Walt Harris on Scrimmage #1

One thing we quickly learned about Walt Harris is that he does not give definitive statements in the immediate aftermath of a game or scrimmage. Let him review the film before fishing for answers. So it was Thursday that we were able to pick the Cardinal head coach's brain on the big scrimmage Wednesday. Harris had plenty to say about his offensive line, his quarterback battle and more.

Thoughts after watching Wednesday's film?

"I liked some of the individual play of some guys.  I thought Jon Alston made things happen.  I thought Michael Okwo made some things happen.  I thought the defense kept them out of the endzone, which is the bottom line.  Best part for the offense is that they moved the ball, and they didn't turn it over.  But I don't know how many games you can win with just kicking field goals.  We had good work here today, offensively, trying to correct mistakes that we made.  I thought they came out today with a good attitude.  A lot of times, the day after a good scrimmage, it's like kicking a dead horse - can't get him to move.  They did not have that attitude today.  They were moving around and working hard, which is important to getting better."

"I think Anthony Kimble is emerging.  He didn't get many opportunities yesterday.  We had trouble blocking [the defense].  But from practices and the scrimmage, he looks like he has a chance to be in the mix and to be a player for us.  [His success] is a great compliment to him and his coach, Wayne Moses."

"I think both quarterbacks, considering the way the game went, played pretty fair.  We didn't do a great job of protecting them.  I think one had four sacks; one had five sacks.  We obviously have to do a much better job of that.  I thought they both were competitive for us."

Is the quarterback battle still even?

"I think it's still a competitive situation."

Can you get a fair read when T.C. Ostrander plays with the second team offense?

"He's playing against the second team, too.  And third's.  Some of the guys on our defense are hurt, too.  He's also playing with second and third team people on offense.  We have a lack of numbers in certain areas, and the offensive line is one of them."

Trent Edwards did get all the first team repetitions in the scrimmage.  What thus far gives him that right or privilege?

"Sometimes it's better to do well on the second team than it is to do well on the first team.  You may be throwing to people, and have people around you, with less skill.  I'm looking at a guy who executes what I'm coaching him to do, who fits into our scheme, and who has what we need in order for us to be successful.  Whether he is on the second team or the first team is some factor, but not as much as maybe some people make it."

Are there some things Trent is doing to execute what you are asking, a little better than T.C. at this point?

"Yeah.  I think he's picked it up better right now.  He is a little more experienced.  Trent was in a throwing system and has been here four years now.  T.C., if I remember right, was in an option system - from what I've been told - and only been here starting now on three years.  I think T.C. has a lot of playing ability.  He has to get all those little details.  Trent does, too."

"My goal is to not every year have to make this decision.  That's no fun for me.  Obviously it's no fun for them, either, if it doesn't come their way.  When the decision is made by the way they play, and not by my subjective feelings, then it makes me feel a lot better.  Right now, we're still making things competitive because - as I mentioned the other day - I think there is still more in their tanks.  I think they have more ability to produce at a higher level than what they are.  That's both of them.  At this juncture of fall camp, I think we're OK doing it the way we're doing it."

Will you let the quarterbacks take hits at any point in a scrimmage during this camp?  Take the yellow jersey off?

"I don't think I want to do that in the fall.  I did that one fall, and I had white hair by the time fall camp was through."

What are some of the key points where you are trying to push the offense, after you have watched the scrimmage film?

"One of the tendencies here is we try to help our buddy and not do what we're supposed to do.  It was obvious on the tape; it's been obvious.  It's been one of the problems in our pass protection since we started.  Our guys have the tendency to try to help their buddy but not take care of their area of responsibility.  We've got to change that.  We've been trying to change that.  They're slow to get it."

What did you think of your other offensive skill players - the receivers and tight ends?

"They didn't get much opportunity - the outside guys didn't.  I didn't think the throwing game was much of a threat yesterday.  I think offensively we mixed it up a little bit and had it going for a while.  But we didn't run the all as consistently as another scrimmage we had four days or so ago.  That's what happens.  Teams adjust.  You have to adjust.  You have to react.  They counterpunch, and you have to counterpunch them.  It's a little bit of a chess game out there."

Do you like what you are getting from Evan Moore?

"Yeah, I think Evan has really worked hard during this camp.  He's working harder - much harder than he did during the spring.  He looks it.  He's blocking better, and that's really one of our main focuses.  I think he's playing faster.  And I think he's having more fun."

You mentioned Anthony Kimble helping himself with the scrimmage.  Was there anybody else on offense who helped themselves?

"I don't think the way the scrimmage went, anybody really was outstanding or stood out.  We have a lot of work to do on offense.  We don't have all the seniors.  We have one senior, and he's out.  We have three guys who might start for us that were not practicing yesterday."

You've installed your offense at a new place before.  Is this about the progress, from your experience, that you would expect?  Behind?  Ahead?

"I was optimistic that we would block people better because of the experience we have on the offensive line.  I think that's an area that we are still not where I think our experience should allow us to execute.  With as much experience as we have, we should be able to execute better.  We have some bad habits that occurred in the last couple years, and we've got to break them.  Sometimes those are hard to break."

Is it possible that the guys with better habits are the ones not out there right now?

"No.  We've got to break the habits.  I'm sure this happens to you sometimes: somebody keeps tells you similar things - the same things - and you still don't get it.  Then all of a sudden, the light comes on one day.  'Oh, now I know what you are talking about.'  We're just having to persevere.  Hopefully in the end, that works out because we do have a lot of experience on the offensive line."

