"Every spring we set out to find out if we can reclaim and rediscover the work ethic and competitiveness we've had over the years. To me, that's the No. 1 objective, knowing if you practice really hard with great effort and energy, we can accomplish the stuff we are trying to get done. From the first day on, it's been a great spring. Guys have really answered the call. We've had great work, great speed with the kind of juice that we like. That's been done.
"With that, there are a number of positions that are in transition -- the quarterback spot for one, the offensive line, a couple on the defensive line. We've been hard at it to figure it out. I can't say it's all figured out, but at this time, we made a declaration at the quarterback spot for Mark Sanchez to take over for us.
As this is kind of a game week, this put him in that setting to see how he operated and how guys responded to him and how he picked up. We saw that. He came out more energetic, more demonstrative and took more of a leadership position in the huddle. That's what we expected to see and he did a nice job with that.
Other than that, guys keep battling and keep getting reps and we'll keep adding them up and see what happens when we go back to fall camp and will compete all the way through that. It does mean that Mark will lead going into camp. But we'll still see how it goes. We're preparing for anything with that.
"On the offensive line, we've had a lot of adjustments, a lot of guys moving in and out of spots. We continue to do that and will continue to do that into the fall when we have the new offensive linemen come in to make sure we are doing the right thing.
To go across, Charles Brown has had a very good spring. He really is capable of being a big time left tackle. We liked the way he took over the role. With Butch Lewis being down for most of the spring, it gave him a great shot at that and he took advantage of it. Jeff Byers has had an excellent spring. His effort is extraordinary. His downfield blocking sets the tone for the style of play that we like.
Kristopher O'Dowd might be my favorite surprise of spring in that he really came back and took over the communication aspect of the line, which is really helpful developing a young group. He's really solid and physical and has had a very good spring. The right guard spot has been in question.
Alex Parsons started there. Thomas Herring has played there a lot. As we go into this final day, Parsons will start at right guard. Because of the center position – Michael Reardon is banged up – Alex Parson will play center (at the Trojan Huddle scrimmage), Zach Heberer will play right guard and Nick Howell will be the right tackle.
These are just options that we are exercising to see how the guys fit together. This position group remains wide open and still in question as to who the starters will be. But we like the guys that are playing. Zach Heberer has come on once he got back in and Butch came on once he got back in and Thomas Herring has done a great job with his opportunity but hasn't captured the No. 1 spot.
"At tight end, we've really come up fortunate. Anthony McCoy has had a great spring. The target that we saw a couple years back is definitely alive and well. He's blocked well. Rhett Ellison has done a beautiful job. Those two guys are 1-2 and we'd mix those guys in if we were in a game this weekend.
Both would play with the first group. Anthony is the starter but we are really pleased with both. There is not a lot of depth there. Jimmy Miller has given us some good play, but the other two have really done a nice job.
"At the wide receiver spot we've grown up some. You can really see the maturity has taken place. Vidal Hazelton is really in command. He's had a great spring even though he's a little nicked up. He's finished up on top of the chart. Ronald Johnson has grown and has become familiar with a lot of the things he can do. Certainly, he's always been a great deep threat, but we like what he's doing.
On the other side, Patrick Turner and David Ausberry have really been sharing time and they'll share time with the first group. They are a little different style, both are big guys, but both are effective. David is really a guy that has grown in the system and will be a big factor for us.
Probably the guy that has been the biggest surprise is Damian Williams. He's got downfield ability, his catch and run is good. He's got good feel for getting open inside and we expect him to continue to grow. He's been a little banged up and has not been full speed throughout the spring, but has still made a very good impression.
"In the backfield, we are really pleased. Everyone is contributing, everyone is doing good stuff. We are pleased that we have this kind of competition and also the maturity – you can see the growth in this group in the pass protection. It's just better. They are more solid, more confident. They still have a ways to go as a group but they've improved a good deal.
We've had a chance to see Broderick Green quite a bit and Marc Tyler quite a bit and we'd like get those guys good opportunities in the Spring game. Those guys have both done a nice job as well. C.J. Gable probably jumped out the most coming off an injury, but Allen Bradford had maybe the most exciting plays with so many big plays he was able to create. It's a very good group for us and we'll find ways to work those guys in and work their strengths and let the competition continue.
