Senior, and stalwart, Wide Receiver Vincent Sanders missed all of spring training due to a hamstring issue. How is he now?
Sanders: "I'm totally healthy. I went through the whole summer workout sessions, both of them. I have no lingering issues with the hamstring. I'm ready to go and I'm excited about the year. I'm the senior of the receiver group now, so I want our unit to perform and have a big year. I think we will."
There are running backs everywhere - six to be exact - who might get playing time. How will that play out?
RB Coach Derrick Nix: "My initial plan is simple - let them complete. The situation is fluid. Every guy has to prove to me he deserves to be ahead the the next guy every day. How you practice determines if you get to play. How you perform in games will determine how much you get to play. It's a great situation because everyone stays motivated. I expect a dogfight from my guys in August and may the best man win. I don't have a favorite. My favorite will be who wins the job or jobs and it will be ongoing throughout the season."
Mike Hilton has played corner, Husky and safety, and has never complained. He played CB in spring, but backup Husky Chief Brown is out for the year with a torn Achilles. Will Hilton move yet again?
Hilton: "All I care about is being on the field. The coaches can put me anywhere they think it will help the team and I will do it. I feel I have a pretty high football IQ and pretty good instincts for the game, so I'm not worried about learning something new or being moved. I'm a team-first player. It looks like I will be at Husky now with Tony (Conner). That's fine with me. We will make a good one-two punch there."
Coach Hugh Freeze has mentioned a lack of depth at wide receiver and the need for more development there. What's the plan?
WR Coach Grant Heard: "We don't have ideal depth out wide, but we have a couple of youngsters (Markell Pack, Dayall Harris) we believe will help as the season progresses, and we're hopeful Collins Moore (out 4-6 weeks with injury) will be back in full stride soon after the season starts. Also, we have some flexibility with Evan Engram and Sammie Epps, another promising youngster, who can play tight end or split out wide. While we don't have the depth we wish we did, I feel we can be an effective unit and get the job done."
Deterrian "D.T." Shackelford will be the starting Mike LB, it's safe to say, but what of a backup?
MLB Christian Russell: "D.T. has been great to me all spring and this summer. During spring ball, my head was spinning, but he kept telling me that it would come, just keep plugging. This summer, we've spent a lot of time in the film room together and things started clicking for me and Temario (Strong). During seven-on-seven this summer, I was moving more naturally and freely. I knew what to do. I knew the checks, the blitzes, the play calls. All the pieces are fitting now. I expect all of us to be much better in August than we were in spring. Physically, I lost five pounds. I'm now 240, which is a great weight for me and the weight I feel the fastest. I'm going into August practice with a lot of confidence that I can now help this team."
The left side of the line is pretty much set with LT Laremy Tunsil and LG Aaron Morris, but what of center and the right side?"
OL Coach Matt Luke: "We had a productive spring there and have options. Ben Still and Robert Conyers, and some Justin Bell, will work at center. It's their turn. They've paid their dues and it's time for them to take over. At right guard, we have some flexibility with Daronte Bouldin, who was number one in spring, Justin Bell and converted DT Carlton Martin. At right tackle, I've gotten good offseason reports on JUCO transfer Fahn Cooper. Davion Johnson got better in spring and Conyers can also play there. I'm also excited to get freshman Rod Taylor in pads and see where he fits in. The bottom line is that we will, as always, find our best five OL and go from there. We'll get it pieced together in August and hopefully be a quality unit."
Aaron Morris has not practiced since he was injured in last year's Vanderbilt game, when he tore his ACL. Is he full go now?
Morris: "I'm ready to go. I'm rehabbed and ready to turn it loose. I'm anxious for the first hit, to get the knee out of my mind, but I know it's sound and I know I have put in the work. My goal was to get down to 330, but I didn't quite make that. I'm at 340, but I'm sure the August heat will take that extra weight off me. I was almost 370 last August so I'm way ahead of the game and in a lot better shape. Like I said, I'm going to turn it loose."
With Jeremy Liggins being moved from QB to TE, will he still have some QB duties?
Freeze: "I can't say for sure right now, but our intention is to have a package for Jeremy at quarterback. We're anxious to see what he can do at tight end, though, and I can tell you for sure he has had a great offseason. He's down to 280 pounds right now and the type of quality athlete he is, I can't imagine him not helping us at both positions in some significant capacity."
Is QB Bo Wallace's arm really "as good as it's ever been?"
Wallace: "I haven't felt this good since junior college. I've been working throwing motion drills and rehab and I've put on 15 good pounds. I'm bigger and stronger than I've ever been. I'm very confident going into the season because during seven-on-seven this summer I've had the WRs and DBs coming up to me regularly saying I made throws I couldn't make last year. That feels good."
How much better can Rebel Nation expect DT Robert Nkemdiche, LT Laremy Tunsil, WR Laquon Treadwell and Husky Tony Conner - the Big Four from last year's frosh class - to be with a year and a spring under their belts?
Nkemdiche: "A year makes a huge difference. We were all a little wide-eyed for a lot of last year, but that experience makes you grow up in a hurry. We now know what to expect and what it takes. All of us worked hard in the offseason and we all know what we are supposed to do now without having to think about it too much. I believe we will be a lot better this time around and will only keep getting better and better. We push each other hard and it will pay off."
Freeze said he was most impressed during spring with the improvement of the Reb secondary. What's the difference?
All-American FS Cody Prewitt: "There are a lot of reasons. Start with experience, then there is better depth and then there is continuity. Most of us have been in the fire for two years and know what is required to get the job done. The coaches have done a great job of adding quality talent like Anthony Alford and D.J. (Derrick Jones) and Tee (Shepard). They will be great additions from last year. We know each other like the back of our hands. I know every move Trae (Elston) and Senquez (Golson) amd Mike (Hilton) and all of them are going to make and vice-versa. We're all on the same page."
The kicking game is "brand new." What are the expectations?
Freeze: "That is probably the area I am most anxious about when August practice starts. We liked what they did in spring, but we need to see more and we are excited about the freshman (Gary Wunderlich) and how he fits in. I think we will be fine, but I'm anxious to see those guys compete and perform in live conditions."
Pertinent Questions. . .
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