What did you take out of yesterday's practice?"Well, I'm in training camp mentality, Tim, so I'm always in an ornery mood in training camp when it comes to things. First day in full pads, first day live, first day take ‘em to the ground. You know, it was an okay start. I wouldn't rate it as an A; I wouldn't rate it as an F, but it was an okay start. What it did do was set a bar that gives you something to judge from. Like today's practice was significantly up-tempo than yesterday's practice. Yesterday gave me an opportunity to come in after evaluating. What we did was talk about tempo. As I said, I think today's tempo was better than yesterday's."
Armando Allen had a pretty good day yesterday. In talking with him he said last year was tough coming in as a freshman and learning the plays and everything. Have you seen a difference in him this year?"I use that coaching phrase sometimes, and some people think it is just a coaching phrase, but it is really reality. The game has slowed down for Armando Allen. Besides him being bigger and stronger, which he is, the game slows down because when you first get here as a freshman, you're more worried about learning the plays than the execution of the plays. So now that you know what you are doing, it makes it a heckuva lot easier when you're out there to perform at a high level. So it was never about athleticism, he is bigger and he is stronger, but in addition to that, he can see things a lot easier now than at any time last year."
You talk about tempo, is that dictated more by coaches or players?"Today it was dictated by both. I had two meetings this morning; one was with the coaches and the other with the players. I said basically, following up from Tim's question, okay, that's the bar from yesterday. So I expected it to be significantly better this morning than it was yesterday. Because tonight we will be going in uppers so we will be in shoulder pads and knee braces. Therefore, you won't be taking them to the ground tempo. So this morning was the best judge to see, especially now that it is day six and they are a little sore. The practices are long as you found out yesterday. I mean there's a lot going on for long times. I think today was a good judgment day to find out where we are. This morning before I even watched the tape, I could tell you I was very pleased that the tempo was significantly better than it was yesterday."
Yesterday at the end of practice, you worked a lot on celebrating and emotions. Why is that important?"Well, I was dissatisfied when we were on the goal line. Not so much the people playing in the game, but people on the team really not feeling it. And I stressed that about three or four different ways. Some I can create myself. But as I said to them in that one little meeting that you saw me have with the guys on the field and then at the end of practice with the entire team, that once the players start controlling the emotion, not the coaches, okay, then you're well on your way. So today's practice was one of those ones where I said very little as far as that subject went and I wanted to see how they reacted. And that's one reason why I was pleased this morning because it was one of our more boisterous practices today."
Reminding them, is that an annual thing that you have to do?"I think, when you have a veteran team, they have learned it over the years. Okay? When you have a team that is growing, which I still think this team is more of a growing team because the majority of the numbers are still junior, sophomore, and freshman, I think you have to count on the seniors, now some of the juniors, and now some of the sophomores to all get on the same page. Every year you have to reiterate this, but the more older guys you have to take charge, the less you have to say."
We saw some of the special teams yesterday. How would you rate the returners?"We have a few returners back there who have some giddyup, which is always a good start. But as you saw several times as you study special teams, it doesn't make any difference how much giddyup you have, if when you are catching the ball, you have a party in your face. So far, so good, as far as the progress we are making there. Again, it is still way early and because yesterday was kickoff related, I thought we had made some progress from the first time we did kickoffs to the second time we did kickoffs. Just as far as getting the ball down there by the five-yard line or close to the end zone. You know, anytime the ball is being kicked between the 20 and the 10, and you are not doing it by design, you are putting the kickoff team in a bind and yesterday I thought both of the guys kicked the ball halfway decent."
Would you say that Ian Williams has stepped it up from last year?"Ian is acting like a starter, if that is what you are saying, and I don't mean egotistically. His expectations of his play have gone up because now he doesn't have that security blanket anymore, so I would say, that ones pretty safe to say."
You talked about the light coming on for Armando and freshmen. Does that happen for kickers like Brandon Walker too?"Well, the more I can put him in pressure situations, the more we will be able to see that because his leg strength has never been the issue. It's the confidence, like you said. Okay, I've already been there, done that. So the more pressure situations a kicker can be in, and I wanted to have him kick in front of you guys yesterday because if he missed it, the whole free world would know it, just like if he had made it. That's important because even though it's a minor form of pressure, the fact that it wasn't a perfect snap and he drilled it through the uprights; that's a good thing. Plus, he endeared himself with his teammates at the same time."
Are you going to have to teach him how to get away from piles so he doesn't get crushed?"I don't know, it doesn't look like Corwin got away from the pile (laughing), and Corwin's a veteran. And I think I got a glass of water in the face myself from somebody, to tell you the truth. I haven't been able to find that on tape though (laughing)."
You're out there coaching and teaching techniques and fundamentals. Do you also have to teach a winning attitude?"I think right now the winning attitude takes place when you are actually winning. Right now, you do all the things that get you to win. We have gone through five days of installation. Now I am trying to pick up the tempo. A lot of guys are just trying to feel their way through the installation. And now when the heavy installation starts to slow down some, it starts giving you the opportunity to start picking up the pace as far as getting them to play with more enthusiasm - and unselfish and all those other things."
