Jim Mora talked to the media after the Spring Showcase Saturday.
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I thought it was a productive day for us as a team and university. To be able to come out here and practice at Drake in front of a lot of alumni and fans and students and to be able to invite recruits on campus on an amazing day. It’s kind of what we’re trying to get done. You want to be able to play physical and with some violence and stay off the ground. So that’s why we practice the way we do. I was pleased with the progress we made all spring and felt like today was probably icing on the cake for us. It came together nicely. I’ve been part of these events where everything has gone to hell in a hand basket and guys lose their minds and tons of penalties and problems and we didn’t have that. I think I’ve been talking about that all spring, the camaraderie, the maturity and the progress we’ve made. I saw it today. I thought the protection was good and I thought we threw the ball well. We didn’t run the ball a lot in team because we wanted to emphasize the pass. We did 20 plays of 9-on-7 and it was good. I’m pleased with where we are and the direction we’re headed I’m excited to take a little bit of time and let these guys download and hit strength and conditioning and get ready in the fall. Everything was positive.
On the way the offense has come along:
It’s like night and day. It really is. The first day of spring, going with the attitude you understand there are new concepts being developed and it might be a little sloppy and it was. But every day we got a little bit better and I think last week was when I noticed they made a significant jump in terms of execution and consistency. I thought today was another jump. What we have to do is continue to work hard and develop that consistency to put guys in the right position to make plays and work hard. Guys will do that.
On improving the cadence and decreasing false starts:
We had only one and it was on our receiver. We’ve made a lot of progress there. Defensively as well. Working against a team like our offense, it gives you multiple cadences, it helps you defensively to develop that discipline to move with the ball. It’s no secret that we’ve had some penalty issues and I think this will help us. It gives us a smart, aware quarterback like Josh. It gives us a tremendous advantage when you get into game planning and understand what teams will try to do to us. He’ll be able to manipulate defenses very well.
On if there were any players who made a big jump:
I would have to say on offense, Bolu. I think he’s done a tremendous job. Darren Andrews as well. Alex Van Dyke, Austin Roberts. Those would be the four on offense that really elevated their game through 15 practices. On defense, Jayon Brown, but he played well at the end of the year. But every day, he was consistent. I like Randal at corner and I think Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner did a ton of great things. If you look at the whole team, the guy that was probably the MVP of camp, not that we’d name one, but it would be Takk McKinley. Every day, just the way he came off the edge, I think Tom is using him in our defense to try to get him to the open side where he’s not hit by the tight end. He’s about to about 265. He was a 10.6 100-meter guy in high school and still has that speed. He can be very dangerous and I’m excited to watch him in the fall.
On Josh Rosen in the new scheme:
He’s embracing he changes that we’re making and understanding they were for his benefit. From day one, he’s really excited about the fact we’re doing what we’re doing. If you see him over the course of the last seven, eight practices, they’re not all great, but you also saw some pieces of improvement every time. Today, like he always does when he’s on stage, he seemed to rise up and excel. I feel like he’s calm and he grasps and likes the concepts. I think a lot of it is just getting a feel for the receivers he’s throwing to. A lot of these guys, he hasn’t really thrown a lot of passes to. They’re going to need to work hard in the spring and summer on their on to continue to develop that cohesiveness.
On Kenny Walker:
Catching the ball on a consistent basis. His problem hasn’t been getting open, they have never been speed. We’ve all seen it, the times he doesn’t catch the ball as consistently as you’d like. The last few weeks, he just has. If kind of goes along with the overall development of Kenny as a human being. This is a kid who was academically ineligible at the Alamo Bowl. Since that day, he has not gotten a B in any course on this campus. To see him excel academically and now athletically, to me he could be one of the surprises this year. That’s probably a big statement to make, but I have a gut feeling about the kid.
On Ishmael Adams’ return to receiver:
We’ve been looking for somebody who could catch the ball in the slot, something quick and short and making a play on his own, make them miss then go the distance. Ish has that ability. We always saw that as a returner and we see it on offense. So when he’s playing offense, you can dictate when he gets the ball. He still has a lot of the nuances of playing the positions he’s got to master, and you’ll see him freelance a bit, but I think he’s going to be a great weapon for us. Josh has a lot of confidence in him. I know the coaches do. And with Yarber coaching him, the fundamentals, the skills, nuances, he’ll develop those.
On the kicking game:
We have two very capable kickers. Until you’re in the Rose Bowl or Kyle Field in front of 105,000, that’s probably a bit different than being out here at Drake or the IM field. I think both JJ and Andrew are pretty nervy so I feel pretty good about our kicking game. The ball comes of JJ’s foot pretty well, he has a strong leg.
On their biggest question:
The interior of the offensive line. With Scott Quessenberry, we have a lot of confidence in him as a player, but he’s coming off two surgeries. We’re trying to replace both of our guards. Now Kenny has played there but not consistently. Getting the young man transferring in (Jake Raulerson), will help us. We’ve got some young freshman coming in that are going to need to make a big jump quickly. And then probably receiver because you’re replacing Jorday Payton, Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte, all three not just great players but over the course of their careers, some all-timers. So there is a question there.
On if a DL could switch to OL:
No, it’s not as easy as it seems. Just because they’re big doesn’t mean they can play offense or defense. Its a skill set you work on for year and develop. I think we’re going to be ok on the offensive line. Paco coming in is really going to help us. And the transfer we’re getting, he’s really going to help us. I think Kenny is another guy who came around and I’m impressed with him. And I think Najee can play. Poasi Moala has been outstanding. I think we’re going to be ok up there. Like every year I’ve been here, its about those guys working together on a consistent basis.
On Charles Dawson:
The club man. Charles earned a scholarship last year as a walk-on and he’s a young man that really does deserve a look. Because he makes plays. We’ve seen it for years. It doesn’t matter who he’s covering. He makes plays. Sometimes you overlook a walk-on because he’s a walk-on. But he’s a really good player and we have to give him a look. When a guy makes plays at that rate, you’re an idiot if you don’t give him a look.
On Soso Jamabo:
Sosa has gotten bigger and stronger and more physical. Not exactly sure how much he weighs, but I think its around 220, 225. He’s lean but he’s still packed. He has great speed and acceleration and he’s a flier. A little deceptive. But catching the ball out of the backfield, his pass pro, the consistency of his performance has been very good.