"On the other side of the ball. One of the big questions was what are we going to do with Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson gone. We thought we could move the ends around. We moved Clay Matthews to help us depth wise.
With the loss of Jackson, Kyle Moore and Gerald Washington have done a beautiful job at the strong end spot. With those guys banged up, we even moved Everson Griffen over there and played with Everson and Clay, which really made us fast and gave us a glimpse of what we can do against certain teams that are wide open and give us more pass rush speed.
Clay was one of the most productive guys of spring. He had a great spring playing the Leo spot. Gives us great speed. He's a 4.5 guy and has great savvy and instincts when we drop him. He's given us a real boost and added to the speed of the front four. Right now he and Everson would be the outside guys rushing in nickel and those guys would be sharing time there and in some different combinations they'd be on the field at the same time.
Inside, the big question mark was the nose tackle spot. Averell Spicer had a great chance for the No. 1 position. But because he was out, it opened it up for Christian Tupou and he's really had a great spring. He had the best day a defensive linemen had all spring yesterday on a day when we only had five linemen practicing, he sucked it up and had a fantastic day.
We're really pleased with his progress. He's learning well and has such a great motor, we think he'll be a factor. It gives us good confidence going in with he and Averell and some help from the younger guys.
Fili Moala had a good solid spring. The other guys rotating in – Trey Henderson, Derek Simmons and DaJohn Harris – those guys have all done a good job as they go through the process. It takes some time to develop, but we'll have good depth there. With that group, we have five more guys coming in to give us the quality depth and speed that will really make us solid.
"The linebacker spot is really a special spot for us. With Rey Maualuga coming back at full speed and Brian Cushing coming back from injury, those two guys have jacked it up in the second half of spring with spectacular play. That's been a real plus for us. It's a very solid group for us in general.
Kaluka Maiva missed the spring, but it gave Luthur Brown a chance and he played real well. When we were able to settle him down at the WILL position, he's given us some real physical play. He'll be able to contribute and plays for us on a regular basis. He can also play the other two spots which gives us versatility, kind of like Thomas Williams did. But Luthur is zeroing in on trying to win that WILL spot.
I'm really disappointed that Malcolm Smith got hurt. We wanted to see how far he could take it. We had high hopes for him. But he just pulled a hamstring and fairly severely and had to sit out. Chris Galippo had a real solid spring. He's learned a tremendous amount and will be able to play at the MIKE position for us in games early in the season. We're real pleased with his work.
Mike Morgan had a very good spring and was by far the most productive he's been. He'll give us a good boost there and on special teams. He can go in and play and we have confidence in him. He's a good coverage guy and a good blitz guy and has done fine against the run and has tackled very well.
"The secondary really had a chance to be the best we've had. The experience we have at safety and with the addition of Josh Pinkard being able to play there – he was not full speed in the spring but will be in the fall – is great.
Shareece Wright is really really playing well. Cary Harris is a terrific guy and has started for a couple years. Kevin Thomas has come back at full speed and has improved and the last couple days might have been his best days. That combination of guys gives us a real good mix. There are three top flight corners and three top flight safeties at least.
With T.J. Bryant coming in and Drew McAllister, we'll get a boost from those kids as well. Will Harris had a good spring as well and is growing into a player we can count on and Marshall Jones has improved a lot too. I really like the whole group."
"The defensive can be very solid for us. We expect them to play fast and aggressive. We'll feature the play of our linebackers and safeties and we should have effective run play and the ability to pressure the passer with those guys."
How good I don't know. But I'm really exciting about the group coming back. They play with a lot of energy and are a very physical group. We feel they are experienced. Other than the nose tackle spot, I feel we are coming into the season with a good savvy group that knows what we are doing and gives us some flexibility."
"Offensively, I think we really need to run the football. We've got to get the ball into the hands of our backs. The opportunity for Mark and Mitch (Mustain) and Aaron (Corp), they've got to be able to deliver the ball around to the guys.
