When dealing with Co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright, you know you are dealing with a straight-shooter. When asked about his secondary, Wright tells it like it is and never shies away from pointing out when things aren't going well. So with a week remaining in spring drills, Wright talked with OUInsider.com about the state of the secondary.
JH: How did things go for your secondary in the second scrimmage?
BJW: "Oh, you know James like most scrimmages. We had a lot of good and a lot of bad. I was really pleased, for the most part, with the first unit (Marcus Walker and Reggie Smith at corner and D.J. Wolfe and Nic Harris at safety). We had a lot of interceptions and a lot of PBUs (pass breakups), and we were pretty active and guys were flying around. For the most part, I liked what I saw. Then again, I didn't like the way that we started. The opening series we were kind of sloppy, weren't very intense and the offense drove the ball all the way down the length of the field. Then, of course, we made a big play as D.J. Wolfe made an interception down around the goal line to come up with a big play that got the drive stopped. So it took them a while to come to play.
"They have to come ready to go from the first snap. But after that, I thought that unit played pretty well the rest of the scrimmage. We had several three-and-outs, but then as the scrimmage went then they got a little bit tired and lacksadaisical. And then the offense came out and drove the length of the field in three plays.
"It just shows you we lost our focus there. I don't remember how many series — five or six or maybe seven — we really shut them down pretty good. Then, all of a sudden we came back out with no focus and they went the distance in three plays. On the one they went the distance on, we had three guys who were in position to make the tackle and all three missed so that was pretty disappointing. Again, more than anything it is just a lack of consistency.
"With the second unit, we are lining a lot of those young guys in there and they are still not real confident, nor real sure about what they are doing. They are making a lot of mental mistakes that can be eliminated and can be corrected in time. For some of them, time is running out. We only have five more practices left and they needed to start coming around a little quicker.
"Now, one of those guys that is coming around in that younger group is Dominique Franks. I thought he really had a good scrimmage even though he still, from a fundamental standpoint, lacks a lot of good technique. However, he is a ballplayer. He has great awareness, sees the entire field and he makes a lot of plays. He had two really nice interceptions during the course of the day. So I am real pleased with him."
JH: Dominique played corner in the scrimmage for the most part, but are you still working him at both corner and safety?
BJW: "We are working him in our nickel package at free safety, which just gets him more and more work at safety. If he does end up being the fourth or fifth best guy, then it will be easy for him to get slotted in there at safety. He is getting a lot of work there and that is good. I worked him all day today (Monday) at free safety with the nickel package so he got a lot of good reps in there today."
JH: You have played a number of safety prospects thus far in camp. How is that position coming along?
BJW: "I really like the move of D.J. Wolfe. He is showing some good awareness in there at safety. He is showing that he can see the field, be physical and come down the field and make tackles. I really like what I have seen out of him. Nic Harris continues to be a guy who I think we can win with, then like I said Dominique Franks is the next safety right now through 10 practices. I like those three safeties. The others still have a ways to go from a mental standpoint, and really from a physical standpoint.
"As much as we stress and place importance on being tough and physical, if a guy is not going to be tough, physical and intense then there is no place for him on the defensive side of the ball. Some of those guys, in all honestly, are lacking in some toughness right now. The guys who are showing some toughness, like a Dominique Franks, even though he is young, he is going to earn his way onto that field. Some of those other guys are going to get left behind."
JH: Are your two main corners — Marcus Walker and Reggie Smith — holding up and doing well?
BJW: "I like Marcus and I still really like Reggie. I think those guys are good, even though again they are not where they need to be. We are still pushing hard on fundamentals, on technique work and being good, sound and solid in fundamental and techniques. Again, I like what I have seen out of Dominique Franks at corner and Jonathan Nelson showed a little improvement the other day during the scrimmage. He showed up more than he has in the past. Getting Lendy Holmes back healthy gives up four really good corners that are capable of playing championship football, and if we can get three safeties ready to go then I think we are in great shape."
JH: It sounds like you like Dominique as your swing guy that can play either position?
BJW: "I really do. He is showing some really good things at both positions. Right now, he is our best safety when we go to nickel. I made the statement to him and to some other folks when we first started spring ball and he just started showing up. He kept showing up making plays. I made the comment that he is going to earn his way on the field. He is going to play his way on the field and he has been doing that the entire spring. There is no question that he has elevated himself quite a bit."
JH: Franks also showed some speed the other day chasing down DeMarco Murray in the scrimmage, didn't he?
BJW: "He sure did. He caught him all the way across this football field. He was on that far side playing the corner on that side of the field and DeMarco cut it back and he caught him down here on this sideline. He had to cover a lot of ground to get there, but he was able to cut him off. That really surprised me because DeMarco is fast."
JH: Have you look at Dominique as a punt returner, because in high school he was a great punt returner?
BJW: "We have been working him back there. He is very good back there. He catches the ball well and I remember him in high school. It seemed like he returned one every Friday Night. You turn on the Friday Night highlights and there went Dominque Franks taking another punt back for a touchdown."
JH: D.J. says he knows quite a bit about safety because he pays attention to everything about the secondary in the film room when you are talking about the secondary. Do you think that is the case?
BJW: "Exactly. When we critique and go over all of our practice tapes and game tapes and all that, we have the whole group in there. The corners are hearing safety jobs and the safeties are hearing what the corner assignments. What you hope for, especially at safety, is if I am a free safety I am then listening about things the coach says about a free safety, because it is probably going to happen to me one day. So, if I can learn it before it happens to me then I can dodge that bullet. D.J. is kind of like that. He does listen and he pays attention. He knows what is being said and he has a pretty good awareness of everything that we do on the defensive side of the ball."
JH: Wolfe was physical in the scrimmage. Did you think of him as a physical player before that scrimmage?
BJW: "I wasn't real sure because I never thought he was overly physical at corner. Again, a lot of what the corners do is take some of that out of it, because a lot of times they are in the cover aspect of it, as you know. I didn't know how he would respond down in the box necessarily, but I said at corner he had shown some signs of being physical when he was a run support guy. However, when you get right down there in the middle of it sometimes that is a little different, but I thought he mixed it up pretty good the other day.
"There was only one time that I thought he wasn't as good as I thought he could be, and again it involved DeMarco Murray. DeMarco kind of bounded outside our corner and D.J. was coming for him and he didn't have a very good angle. All of a sudden, he realized that this guy is a little faster than I thought and had to change his angle, but he still got him. So, I think he will be physical and I think the more snaps he gets down there hopefully he will develop into a pretty good, physical safety."
JH: How is Nic Harris playing?
BJW: "Nic is doing well. Like I said, he is playing winning football for us. He is working at free safety and the nickel and doing a good job at both. He is getting better and better all the time at the nickel."