RICK NEUHEISEL after Tuesday's practice.
‘'Good practice. Trying to get as much of the contact and scrimmage work as we can and yet still get to the finish line, and I'm encouraged by the way these guys are willing to do what we ask, and consequently were getting better and that's what we'll continue to do all through the finish line.
‘'We'll get out here on Thursday, tune up for what I hope to be fantastic scrimmage, one that we can go as long as we can go and feel good about ourselves at the conclusion of Friday. That's where we are, schedule wise. Questions?''
Joseph Fauria, finger?
‘'Finger. Should be ready to go Thursday.''
Is it broken?
‘'They're going to X-ray it. I don't think so. I think just a major jam, but it swelled up pretty well.''
Did he jam it on a ball? What was he doing?
‘'I don't know, you have to ask him … I just saw tape over there. Flesh wound, I say.''
Can you talk about what you guys are doing with Damien Thigpen?
‘'We have a couple of different ideas for Damien. We're working him in and around some slot stuff, you know, a little bit of a receiver/running back. We know he knows how to play running back, so we're dedicating this time to learning some more receiver skills.''
How is he looking?
‘'He's done a great job. He's been fantastic.''
How about Morrell Presley? Are they competing at that ‘F?'
‘'Different personnel groups, but, yes, basically the same position, and Morrell is doing a fantastic job. That big run we had down here was courtesy of a big Morrell block and he embraces the physical nature of the position as well as liking to catch the ball. I'm pleased with Morrell.''
You said coming in you were looking for Kevin Prince to learn how to win. Are you seeing things from him that you feel like …
‘'Yeah, I'm seeing lots of good things. He's not a finished product yet. I mean, there are some balls that we have to hit that we're not hitting yet. But there's always improvement. There was a drill today we were in 3rd-and-2 and he was outside and could have run easily for a first down but threw a ball downfield and incomplete. I got all over him and he says, ‘I wasn't aware it was 3rd-and-2' because it was in the context of a drill. I said, ‘Every play has to be like game for you … you have to be thinking about what's the object of the play?' Sometimes we want to take a shot – it might be incomplete, but we have to take a shot. You've got to learn how to play that way.
‘'Later in the same practice, here at the end, he did run for the first down. Those are the kinds of things, you know, quarterbacks are trying so hard to please coaches that they try to just execute a play and forget that there's an object of down and distance and understanding how to attack defenses and make them honor things, not necessarily all the time going to have to complete the ball. And then there's a time to take what they give you and he's learning that. He's doing terrific.''
Has Josh Smith made any decisions about surgery?
‘'None, he won't have it. He'll be fine.''
How about Nik Abele?
‘'You know what, he had the MRI and X-rays I believe either yesterday or today, so we're waiting to get the MRI back and then we'll know something more conclusive.''
What exactly are you looking at there?
‘'It's a neck injury and now we've got to (determine) what's the extent or the reason for the stingers. Is there anything more dangerous than just stingers. It's a precautionary thing because it's painful for him and it doesn't subside as fast as some stingers do. You've just got to make sure it's right and hopefully we'll get him back.''
And Andy Keane, just a finger?
‘'Finger surgery, yeah. It's one of those things that if you don't do it, you won't have the use of it, you can't bend your finger. You have to do it. He'll miss spring, but he'll be back.''
There was a lot of 1-on 1-competition – a tackling drill with running backs versus linebackers, a pass-rushing drill with interior d-linemen against o-linemen, receivers versus cornerbacks …
In the first, backs against linebackers, Akeem Ayers got some revenge for his group from the other day, when Milton Knox breezed by everyone he went up against. Ayers took him down. He was the only one to do it, though. Jonathan Franklin got by Glenn Love with a nice jab step on one run. But Patrick Larimore made a couple of nice tackles, and Todd Golper won his match up with Franklin. …
David Carter and Nate Chandler were tough outs for the offensive line. Carter used his feet and hands and Chandler a first step and speed getting into the backfield. Donovan Carter also had a nice run into the backfield, getting by Stan Hasiak. …
In the matchup between the corners and receivers, Jerry Johnson made a nice adjustment to a deep ball over the middle against Lowell Rose, then made a nice leaping catch in the corner of the end zone over Andrew Abbott. Nelson Rosario also made some nice plays and continues to have a very strong and consistent spring. …
The Bruins also did a lot of work in short-yardage situations. As Neuheisel mentioned, they broke one big run off a block by Morrell Presley. …
During special teams, Taylor Embree and Carroll worked as returners. Carroll dropped one, and Damien Thigpen joined the group. Carroll then dropped another one, and Ricky Marvray joined the group. Embree fielded all of his punts cleanly. …
Ryan Taylor continued to get the reps with the No. 1 offense at center, ahead of Kai Maiava. Larimore spent some time with the No. 1 defense at the Mike, though Steve Sloan was there during the short-yardage periods.
During a red zone period, tight end Cory Harkey had a rough start. Harkey was called for a false start twice in the scrimmage on Sunday, and jumped again on the first play. On the next play, he busted a route and a pass to him ended up behind him. …
‘'Sean Sheller is having a good spring. He's back to where he was when I came in here my first year, prior to his knee reconstruction, and I think he's having a good spring camp. I think that he was never fully recovered last year from his knee reconstruction and now I believe, physically, he's back to where he was two years ago.''
NELSON ROSARIO comments...
We talked last year about Coach (Reggie) Moore getting into you, about consistency, about your concentration level. You look like a different football player this spring … how did that change come about?
‘'It's maturity, growing, realizing what I need to do. I always used to hear it and was being stubborn, thinking I'm doing the right thing, and I'd go back and watch the tape and I'd see that I'm really not as consistent as I thought I was. It's just working on it, giving more effort on every play, so I wouldn't have to constantly have to hear it and have then on my tail about busting my hump to do stuff. I just decided to come out here and give it everything I've got every play so I wouldn't have to hear that and show them that I'm actually in here trying to do what I can.''
So you actually sat there, thought about it …
‘'Yeah. I was just maturity and growing up, realizing how the game should be played.''
Now that you're at this level, are you thinking, ‘My ceiling is a lot higher than I thought it was …'
‘'Yeah. You know, now that you go out there and try every play, try to keep my consistency up and my effort up all the time, there's no telling what I'm going to do, especially for a DB. If I'm flying off the ball on every play, they don't know if it's the pass or the run. So, you know, my effort, if I come down and block someone, we can bust a run and take off for a touchdown and I could be that blocked that helped. I was just sitting down about all the little pieces and how it all fits together. That's what it was.''
By reputation, people might keep waiting for that bad practice to pop up in there. But there hasn't even been a bad period this spring. …
‘'And I didn't like that, too, hearing all the naysayers and all that crap that I was hearing. That's another thing that motivated me to keep on pushing and doing better.''
You must really like where you are now …
‘'I'm a little rusty still, but it's spring ball. That's what we're here for. But, you know, I'm seeing improvement every day of the week, so I'm pretty satisfied. But there's always room to improve so I'm going to keep working every day.''