their significance in the recruiting process. You can't talk to them so you go see their guidance counselor, see their coach, see their principal, but you can't talk to the kid. So when the head coach shows up at the school, it's showing that no matter where you are in the country, that you must be pretty important for the head coach to show up himself. Most of them know who I am, but I think that's the biggest message I'm trying to send when I show up at those schools. I think we have started to establish great rapport with a number of coaches. Some are repeaters, some are new. Continuing to establish rapport with high school coaches is significant because they might not be the decision-maker, but very often they have a significant amount of input in the decision-making process."
Since you've been here, you have offered scholarships much earlier than before. How do you balance it with players who commit early and those that you wait for?"It depends upon the position and how many guys you are willing to take. If you are taking one guy at a position, you have to offer less and wait longer. Where if you are taking five guys at a position, you offer more and once it starts to get close, then you tell the other people, ‘Hey, it's getting close to being filled.' A lot of it has to do with how many guys you intend to take at that position."
How has John Carlson's leadership role evolved this spring and how do players respond to him?"The best part about John is that everybody thinks he is this mild-mannered guy that doesn't play with fire. And that's so far from the truth. He's actually been kind of fun to watch in the spring. Obviously, he's a front-line player; he's a front-line player in the country, let alone here. He's kind of taken this leadership thing and run with it. It's actually fun to watch somebody evolve from a backup behind Fasano (Anthony) two years ago that nobody knew about, to the starter last year on Quinn's team, with him now being one of the featured guys as far a leadership role on the offense. The players listen to him. In fact, a lot of times in the huddle he has been very helpful calming things down in the huddle. When things get a little antsy, he'll say, ‘Hold on, say it again, start over.' He's had a very good presence about him."