Thursday Evening Practice Report

Rick Neuheisel talks about Thursday's practice, the injury to wide receiver Josh Smith, and much more, plus notes from the session...

Opening statement:

‘'You know what, really good practice. First of all, I want to say, ‘Way to go' to our grounds crew to get this grass in as top shape as it is. It was great to practice on the grass today and it's holding up perfectly - kudos to all those guys who worked so hard to get that thing ready for spring ball.

‘'Great effort, on both sides of the ball. We're still a little disorganized in terms of knowing exactly assignments and that causes the tempo to lull a little bit because people are getting coached after every play and that was the point after practice – keep the tempo roiling. We'll coach off the film. We have to keep flying around, keep playing like we know what we're doing and pretty soon we'll know what we're doing. But, I liked it. It will be a big challenge (Friday) coming back after a physical practice like this where we had probably 25 to 30 plays of scrimmage, come back after a day like this and still get a good physical practice. Hopefully we can get that accomplished and I look forward to seeing that happen.''

Rick, talk about not the kicking game as a whole, but the fact that you don't really have to do much this year in that regard …

‘'Well, we've got great kickers. You know, if we're fortunate enough for them to stay healthy … they're both proven guys. It's fun to watch them hit the ball out here. That's certainly an ace in our pocket.''

Do you still look at the new look on offense as experimental?

‘'Yeah. Yeah. But, like all experiments, it's not worth it if you're not going to invest in it. So, we're not halfway done yet. We've got to keep going to find out of it's … and even though we're using lots of it, we don't have to use lots of it. We know how to go back to what we've done. But currently, it's worth our time.''

Is there a point where you make a decision on whether to go with it or not?

‘'Well, we're pouring over the film and keeping track and what we believe and trying to weigh what we're seeing on film against how new is it, how much better can we get at it, does it fit our personnel? All those things. Those are questions that are still yet to be determined.''

How does Josh (Smith) feel?

‘'Josh is fine. They've got a decision to make as to whether or not to have surgery. You know, he's going to be out for the spring. But it's the PCL, which normally isn't surgery – it's just a rehab, and it's a brace, and it scars down and you're ready to go. Fortunately, we do have the luxury of time. It's just unfortunate that he missed a better part of spring practice.''

Is it fully torn?

‘'There's a tear in it. Not torn. It's not torn completely though, but there is an issue there, so now we've got to come to the right program to get him healthy.''

He should be OK for the season, though?

‘'We remain very optimistic in that regard.''

Did you realize it was this bad?

‘'Well, the MRI was conclusive yesterday. So, we know more now. So it's up to him to have a great academic quarter. He has some things he's got to accomplish there. He's got to make sure that he stays into the playbook and knows exactly what he has to do when the leg comes around, which it will. He's ready to respond … our first game is in September.''

How do you like Nate (Chandler) at DT?

‘'I think it's a great experiment thus far. Again, just like the offense, you've got to wait a little bit to find out, is there going to be some drop off as he gets a little wear and tear? But his initial evaluation, you'd say it's very successful.''

Did he play any d-tackle in high school?

‘'I think he played some d-end in high school.''

Any new injuries today?

‘'I think we got out of there unscathed. Joe Fauria played a little bit. We pulled him out, just precautionary. But I'm hopeful that he'll be to full speed by the time we scrimmage on Sunday and if he's not then certainly by next week.''

How about Kai (Maiava)?

‘'He tried a little bit today, but he still can't strike. He's probably, I'd wager to say, Monday we'll be in shorts so he could be out there and then hopefully full-go by Tuesday. Don't tell him I said that, though, because I want him to show up tomorrow.''



As Neuheisel mentioned, Maiava was dressed for practice but did not participate in any team work. Cornerback Marlon Pollard (hamstring), tackle Nik Abele (stinger) and Smith (knee) were out. …

Sean Sheller continued to get reps with the No. 1 offense at left tackle. Brett Downey was with the 2s, and got some work at right tackle with the No. 1 offense during one period while Mike Harris was with
the 2s. When the team scrimmaged, Harris was back with the 1s opposite Sheller. …

With Maiava out, Ryan Taylor was the No. 1 center. …

During a one-on-one drill between the running backs and the linebackers, Milton Knox and Damien Thigpen had some defenders grasping at air and looking pretty bad. Knox put a move on Patrick Larimore on one rep and Thigpen went right past Todd Golper on another. …

Jerry Johnson made a nice catch over the middle during 7 on 7, pinning the ball against his side with corner Andrew Abbott hanging off of him before reeling it in. …

Aaron Hester predicted a six or seven interception practice for the defense. They got close, with Hester, Stan McKay, Rahim Moore and Jeff Dickman picking off passes. …

