Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner started with the basics concerning the first five days of spring training on his side of the ball.
"I'm really pleased with how hard our guys are working," Werner, who took over the Rebel offense in January, stated. "They are competing and trying to do the right things. We, as coaches, can coach a lot of things - fundamentals, plays, etc. - but you can't really coach competitive drive. They have to have some of that within themselves, and they do. Also, I think it's a tribute to Coach (Ed) Orgeron that he has instilled the work ethic necessary to win in these players in his first year as the head coach."
Orgeron mentioned he liked the direction of the running game under the early leadership of Werner. Dan went back to the effort angle.
"We have a long way to go in the running game, but I do like the fact our guys are competing and coming off the football with some purpose, and that's the first step," he allowed. "Now, we have to keep stressing the fundamentals in terms of understanding their footwork and techniques and then we have to get them to go after the right defenders and learn."
Werner was asked about the 1-2 punch of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Mico McSwain at tailback.
"They've been good. They have made a lot of nice runs, esepcially BenJarvus running inside," he evaluated. "We run a 9-on-7 drill that is usually where the defense has a little edge and we've competed very well. We've had solid runs and we've had a few big runs. That's a big plus for us in the early going."
With the quarterback situation being somewhat sporadic and unsettled, Werner was asked if it is difficult to get much done in the passing game. He took the positive road with his response.
"I didn't go into this deal with a negative thought process. One or two of these guys may have to play for us. We're going to figure out who is the best one and let him play. We have to get one or two of them ready to lead our football team because you never know what is going to happen," he explained.
Werner chuckled when reminded that all the wide receivers from last year were now graduated and he had an extreme case of inexperience to work with at wide receiver.
"Yes, I know. When I came on my interview, Coach O told me that just about every guy who had caught a pass last year was now gone, I had to smile and shake my head," Dan admitted. "I told him I didn't know about coming into that type of situation, but I was just joking with him. It's a challenge, but I have seen improvement from them already. They made a couple of nice catches today and are progressing. That's all you can ask. Again, they are competing hard to improve themselves and I'm pleased with that. As long as kids will battle, we'll be OK.
"The good thing about being young is that everyone is on equal ground and we are all learning the system together. That opportunity promotes better competition and kids wanting to make their marks with the coaches. I told the offensive staff right off the bat that I didn't care what year a kid was in, I just wanted them to determine who was the best player at each position to help us win right now. The age and experience doesn't matter because the system will be new to everyone. The ones who make plays will play. The ones who aren't won't play. It's a simple equation that every kid out there understands and can relate to."
The installation of the offense is, according to Werner, somewhere in the 20-30 percetile.
"We're around 30%. Not even half our run game is in yet. We're trying to get the fundamentals of the system down first - all the different formations we want to use. We have our base passing game in, but there is a lot more to add there as well," Dan stated.
How much of the system can he install this spring?
"I'd like to get 80% in by the start of the last week of spring. The last week of spring, we will polish all of what we have installed up and then we can go from there," he noted. "This summer, we'll get the freshmen and JUCO guys in and they can get most of that down on their own in volunteer workouts. Then we can install the rest in August and fine-tune what we feel we can do well before the first game. It will still be a work in progress when the season starts, but I think our plan is sound."
Werner is expecting some players to start separating themselves from the pack after the spring break.
"We are divding reps up evenly right now. We're trying to see who can do what and evaluate from there. For instance, in the scrimmage today, I wasn't necessarily trying to call plays to score or gain yards. I was calling plays to see how certain players react in certain situations," he explained. "The scrimmage today was more of an evaluation process rather than trying to score points."
Werner said the goal for spring is to find the 11 best offensive players and mesh them into a unit, starting with the five guys up front on the offensive line.
"Our mentality is to get the best players on the field. That starts up front. We will worry about what position they are playing later. If our best 11 includes four wide receivers and a tailback at the skill slots, that's what we will do. I don't think that will be the case because we like some of our tight ends and our fullbacks, but that is just an example of our thinking, especially on the O-line," he assessed. "Why have a guy sitting on the bench who is a backup guard but he might be the second-best guard on the team? Heck, move him to the other guard slot and roll. We've moved guys all over the place so far and will continue that until we find out who the best five are up front and best 11 are all over the offense."
Werner was asked specifically about Michael Oher, who moved from OG to left tackle, and his progress at the new position.
"That guy can play anywhere. He's a physical specimen with great talent. Now, he just has to learn the system and the intricacies of the new position. He'll get it done. I'm happy with him. He'll be a heckuva player for us," Dan said. "There's a lot of pressure on him because he's got to block guys coming off the edge in space, faster guys than he has been facing, and he has very little help in that task. But he'll do it. It's a different pass set philosophy for him, but he'll pick it up. He's too good of an athlete not to."
During spring break, the coaches will continue to evaluate and grade the film from the first five days of spring. They will meet as a staff about different packages he wants to install and run and make personnel decisions.
"There are some different things I want to look at in our Red Zone package and we will constantly evaluate our players. When they come back from spring break, we will have a good plan waiting on them so we can continue progressing," he closed.
OC Dan Werner
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