Senior offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani talked to us after practice Tuesday.
Been a while since you've been out there … did you feel physically where you needed to be?
‘'I felt great against Cal. You know, to my surprise … it's always like that issue, confidence coming back from an injury, but it felt pretty good. I was a little rusty playing left guard – haven't played there in two years – but it felt good.''
You were switching back and forth today … still trying to figure out the best fit for you?
‘'Everybody is getting equal reps right now, just trying to make things competitive and we'll see what happens. Whoever comes out on top will play. Hopefully, I come out on top.''
How difficult is it, having missed all of those reps the past month plus?
‘'I felt a little tired today, but it's not too bad. It's just a matter of getting back into it, getting back into that shape. That's been the toughest thing. Being injured, coming back and not taking many reps, then coming in to play against Cal and going on three two-minute-drill drives. But I'm getting back into the swing of things.''
How close are you to that shape?
‘'I'm pretty close. I'm there. I'm going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and say I'm there.''
Reggie Carter sat out practice Tuesday.
Is this what it's going to be for the rest of the year, practice when you can?
‘'Well, they kind of pick and choose where they need me at. I do all the scout stuff and things like that, but if it's something that's not demanding, where they don't really need me, I kind of just observe and get the mental reps. But I do as much as I can. I probably could do it all, but to be smarter the coaches and the training staff, they want me to do what I really need. That's fine with me.''
So the technique, the individual stuff, and scout …
‘'Yeah, that and the scout stuff. But as far as stuff against our offense, that's not really pertaining to the game … it's the game stuff I really need to focus on.''
So what did Saturday look like? They had some really big plays, but also a lot of negative yardage plays …
‘'Yeah, we watched it. Jahvid Best, he had like 108 yards and he had 93 on that one. That one was a few missed tackles, which caused that one. The other running touchdown, we were in a man coverage and the safety didn't come over to get his man. He was supposed to be the extra fitter. That one. Then it was deep balls. They had big plays and scores, never once did they drive all the way down the field and score on us. We gave up too many big plays and we hurt our offense, we hurt our team.''
Is there any question with the scheme, what you guys are trying to do, or is it just execution?
‘'Schematically, we were supposed to have somebody to fit every gap, to fit every run. It was just missed tackles and a guy not being where he was supposed to be. Schematically, everything was fit up to work, we just didn't execute the scheme to perfection, how we were supposed to.''
That's at the root of every big play …
‘'Yeah, you weren't where you're supposed to be, or he got to his technique faster than you did. Most of the time it was missed tackles, or we weren't where we were supposed to be.''
This wasn't much of an issue early, so how difficult is it cleaning all that stuff up?
‘'It's just really doing your job and making tackles. It's not like we've got guys scared or they don't know how to play. The young guys have to relax and keep confidence in themselves and know we're confident in them, and then be where they're supposed to be when they need to be there, and just make the plays when they come to them.''
It's a game of adjustments. Is that stuff taking a while to get through during games?
‘'Nah, when we make adjustments during the game it's pretty easy. All we have to do is kind of communicate with each other. The coaches communicate with us pretty good and once we get the checks and things like that, we make the adjustments, and we should be fine.
‘'It's just one or two guys, or we change something a little bit. It's not anything too difficult to get a feel for.''
So after that it's just getting to the right spots …
‘'Yeah, get to where you need to be. That's the only problem – when guys aren't where they're supposed to be. If everybody does their job, we'll be fine.''