With Golden Tate playing baseball, what kind of shape is he in?"He is not missing anything in his competition. He is a little off in his route-running but he‘s still a dynamic speed guy right there. To be honest with you, I think the thing he is missing most is stamina. Playing baseball and football is two different sports and I think the stamina involved in going multiple plays I think more than anything else. There were a couple times today where after five or six plays where we might have had the ones going for 10, it might have been after five or six plays, he was looking for a relief pitcher. He‘s catching the ball great. He‘s getting open, but I think the one thing he would admit is that he is lacking a little stamina right now."
You've had several guys step up as leaders this spring. How are you going to handle the leadership committee and selecting captains?"We've been talking about that as a coaching staff. We have been so pleased with how that has gone. We're thinking about taking that right into training camp because rather than taking away some of the guys that have stepped up, we kind of figured we would put them in a position where we can carry them through the summertime. Normally, I would do it by the end of spring but I think we might carry it right into training camp before we vote for captains and the leadership committee because there are a lot of contenders."
In Saturday's scrimmage, how did the offense perform?"I think the day was pretty even. It started off a little bit in favor of the defense because we had a couple of holding penalties early and a couple of pressure/sacks early on. We started to run the ball and we ran the ball with very good efficiency. We got down close a couple times. One time Robert (Hughes) ran it in one of the times when we were down close. I think it went back and forth then the rest of the scrimmage. It ended up with a significant play by Jimmy (Clausen) to Duval (Kamara) for a touchdown on the last play. I thought the number of mental errors - and as coaches you don't want any mental errors - but the number of mental errors went down and we didn't really have any casualties because of cut-blocking. We got guys banged up but none of them were due to the cut-blocks. I was a lot more pleased than I was the previous Saturday, mainly because I thought it was very competitive."
Is Robert Hughes' weight a concern and do you want him to lose weight?"Well, I mean he has two choices, either lose weight or play big. He wants to be Armando (Allen) as far as how he runs the ball. If he wants to be Jerome Bettis, he doesn't have to lose any weight. So it all depends upon the style he likes to run. He will run them over but he likes to make them miss, and if you are going to do that, dropping a few pounds is always a good thing when you are a big guy."
Which way do you want him?"I want either/or. If he is going to be big, I expect that style to play big. I'm comfortable with either one, but if you want to play the style of making them miss, then you are better off being a little bit lighter."
How does Jonas Gray look so far?"He looks like a guy who hasn't had a lot of experience, but he looks as talented a runner as the other guys. He had a bunch of yards rushing the other day but then he had a couple of big miscues as well. So like I said to him after the game, ‘In a scrimmage I can put you back in after miscues, but if it was a game and there's 80,000 people there, you'd be hanging out on the bench right over there with me.' So I think he is going through some growing pains but the kid, when he has the ball in his hands, is a very dangerous runner."
Behind the starters, who are some of the guys that you don't hear about but are stepping up?"More indiscriminate guys; is that what you are talking about?"
Yes."How about like Andrew Nuss. There's the name of a guy that we have probably never talked about. If we were playing a game today with guys being banged up and not being in, he would probably be our sixth player. So he is that close to playing left and right guard. So there's a guy coming into this camp I would not have given you that as a name. But coming out of it, I would definitely say that our coaches would have confidence that we could play him in a game and there wouldn't be a huge drop off in performance."
With Corwin Brown taking on the duties as assistant head coach, how has that changed the operation?"Well it has helped me tremendously first of all because we sit down, I don't know how many times a week but today was one of them, we sat down and talked about bigger issues than just the x's and o's. Today's conversation was about captains and leadership committee. So instead of having to talk to everyone about it, I say, ‘How do you see this? How do you see that the team sees this? How does the coaching staff see it?' It has been a very good liaison for me. I don't know how he sees it but, I'll tell you what, it's working out fine for me."
Do you bounce ideas off one another or do you say this is what I think you should do?"There's been once or twice when I have said something in a meeting and he goes, ‘The next time you go in a meeting, you'll want to make sure you clarify what you are saying.' Whereas I would just have figured everybody understood exactly what I was saying. He's looking at it and saying, ‘You might want to come back the next time and explain to them exactly what you mean.' He knows what I mean but they may not know what I mean. That's happened more than once."
A guy like Bobby Burger getting his first exposure as a tight end, what does he need to know coming in?"His first exposure really was last year, although I know he had been a defensive player, the fact that he went through the whole year last year as more of a tight end than anything else. As we have gone into this year, the only thing he has had to do is actually apply our terminology to what he had been doing all of last year. So I think he got a good jump start last year and, to be honest with you, he got a good jump start going against the good guys all the time. So when you do that, the tempo of what you do, like if you don't hit those guys at full speed, you're just going to get run over. So I think last year has put him in a position to be competitive this year. And he is a competitive person by nature on top of it."
Can you talk about the guys that were missing today like Dan Wenger?"He's has had a banged up hip. (James) Aldridge has had a banged up shoulder. Deion Walker, today we held him, his Achilles and calf have been sore. We have plenty of guys that have had things that we have had to deal with. They have missed some time but not too many of them have missed significant time."
Robert Blanton played with confidence last year. (Coach Weis laughingly said, "That's an understatement.") What have you seen from him this year and how has that confidence helped him?"I think probably the best thing that happened to Robert, besides the fact that he was competitive all year, was probably when he went against those guys out there in the Coliseum and he was one of the most competitive players on the field that day. I think for a young guy that shows he can compete against the best guys right there, it gives you a world of confidence as you go into your next season. I have a lot of confidence in RJ."
What will be the focus of the last four practices?"Each day has been a little different. Today, because we had all the cavalry back at wide receiver, about three-quarters of the practice was going multiple wide receivers because you haven't really been able to do it. That allowed the defense to work on their multiple defensive back packages besides just nickel and they got into their exotic stuff as well. Because when you're not putting multiple wide receivers out there, the residual effect is they don't get a chance to work on all the packages they want to on defense. So that's what today was all about. I already have Wednesday and the following Wednesday scripted for what we are going to do on those days. You have to realize we only have two legitimate practices left. This Wednesday and the following Wednesday. So you have to get into the red zone and you have to get into live goal line. You have to get third and one and third down. You have to do run and play action on first down and any of the stuff that you're not going to show because there's plenty of stuff you work on you'll never show until you are playing games. You have to get that stuff done too and I think we may work on on-side kick recovery team too while we are at it. We might even do that (laughing). We might put the kick-off return team in and let them kick a couple of on-side kicks against us."
Are there any areas where you might say we're a lot better than we expected to be?"I expected us to be better at running the ball, and I think we will be better at running the ball. I've been very pleased with the quarterbacks, but I'll table my opinion of the passing game because of the lack of receivers I have had. As long as the quarterback is going to the right guy, that's one thing, but if you don't have somebody who can get open, that's something else. I have been pleased with the packages that we have been doing on offense. Defensively, the thing that has been glaringly obvious is how fast they are playing, and they are playing very fast. Easily the fastest we have been playing since I've been here."
On the flip side, is there something you would say we have a long way to go yet?"Well, I think with young defensive linemen, you have to make sure when you are bringing heat, as much as we bring heat, you don't let them run the ball right by you. I think discipline in the run lanes is one thing that you just can't fall asleep on. You just can't run to a spot and all of a sudden there goes the running back going by you right there. We have a pretty veteran secondary right there so I think with the speed you are playing with up front, you have to make sure you don't let the speed be used against you with how we are doing it and play solid in the run game."