Coach John Latina
Coach as you look at this offensive line what do you think the future holds for this unit as a whole?"I do like the fact that they have been in the system now for a few years. When I first got here, that was a big concern that we had a bunch of guys who had played together for a short time. I like the fact that all of our kids a nucleus of eight to ten have been in our program a minimum of two, but most of them three or four years. I like the fact that a lot of them have game experience. I think there are a lot of positives and growing in our system. I like that."
How important is it for a player to stay in one position?"I have always believed there are pros and cons to both playing in one spot and then moving around. The pros to playing in one spot is that you get to learn that spot. I always get concerned about guys learning just their deal and not getting the big picture. When you move around, you get to know what the left tackle's problems really are and when you move to left guard, you get to learn what his problems really are. When you are a veteran player and have experienced all of that, you kind of get the big picture. I think that is the pro to moving around. Obviously, if you move around a lot as a young player, it becomes a little bit of a hindrance. The residual is that as an older player, you have all those experiences that will hopefully make you a better and smarter player."
Was building strength one of the biggest points of emphasis in the off-season?"We all thought as a staff that we needed to get bigger; we needed to get stronger. Not necessarily heavier, but sometimes that comes naturally with getting bigger. We felt like we had to improve those areas and I think our strength staff, which I think is really outstanding, have done a great job with those guys. They look bigger and better than I have ever seen them; and that's a real positive."
Who had the biggest gain during the off-season?"It wasn't the biggest gain that I was most concerned about; it was the guys who made gains in all areas. We had about six guys that met every one of their goals that we set. We have guys who made most of their goals, maybe just missing one. We had a couple guys, as always, who just didn't make the progress you would like to see them make. I was more concerned about the four things that we gave them as goals to see if they could get better in those four areas."
What is an example of some of those goals?"Bench-press maximum, squat maxes, power clean maxes; things like that, that are real tangible, you can test and you can see the progress. Instead of just getting better at the bench, I wanted it more complete. That was more of the emphasis. Maybe one guy would jump 80 lbs in one area; I would rather he jump 40 lbs in every area."
What do you expect of Dan Wenger as your starting center?"He started at guard early for us last year and got hurt and came back. (John) Sullivan got hurt the last two games; he was the starter and he handled it. I always thought centers were like quarterbacks; quarterbacks manage the offense and the center has to manage the offensive line. Until you actually get a guy in there and manage it, you really don't know if he can do it in a game when the bullets are flying fast. The fact that you can do it in practice doesn't mean it will carry over to a game, but it was good that he was able to do it in game situations, and I like what he did."
How important was it for him to be the voice on the offensive line this summer?"Personally, I'm not real big on one guy being the voice on the offensive line. Last year, it was that year because Sully was the only returning player with experience. We have a lot of guys that have played in the program that I challenge every one of them to be the voice. The more voices we have, the louder we will be heard. That's the way I believe."
In your experience have you had a line with this size and experience?"Yes, but I like this line and their size and experience. I like this group."
Coach Jon Tenuta
At what point in the spring did you feel that you had to get Brian in there as a playmaker?"I think what happens is you come into spring ball and there are seven guys playing linebacker so you work guys around to where they really fit into our scheme for us to be successful."
You have a reputation for being who you are: a very aggressive coach and hands-on and verbally aggressive out there. How are you going to bring that nasty attitude to this team?"I'm just going to be who I am and go out to practice and work my guys and do the best I can to make them the best players they can be."
Coach Mike Haywood
With Jimmy (Clausen) getting stronger and more physical, how is that going to help him?"Any time you get physically stronger as a player, it gives you an opportunity to be a lot better because then you don't have to worry about those limitations such as, ‘Can I make this throw.' You don't worry about all those things; you just go out and play. It gives you the opportunity to study the game more, and as you study the game more, you become smarter and as you become smarter, you become faster because you think that much quicker."
Mike, you've finally gotten the keys to the offense, how big an opportunity is that for you?"I have been extremely patient. I've talked with some of the coaches that I've worked with in the past that are coordinators now and that first year they felt somewhat like they've been thrown under the bus as play-callers because a lot of things may have happened that they weren't prepared for. I think one of the things that has been beneficial for me is having Charlie as a mentor because I have been basically spoon-fed by Coach Nick Sabin, Mack Brown, and Coach Weis. This is a great opportunity and I always have Coach Weis as a mentor."
Coach Weis talked about being physical. Are we going to see a heavier dose of the running game this year?"It all depends upon the opponent that we are playing. In our first meeting that we had today, we talked about being physical. We are going to be physical and we are going to be mentally smart."
Can an offensive line feed off this from the coaches and send a message to the defense?"One of the things you realize is that sometimes an offensive line feeds off runners when they are being physical; when they are breaking tackles and getting 8 or 9 extra yards. Offensive linemen understand that and they appreciate that. In the passing game, you can help out by chipping when you have physical players that are coming over there to help chip. You understand that I have a little help over here so it is going to be all right. I think it builds the confidence of the young men upfront."
Coach Corwin Brown
Sometimes a hesitation will mean the difference between getting someone or not. Does experience eliminate that hesitation?"It always helps; it always helps. The more experience you have, the better off you are; absolutely."
From a speed standpoint, do you see improvement in this defense?"I think overall with the number of guys we have and the way we are coaching them and the way they are responding, it's been fast so there should be a marked improvement."
Can you talk about your front seven and the improvement you saw last spring over last season?"All I can go by is what we have done right now. We really haven't been in pads yet. So in a couple days, I'll probably have a better answer for you. But as of right now, the guys look good in shorts and they look excited, but we'll see. We'll be all right."
What has your relationship been like with Coach Tenuta?"We've got a real good working relationship. He's coached a lot of football and been around a lot of guys that I'm familiar with and even guys that I'm not familiar with. I like to hear about them and their schemes. We've done a lot of talking about football."
What aspect of Xs and Os?"Everything."
Do you talk about the blitzing and all that?"More than that; it's not just about blitzing. It's about game preparation, teaching techniques. We talk about a lot of different philosophies; different players; what has worked in the past; what hasn't worked and why it hasn't worked. That's how we learn. That's how we grow."
Coach Ron Powlus
Would you say Jimmy's improvement is similar from day to night at this time?"Going from where he was when he walked in the door to where he is now, you're going from zero knowledge of our playbook and our system to a year's worth later. So there's a vast difference but please don't interpret that as he's the only one doing that. Armando Allen and all the guys who are sophomores are a year smarter and a year more mature."
With Jimmy being more physical, does that take away the fear of being hit like he did last year?"I don't think he had any fear. The game of football is a physical game and you're going to get hit and that's part of the game. He got hit in high school and he got hit last year and he's going to get hit this year. I don't think Jimmy ever had any fear about getting hit."
With Coach Weis not calling the plays, have your responsibilities changed?"No, my responsibility is to make sure that the quarterback is ready to go, so none of that has changed. It's going to stay in place and I'll just keep trying to do what I do."
What were the most impressive things you heard about Jimmy and his improvements over the summer?"All the guys have worked out and done well this summer. The guys were around all the time and Jimmy was around with them. They were doing a lot of lifting; a lot of throwing; and a lot of working out and it's exciting to hear that because you know they are interested. They are committed to it and you know they are building that camaraderie and cohesiveness that you need. So it's encouraging to hear that many guys were getting after it all summer long."