It goes back to that thought we had a few years back, they are really the point guard and need to deliver the ball around to those guys and give them the chance to run the football and that will help everything in the passing game. We won't hold back any phase of anything that we are doing. We'll be able to do all of the things we've done in the past offensively and defensively. We have very high hopes for those groups."
"On special teams, we are fortunate that we have both kickers back. David Buehler pounded the ball, Greg Woidneck kicked the ball beautifully. We've had a transition with our snapper. Cooper Stephenson is going to be our long snapper as of right now."
We'll allow the competition to continue. We'd like to have a more competitive situation going into the fall. Alex Parsons can back up there and Garrett Green will be the holder. We like the way that fits together and they've had a good solid spring growing."
The returners coming back, we couldn't be more excited. Joe McKnight is a guy that is a very good punt returner. We are excited that he'll have the full duties coming fall. Stafon Johnson will back him up. At kick returner, we'll have Ronald Johnson and Gable back there at the same time so you can't kick away from them."
"Both guys as freshmen had very good productive years as returners. We will expect a lot out of those guys and will play a lot of our front line guys on special teams as we have in the past with expectations that we'll have a strong group in all areas."
"The other thing I wanted to say. I've noticed the difference in having the staff back. There was a difference in our preparation and not having to train a new coach in a position. It was really nice in our continuity and our ability to move ahead. The continuity and teaching with the players was solid and it was a good boost. You could tell we were very competitive with what we tried to get done."
(re: the depth at WR)
"You are looking at five or six receivers that can play. We like that. When we play, we roll the guys through and it doesn't matter who is in, other than the special things we like to do with certain guys."
(re: offensive line depth)
"It's really wide open with good depth. We would feel comfortable about a number of ways of playing these guys and moving guys through. Butch Lewis could play as a starter when healthy. We know Zach can and we'll give him a shot. Nick can play. I think it's a good situation.
A bit uncharacteristically, they've mixed well regardless of the ways we've done it. That's a real plus. I go back to complimenting what O'Dowd has done as the play caller. He's done a good job of keeping the guys sharp and Jeff has done a good job as well."
(re: tailback depth)
"It's a little different than last year, but still challenging. This is a very competitive group and all can play and all can contribute. It's still challenging. But there are two juniors, two sophomores, two redshirt freshmen and the group is mixed well for the future and only one coming in. It's a really good situation for us.
Knowing how volatile the spot can be, it should work out really well. We are not going to worry about it. We'll make sense of it each week as we go and hopefully get a lot of guys in their roles and let a lot of guys contribute. It's the same thing at the receiver group."
(re: differences in play calling with young line)
"It's an athletic group. We won't change much in specific areas. We'll count on guys being more active down the field and finishing blocks and giving us downfield opportunities. It's a real mobile group led by Byers. He flies better than anyone we've ever had, making use of his legs and his guts to finish plays, he creates an attitude about the way we play and I'm grateful for that."
(re: C.J. Gable's return)
"He is better now. He looks to be all the way back. His timing is there. He's a really well-rounded player. He can run tough, can make you miss. He's a very good pass blocker, probably our best, and can catch the ball well. He's really a well rounded player.
He and Marc (Tyler) are very similar. Marc will be like that too as he grows into it. Joe is a little different. He has a special ability to run routes as a receiver, which the other guys don't favor as much and will use Curtis McNeal in that spot when he gets in here in the fall. But what you see in C.J. is a really well-rounded back. He's tough in short yardage around the goal line as well. He's made a great impression again. He's in the middle of all of this."
(re: feelings of replacing Sedrick Ellis)
"We're feeling better about it and this is without the guy we thought would take over in Spicer, who has been hurt. I think necessity has forced Christian to move ahead. He plays so hard with such a great motor, he's held onto the No. 1 spot with Averell on the sideline. It's been a boost for us.
Fili can play the nose tackle spot. He got some time on it. If one of the kids coming in does a nice job at the three technique, that gives us some options with Fili down the road if we needed to. A lot of that (practicing guys at different spots) is to give us information and make sure players are comfortable moving around."
(is the three-technique Moala's best spot?)
"Yeah, he's played there for three years, he'll be starting for his third year. It really gives us good experience and he knows the job well. He's difficult to block. The experience and leadership he brings is really valuable to an otherwise pretty young group."