Has the confidence from spring practice carried over to fall camp?"Well, you know that dive-right-in analogy that I gave the first day, it's pretty obvious that there's a whole bunch of people in that group. But we don't have enough of them. We want more and I think those people are already confident. Let's just cite the three captains, for example, Maurice Crum, he's very confident that things are going to go well. David Bruton is very confident; David Grimes is very confident. But in addition, they are backing that up on the field every day at practice too. Those three guys have not had a bad practice yet. Usually the guys that practice well every day, you know you can count on them. Now it's the guys who have two on-days and one off-day, those are the ones the jury is still out on that you are trying to find out if they are going to be with you or are they just going to wait to see how it goes."
Mike Turkovich was number one playing at left tackle yesterday. Has he asserted himself there?"Well, he has played with a lot of confidence and he has played very physical. As you all know, physicality is one of the things that I have really been trying to stress. He played tackle earlier in his career, then moved into guard, and now he's back out at tackle. And I think he's feeling pretty confident right now that he can help us win."
What have you seen from the freshmen now that they've been in full pads twice?"There's a whole bunch of them that are in different levels. It all depends upon who they are and what position they play. But I think there are a number of them that are playing themselves into the mix. A number of them, and I don't think you can cite one, but once again, those guys are the guys that are going to have to keep going like this (pointing upward on an incline). So you can feel comfortable early in the year and all of a sudden, it's San Diego State and are you going to go ahead and start one of those guys or, let's say, not start them but are you going to play them a significant time in the game. And/or are you going to go ahead and put them on your starting special teams and go ahead and put them out there. So I've been very pleased with the freshmen as a group. Very pleased; but now how much they play will yet to be determined."
Robert Blanton seems to have confidence in his ability. Is that a fair statement?"That has never changed with Robert. Okay, he played like that in high school. He has always been a talker. He's like one of those chirpers; one of those guys the wide receivers can't stand because he chirps the whole time. As the head coach now, and not the guy who has to call the offensive plays, I love guys like that (laughing). Okay? I used to hate guys like that when I was on the other side of the ball because they are guys that really annoy you. That's always been his game. That was his game in high school and he is as mild-mannered as they come off the field. But he's a chirper and has a lot of confidence in his ability."
It looked like you and Blanton were having words on one of the kickoff returns. Did that happen?"He's a freshman, you have humble him. That's the first of many verbal beat-downs that he's going to take (laughing)."
Did he look left on the kickoff return yesterday?"He didn't, by the way, as you knew he didn't (laughing). He says I can't see his eyes on that – looking out the corner of his eyes – which is a lie (laughing)."
It looks like the third team is more talented this year. Is that right?"That's because they are. Not that they are all great playing right now and we even put a fourth group out and there are some guys on the fourth group I see a fourth defensive line come out. There are some players that can play. I'm not saying they're all going to the Hall of Fame now, I'm just saying there's a lot more depth at almost every position, but you have to start with the first guys playing well. We like the depth and there's a lot of depth which leads to a lot competition."
This is your first camp with Jon Tenuta, what have you seen from him?"First of all, I like to be around him. I think he is very humorous. I understand his sarcasm. I understand his coaching techniques. So I enjoy being around him. I have to say I have gotten a few chuckles out there in practice off of some of the things that he has said. But the bottom line is, I am very pleased how the defensive staff has meshed so well. As you know, you can be scrutinized when chemistry is not right, and I think the chemistry between Corwin and Jon has been excellent and the chemistry between Jappy and Jon has been excellent because, remember, as the linebackers' coach, you are the guy who is in between the secondary and the front guys. I think that has worked out very well."
Is there anything in particular which made you smile that you can share with us?"No (laughing)."
Could you talk about Harrison Smith playing different positions?"We've played him all over. We bounced him down in that three-safety package. We've played him inside in nickel. We've played him outside in nickel. And we've played him at safety. So I think we can count on seeing Harrison on the field a whole bunch."
I know it's early but do you see leadership developing?"I'm just looking for more guys to be in that group that I talked about with Bruton and Grimes and Crum. I just want guys who are going to show up every day and you know what you are going to get every day. It's easy when you can talk about guys from the past. Let's talk about Brady Quinn. Brady Quinn would show up every day; every day he would show up. There was never a day that Brady Quinn didn't show up. You want more guys that are going to show up every day. Every day might not be a good day, but they are going to show up to work every day. I think Crum, Grimes, and Bruton have already showed that they are in that category, and we just want to get more guys like that because those are the guys you want to put on the field. Those are that analogy that I talked about the first day. That's what you are looking for."
For the last several seasons, walk-ons have been long-snappers. Is that by design and will it continue this year?"Kevin Brooks is still in the mix. J.J. Jansen was a walk-on that I scholarshipped. He might have been a walk-on, but based on his performance, he ended up being on scholarship I think for the last two years he was here. So whoever is the best guy, just like Mike Anello has been a starting gunner on the punt team; he's a walk-on too. You see we have all these guys on scholarship but no one can beat Mike Anello out. If you want to know something, no one can beat him out. Okay, so whoever the best guy is. So Kevin Brooks can be that guy; that stat will stay and if not, it will be somebody else."
It seems like in the past these special teams' positions help a guy on the depth chart. Is that right?"I told all of these guys when we were recruiting them, a lot of these linemen, even linebacker types, because Darius Fleming has some snapability himself. You'll see him on the depth chart too. So whether it was Braxton (Cave) or Lane (Clelland) and Mike Golic, they can all long-snap. When we got them we told them to start working on it right now because there was a good chance J.J. won't be here and we're going to need somebody to get on the field and one of the easiest ways to get on the field as a freshman is to play special teams. And there, obviously, is a void at that position right now.