If a guy makes a technical or mental mistake, do you find that you have to keep an open mind and not pass judgment too early on a guy?"There's a very big difference between the two. Technical errors right now I can understand because a lot of things I am teaching, they haven't been exposed to before. In many ways, assignment-wise, this is the same offense that they have been in and we spend time before practice trying to put them in as many situations as possible. The mental errors to me are more disturbing, but I will say this, we don't have very many mental errors as far as assignments in practice. Now, if it's a certain individual that has certain mental errors, well obviously that's how we start to sort this whole thing out. I mean he starts to separate himself in a negative way from the rest of the competition because a big part of that position is the reliability factor and that is a serious ding to it when you have a mental error."
How has it gone for you so far teaching college kids with your pro background?"I've thought about that and I've thought about that as I have experienced with the young men here. There really is very little difference. The difference is this, I have a standard or a template of what I expect each thing to be, whether it be an individual block or a scheme or protection. There is a template in my mind of what it should look like. Now, with the pros, you have guys who have been exposed to more things, who are more experienced, who understand that template in that structure and respond to it quicker. They have had multiple coaches and multiple years of play so they respond to it quicker. At this level, you have a least experienced player who has had less coaching and so they don't quite adapt to that as quickly and so that is the adjustment to realize that most of the things that we are trying to fight here, just the individual's lack of exposure to certain things. And to me, there will be certain times I will explain things to them and I'll get a look like they had never heard that before. On one hand that is scary that they had never heard that before, but on the other hand it makes me realize if they can acclimate to it, that the chance for them to make a big leap as far as production is there. On the other hand, it is exciting as well."
Could you give us one of those examples?"They are just technical things. They are just responses to things that happen on the field. In some ways, we are very fortunate that we play a very aggressive movement-based defense every day in practice so we are not just blocking guys who are tied to a tree all day. I mean, they are moving on every snap and it's a very hard thing to adjust to. But to me it looks like we are becoming more comfortable as we go along, and I would expect that comfort level to gradually increase so that we have less thinking and play faster as the spring goes along."
Is it obvious how much they know or don't know at this point?"I've tried not to have any preconceived notions with where they're at when I came in. Some of it is just semantics. They may have heard it a different way and I've got to adapt to their language. Other things there are just different ways that I'm comfortable doing things that they haven't been exposed to."
Left tackle is a competitive position. What do you want out of a left tackle?"My chips, to be up front with you, are on Paul Duncan right now. I think Paul is a guy who, for a lack of a better term, is a guy who has some regrets with how his first four years have gone here and those are things that can't be changed. But I think he has experienced enough to realize he has one more round to go in this thing and he would like to overcome a lot of that in this last time around. The exposure I have had to him has been nothing but positive and I am counting on him for leadership and experience. He is a big physical guy and I think he sees that he can turn this last year into something that the first four years haven't been. He's going to have every opportunity to do that."
Sam Young said he is enjoying the emphasis on techniques and you are bringing up a lot of things that he had never seen before. Could you touch on what some of those are?"To me, that is one of the biggest differences between college football and pro football. College football, the priority is development. Pro football, the priority is details. So it is details versus development and I guess what I have tried to do here is to mesh the two of them. We have to challenge them to develop, but in the same instance, I can show them the details that can accelerate that development. That's what excites me. That's the biggest thing I see right now is that I can expose them to more details. I mean, their game up front literally is a matter of inches. Their hand misplaced on a block by six inches is the difference between winning and losing. Their eyes on a target two inches off-target is the difference between winning and losing and that is what I am trying to emphasize to them that it is such a detail-oriented game without compromising the aggression obviously. But to be aware of those details, those are things I think can really help us as individuals and as a group."
Do you think Trevor Robinson will be ready this spring or is he just taking mental reps?"That's a question for the trainer. All I know is each day when I come out what each individual player status is. The guys who aren't full-go practice, I have told them the onus is on them to take a mental rep in everything that we do. For a guy who misses practice, when he comes back, I have zero tolerance as far as assignment mistakes because that's my classroom and they're in class and they have to be attentive. It is just like any other class that they attend on campus. I mean, they don't get up and walk through things in chemistry and history. They sit there and pay attention. So it is an extension of that."
Is it the same thing for Taylor Dever?"Same thing. I'll say this, those two guys are very attentive and it seems to me that they are soaking everything in there and are as anxious as I am to get them back on the field. I think that is obviously going to up the competitive nature of the group. I know just briefly looking at them from last year, they are two very good football players who I anticipate being in a very competitive situation when they get back, whenever that is."