Saturday is two weeks away from your opener.  When do you start preparing for Navy?

"After Wednesday - entirely, on both sides of the ball.  Next Wednesday will be our final scrimmage.  We'll need the scout team after that."

You've said before that it was "too early to tell" with the freshmen.  Hopefully the scrimmage provided you with data to make some assessments.  Are any of those guys putting themselves in the realm of possibility?

"I think it's still too early to say.  You'll know when you say, 'Look! There goes a freshman onto the field!" (laughs)  A lot has been thrown at them.  It has to do with how much, from here on, they go.  We like some of the freshmen.  We like most every one of them, honestly, to different degrees.  But to play as a true freshman - that's a big compliment.  That's a big assignment. We'll let you know on that.  You might be able to tell by the depth chart.  Though sometimes we'll put a guy second team and just practice him there but never play him.  Then he is with the varsity, and hopefully he'll be a player for us someday.  He may not be ready now."

Ready in the event that the first team guy goes down?

"Not necessarily.  We've done that in the past on the offensive line.  Just say a tackle is on the two-deep, but he's the number four tackle and not the number two tackle.  The third tackle would flip.  We could save that guy's eligibility while still getting him ready.  You have to always be ready for the worst case scenario."

Erik Lorig looks like he can play...

"I think he's probably had more balls thrown at him here than in his entire high school career - including practice.  He's got to work at it.  I think the ability is there.  We like him.  We like our freshmen.  We need more of them.  We need some good seniors, too.  We need good players.  We need a good recruiting year, as well."

The quarterback question - you want that settled next week?

"I would hope the sooner the better, honestly.  It's up to them.  I don't want to have to step in there because then it's not obvious.  The bottom line is that both are good football players.  If everything else goes well, they have a chance to help us win some games.  That's exciting.  To find out which one is the best - the only one who knows that is me.  They may know.  It has to do with how quickly they pick things up.  This is a hard game.  We might be running a play for 10 games, then all of a sudden, they do something different on defense.  On the sideline in the first quarter, you have to change to the complete opposite of how you're supposed to play.  A guy has to really be flexible and really understand what you are doing, so that he not only has it memorized but also through understanding knows how to make the change.  I think one of them is a little bit ahead of the other in that area, and we'll see.  I like competition."

"Some of that may not be as obvious to you as it is to me.  I don't mean that disrespectfully.  I know what I'm asking them to do.  One guy might through a bunch of long passes that you're impressed with.  'Oh, that guy is going to be a starter.'  The other guy does what I ask him to do, which fits into our scheme better and helps our team play better.  You wouldn't know.  Unless you're in the meeting room, you don't really know.  That's why I didn't watch their [2004] tape.  I wasn't in their meeting room last year, so I cannot evaluate what they did."

If one quarterback does not win the job clearly by his performance, then when is the latest that you step in for your subjective decision?

"Wednesday - after the scrimmage.  I will do my very best to tell you on Thursday, unless something happens.  I would like to do it by Thursday.  I would like to do it before, but right now I don't think it's clear yet.  I would like to do it sooner rather than later."

"I'm not playing games with you.  The last group of writers [at Pittsburgh] thought I was playing games.  I'm not playing games.  I want to be sure.  This is a competition.  That's what they're going to have to have on Saturdays.  They misunderstood that.  I'm not jerking the quarterbacks around."

Once you name a quarterback, is he your guy throughout the season?  Or are you a guy who has a quick trigger?

"To answer part of that question - I wish football had the theory that you could have a relief pitcher, without everyone getting all up in arms.  Without 'oh man, he's jerking the quarterbacks around.'  Football doesn't have that relief pitcher mindset like baseball does.  It's no big deal in baseball.  It's a big deal in football.  To answer your question, I would like to have a starting quarterback.  And that means that he has gained a lot of loyalty out of me - through the good times and the bad times.  But I will play the other quarterback - just like last year, our backup freshman quarterback Joe Flacco got into a game in the opener.  He got into a drive.  He didn't play much, but he got in.  That's always been my philosophy.  He's one play away from starting, so you better get him into a game so that the butterflies aren't quite as big when he actually has to go in there."

Is the plan, then, that regardless of who starts, you will still play both quarterbacks in Annapolis?

"The second guy will play some.  How much is some?  I don't know."

Is your philosophy that you like to travel three or four quarterbacks?

"Depends upon what we need with special teams and our depth/injury situation.  I'd love to travel all four.  It's good experience for them, to be under the gun and see how everything goes in a game."

Is Tavita Pritchard putting himself in the position to be the third guy, or is that another open competition still?

"I hope I don't have to worry about a third guy.  He has some playing ability, but he has a lot - a lot - to go.  You would expect that with any freshman."

During the fall, will your third quarterback work with the main offense and get 10% of the repetitions, or do you need him with the scout team offense?

"If the scout team quarterback is good enough, then the third team quarterback will be with the varsity but not get any rep's.  If the fourth is good enough, then the third will be with the varsity getting mental rep's and constant coaching.  It depends.  It might be Garrett [Moore] or it might be Tavita as number three.  Being the fourth quarterback and going against the defense is pretty good experience, too."

How hard will it be to put together a scout offense to prepare you for Navy?

"I don't think we have a quarterback who can give them a good look.  I think that will have to be some young man who played option quarterback in high school."

Was practicing in shorts and upper pads the day after the scrimmage planned, or was that a reaction?

"I think after a big scrimmage, we will always be out there in shorts.  I don't like going out in no pads because you can't practice.  This way, we get something done."


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