Jonathan Franklin was with the No. 1 offense at running back and made a couple of nice inside runs during the final live period, wrapping up the ball strongly at the end of his runs. Knox was getting the work with the No. 2 offense, with Derrick Coleman with the 2s and 3s. Coleman still lacks consistency finishing runs with power. …

Kevin Prince had a sharp third-down 7 on 7, completing 4 of 6 passes and then 5 of 7. Richard Brehaut was not as sharp, and threw a terrible wobbling pass that was picked off by McKay. During the  live period, Brehaut and Coleman had a bad exchange on a handoff, resulting in a fumble. …

Randall Carroll made a very nice play, catching a pass over the middle, spinning out of a tackle and out racing everyone to the corner of the end zone. Hester, the closest pursuer, delivered at some volume a rather graphic description of Carroll's speed, which cracked up everyone in the bleachers. …



Todd Howard on Chandler's progress at d-tackle …

‘'Right now, I'm pleasantly pleased, man. You know, Nate was a pleasure to get from the offense, with him being 6-foot-4, 290 pounds … he runs a 4.6 40. He's everything I thought he would be. I tease Norm (Chow), say, ‘Ah, you guys had a Corvette and you were driving it around 30 miles an hour.' I'm going to drive it around 70, I'm going to drive it as fast as I can go … put my foot into it.

‘'But, he's a hell of an athlete and he's been eager to learn and a pleasure to coach. He's more than physical enough. He kind of reminds me of (Justin) Hickman, and Hickman was an All-American.''

Josh Smith on the knee injury …

‘'Right now, I don't know a whole lot about the details. I'm on my way to see the doctor right now and get the scoop, to see what's wrong and what's going to be done about it. All I know is I got the MRIs and the X-rays and they're going to explain it to me tonight. …

‘'It's an occasional pain. You know, I don't really know how bad it is, but I know it's a little bruised, so you expect a little pain with anything that's bruised. I can't really judge by the pain to know how serious it is. I've got to see what's going on. …



The off-season testing, you had a three-rep squat, 500 and something …

‘'It was 565 … the record is 610, by Maurice (Jones-Drew).''

So, are you going to get there … get 610?

‘'Yeah, I've got some time. I can easily get 610 by summertime. I can get it. It's three reps, three-rep max, and when I did it, I was like, ‘Coach …' because at first he was debating whether to let me go up and I was like, 'Coach, I can go 575, 580, if you let me.'

‘'That was it, the off-season, not getting bigger but just putting on a lot more muscle, and I was able to put on solid weight. At the end of last year I was 190 and I'm 200 now. So, I was able to put on 10 pounds of good muscle.''

This spring, are you happy with your progress?

‘'For the most part, it seems like everything is going good. I'm able to run inside, and do the things they ask me to do … pick up blocks. That one block, Coach Neuheisel congratulated me when Randall ran that touchdown. He was congratulating me for picking up the blitz. I've been in the playbook, just dedicating myself to everything. Everything they've asked me to do.  I've been able to become a whole new person since last year. I'm more mature. Coming in, high school, you know, a hothead, thinking everything is all right. But last year made me really look back at football and, do I love football, do I really want to play?

‘'I was able to come back and just evaluate myself and just become a whole new person and just play ball, dedicate myself in the playbook and in the weight room, and I've been doing good in the classroom so that hasn't been a big deal. I've been focused.''

You're starting to get more 1 and 2 reps - that has to be encouraging …

‘'Yeah, that is an encouraging sign. I mean, we're kind of slim right now at running back with Thigpen at flanker and me, Derrick and Jonathan. I'm just trying to do my thing and coach said, every opportunity you get try to make the most of it. So, I've been able to do that, been able to run the ball.

‘'Everybody knew that I could run the ball coming in. Mostly, it's been working on the blocking scheme. I think today proved … I picked up three blitzes today and that proved that I've been in my playbook studying, doing everything they've asked me to do even more. That's what you have to do. To the people out there, if you want to play football you've got to be dedicated, you've got to really love football because it's year-round. That's the message I send to people out there.''

That extra muscle, that hasn't slowed you down any. You've still got that shake to you …

‘'Yeah, man, I'm always going to have the shakes. That was the main thing. I remember last year I put on a lot of weight and I lost my shakes, I lost my speed. This here, this was putting on real good muscle and running a lot, being able to sustain my weight, and also eating right and being a solid 200 pounds.''

When you guys are doing the drill over here, one-on-one with the linebackers, and they're not touching you, do you just laugh as you're going by them?

‘'I mean, it's funny. We talk about it every day. Me and Thig, we tell Patrick Larimore and Akeem (Ayers) and (Glenn) Love that they'll never be able to tackle us in the open field. As long as you live, I don't care if we were in a cast, they'll never be able to tackle us. Just being a short guy, a quick guy, fast guy, like me and Thigpen, we have to use that to our advantage in this game.''

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