At this point, how is the progress of the offense and are you as far as you expected to be?"At this point right now, I believe we are a little bit ahead of where we thought we would be at this time. Guys are ahead at this time, right now, being able to take individual techniques from individual periods from which we have spent a significant amount of time on to the group periods which we are having, like Irish eyes, nine-on-seven, and then taking that and moving it into team periods and being able to execute. We will take safety blitz one day and then the next day come back and where we see the safety blitz and throw the sight adjustment. There's progress being made on a continuing basis."
How important is it to have someone like Joe Theismann at practice?"It's interesting because we were going through kickoff return walk-through and I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time talking to him and talking about quarterback technique and quarterback play. I think it's more important for the young guys to see a guy like Joe Theismann out at practice and understand his legacy and hope to one day develop their own legacy."
How is the development of the running backs coming along and what goes into your decision as to who gets the reps?"One of the things that we are doing with the multiple personnel groups that we use, we are letting each young man run different plays in different personnel to see what their best plays are and to see how their protection is in three-by-one, two-by-two, and seeing their understanding and development of pass protection. Guys are starting to clear up, some are getting better, and some guys are not developing as fast as others. There will be a clear picture as soon as camp is over."
Do you track each running back during practice?"We keep track of everything. We keep track of every throw that is made and every catch that is made by a wide receiver, every ball that is deflected, every ball that is dropped, every ball that is intercepted, and every ball that is incomplete for whatever reason. We do the same thing with the offensive line. Is there solid protection? Was there pressure? Where did the pressure come from? That guy gets a grade or if there's a sack, that individual gets a grade. It is the same grading system for tight ends and wide receivers. We grade each individual at the end of every practice."
So a running back couldn't take a play off, right?"No, there's too much competition right now."
Armando Allen and Robert and Armando. We are trying different packages with each individual to see what they can do and what they can't do. It's obvious that you can tell one guy might be a better blocker than the other. So we are trying to be able to run each way or run the same passing game that we may have in regular which is 21 personnel or tailback, tight end, two wide receivers and a fullback. We're just trying to do the same thing with each personnel group."
When you were at LSU, did you have a situation with two featured backs in there at the same time?"Oh, I was fortunate. I had Kevin Faulk, Cecil Collins, Kendall Cleveland, and Rondell; so I had four great backs at the time. We did systems where we had two tailbacks playing at the same time. We also had a system and we used the term, when a back is getting hot, we would leave him in the game and the other guys understood until he was tired, we wouldn't send another guy in."
Armando Allen is the smallest running back. How is he doing with pass protection?"Armando Allen is one of the toughest young men you'll ever see on the football field and he can handle his own against any blitzing linebacker."
Last year Robert Hughes had back-to-back 100-yard gains. Is that because he was getting used to the system or how would you explain that?"Sometimes it takes guys a little longer to develop and understand the system and understand the blocking schemes and who the free defenders are. I think he started to mature and understand the system a little bit better and he picked up where he left off and is doing a really good job at this time."
How is it better for James now that this is his third spring practice?"Guys are getting better because I think they understand blocking schemes. They understand eight-man fronts and when we're bringing wide receivers in to block the safety and to bring them in to block the Sam linebacker, so they understand the reads and where the cuts are going to happen. When you spend time watching more tape and you understand what is happening, you have quick reaction to be able to hit the hole quicker. Guys trying to make arm tackles, instead of making arm tackles for two or three yards, they're taking them for 10 to 15 yard gains."
James was injured his senior year in high school and freshman year here. How much of a psychological challenge is it in getting back on the field?"I think whenever an individual gets hurt, it is always a psychological issue when they first get back and it takes them a little while to get over it. Once you get in there and get hit in the first game, you don't worry about that because you have a job and an opportunity to execute your responsibilities. It just fades into their memory bank."
How is wide receiver Robby Parris developing this spring?"I think each individual is adjusting to their position because we are moving wide receivers around; it may be by formation, it may be by motion. We are moving a lot of guys around and guys are learning conceptually; three-man concepts, two-man concepts, and as they learn that, they do a lot better job because they understand where they have to get as opposed to where the other receiver is at this time."
Is David Grimes showing some leadership quality?"Oh, I think he is an outstanding leader. He leads by example and he leads by the way he carries himself on campus. He acts like a champion at all times."
What is the offensive line doing well now that they weren't doing two weeks ago?"I think the offensive line as a unit is really coming off the ball and being explosive. They are playing with great pad level and finishing plays. They're starting to come together and playing as a team and understanding each individual's strengths and weaknesses that are playing on the side of them. And I think they are really developing nicely as a unit."
Are you finding that the running backs are recognizing that and starting to trust them a little bit more?"There's a lot more trust. Every day at 3:30 we have the offensive team meeting and we talk about faith, trust, love, and belief in one another. I think guys are getting better and starting to trust the guys on the side of them. When you trust in the individual that is on the side of you, you don't have to try to make plays; plays develop. You just execute your responsibilities."
Do you see self-trust and confidence developing in the players?"I think they're developing a lot of trust within themselves. We have signs up now that we talk about leaving ego at the door. As you leave the ego at the door, you step in and you become one team. Guys are playing a lot more as a unit and that's one of the things we are really proud about right now."