Rebel Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner's weekly press gathering started out with an unusual - this year - question.
While everything was "Brent Schaeffer, Brent Schaeffer, Brent Schaeffer" last year, the senior QB has rarely been the subject of much discussion this season.
The last couple of games, however, Schaeffer has played more and the curiosity about the mercurial one has arisen.
"Brent has done everything we asked of him this year. There were times last year when he really didn't understand what it took to be a big-time player and I think he's found that out this year," Werner noted. "His doing all the little things this year has really impressed me."
Werner intimated Brent could have gone into a shell after learning he would not be the starting quarterback this season, but Schaeffer did not do that.
"The light kind of came on for him at the start of the season this year. We told him how it had to be and he responded positively. He's been a positive factor on our team this year," Werner stated. "Brent definitely has the athletic ability to play the game of football on just about any level. He just has to make better decisions.
"I'm sure it is frustrating to him that he did not make the jump to this level quickly, but he didn't roll up in a ball and quit. His whole deal is decision-making under fire. He knows the offense, he's a tremendous athlete, but his reactions have been too unpredictable. When I call a play, I want to know - 100% - what to expect in terms of my QB's decision-making. I call a play for a certain reason and the QB has to know that. I know what I am going to get out of Seth (Adams), and Brent has gotten a lot better at that this year, thus we will continue to play him the rest of the season when we need a change of pace."
Werner said when he's looking for a quarterback, there are two things he looks for after he gets to know the prospect.
"After I learn a young man's character and leadership qualities, I look for his athletic ability - arm strength, etc," Dan explained. "But then you have to look deeper.
"A lot of kids look great standing in the pocket throwing to open receivers. It's when the pressure comes that the really good ones separate themselves. 50% of all throws are made under some sort of duress. If a QB can't respond with good decisions and good throws under pressure, he can't be successful."
While on the subject of QBs, Dan was asked what he has seen this year out of transfer Jevan Snead.
"First of all, I get to do individual work with him, and all the QBs, every day. I try to set up drills where they are not just throwing passes to open receivers, but set them up where they are actually having to read a progression of some sort," Werner noted. "It's all about the drop, the footwork, the release, the reads.
"Jevan is also in all meetings and has to prepare just like the starter for games. He knows he can't play this year, but if I ask him a question, I want him to be able to answer it, and he has and can. I don't have a feel yet for how he will react to a full-scale scrimmage situation yet, but I have been exposed to him a lot in scout team work. He's a great leader, for one. He makes good plays and good decisions. He doesn't freak out at all under pressure, from what I have seen. He can react, respond and succeed under pressure. He can slide around and make people miss and he knows where to go with the football."
Moving away from the QBs, Werner said the open week will help in preparations for the LSU game.
"Obviously, we can get the players rested and get some of them healthy, but from a coaching standpoint, we have more time to study film and get a better feel for what they are doing on defense," he stated. "For instance, I may spend several hours on blitzes every week. For this game, I can spend a couple of hours more on blitzes, a couple of more hours on short-yardage tendencies and so on. Sometimes you can pick up some extra keys and tendencies with the added time you have to work on a gameplan."
Shifting gears to the guys up front, through 10 games have the offensive linemen, touted to be a strength of the team prior to the season, performed as well as Werner had hoped?
"I don't think they've played exactly the way we had hoped. We felt we would be able to come off the ball, hit people in the mouth and run it for 250 yards a game," he continued. "But as I always say, and believe, it's not just the guys up front. It could be a number of things - maybe the QB should have checked out of a play and don't, maybe it's a poor call by me, maybe the back misses a block or a call, maybe the wide receivers don't get their man.
"Obviously, we wanted to run the ball better than we have this year and we have to figure out why we haven't. We have most of the OL coming back next year so we want to make sure everyone gets it right."
Werner said the "drive-killer" syndrome that was prevalent against Arkansas and Auburn continued - after the first quarter - against Northwestern State.
"We had a bad route here, a bad throw there, a missed assignment here and there, and they were all at critical times in drives," he said. "On our long TD runs by BenJarvus, we got great blocks by our wideouts to spring him. After that, we were missing the same blocks on simple zone runs that should have popped and didn't.
"It's a matter of consistency, which has been the story all year. When we have been consistent, we have been good. Early on, we were consistent more often than we have been lately."
Dan Werner -
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