(re: Stafon Johnon's continued growth)
"He has progressed. He's done a great job of improving his pass catching. For whatever reason, his focus was not there. He's always been a guy who can catch the ball and it was a little frustrating for him and us because he didn't catch the ball well in his first two go arounds. But his natural ability is coming around and his blocking ability is coming around.
He still has a ways to go but he's much better than he was a year ago. Our young guys were really liabilities in pass protection a year ago. It was hard for us to play without that solid factor and Desmond Reed gave that to us as the most experienced guy and Hershel Dennis could do it if we needed him to. But when C.J. went down, we didn't have a guy. They are all improving and getting better. They've had a lot one-on-one work with the linebackers in the spring which has made a big difference."
(re: Clay Matthews ability to play both LB and DE)
"He can play the SAM backer in a day. He has the ability to play both spots. A lot of the physical things are similar. Right now we want to keep him (at DE). He's had a very highlighted spring and with Cush back in good order, it's the right thing to do. We want them both on the field as much as we can."
(re: Sanchez as a QB)
"He's a little more resourceful of an athlete than John David Booty was. JD was more of a pocket guy. Mark is quicker to take off and move. His subtle movements are more quicker to slide and bob and weave in the pocket. He's also quicker to take off and run. John was going to beat you throwing the ball. Mark will take off and make some yards with his legs which is a nice attribute to have.
Matt Leinart was a guy who was resourceful and moved around well and avoided the rush and would run at times – and wished he could run better. Mark and Matt are very similar in that manner. I think what that provides for us, there will be some times when Mark will make movements – and Mitch and Aaron can do it too – they'll create space for themselves and get a second look down the field that could possibly give us some second shots at big plays. We feel that clearly when he plays. I think it will definitely happen and we like that and think it is a boost for us."
(re: aggressive practices and some skirmishes in practice)
"I think it's the fact that these guys are trying to win their jobs and there are young guys trying to win jobs and are learning how far to take it. It would be a disaster if we played like that by fall time. We'll get too much attention from the officials. They like us already. But there is a fine line there. I want us to be as competitive as we've ever been and it's been that.
At times we've gone a little bit too far. A lot of what you see is more of fun stuff than it looks like. These guys are playing with each other so it's not serious at all and there are no issues. There has been a couple times we've gone overboard, but they're having a great time with each other.
They're battling and the winning and losing has gone back and forth. When you are competing at this level and at this threshold that we're trying to get to but not cross, there is some fine tuning."
(is this the most versatile defense you've had?)
"You could say that. When you look at what Clay can do, what Luthur can do. What Everson is capable to do. What Kyle Moore can do. Josh Pinkard's ability to play corner and safety. What we can do with Shareece. We have a lot of flexibility. It will help us down the road.
We should have a good depth situation … Everson, because of Gerald Washington going down, he had to go play the strong side. That helps us in the long run. We'll be able to use it at times and we'll play it at times. It's a good situation."
(will this defense be able to start at a place farther along than last year?)
"We've grown a little more. We need to see the guys up front coming together. The way I talked about the communication on the offensive line is not how I'm talking about the defensive line. They're a bit behind in that regard. But I think we should be able to be pretty formidable right from the start.
If we do have some injury situations we have some guys that can play that will be well equipped and will be able to take on the challenges of being a starter and play to that level. We take pride in that and have positioned ourselves to handle issues if they come up."
(which players have stepped up to take up the leadership void on defense?)
"Kevin Ellison is really a great leader. Cary Harris has proven so much through the years. He's a tough guy. Rey has really taken over. Cush is a guy that everyone looks up to. Luthur has a real quality about him. Clay, all those guys are leadership guys. Not just the older guys. You couldn't get better leadership qualities than you get out of Christian Tupou. He's the hardest playing guy on the team. He just keeps doing things. All of those aspects of leadership, fitted together, suit those guys."
(how has the personality of the team changed?)
"I think we are a little more energetic. A little more outgoing. We had more quiet leaders last year. Keith Rivers was like that. Sam Baker was quiet. JD was like that. These guys are more outspoken and vocal. There is a lot of energy in this group. If you've watched our second half of spring ball, the finish this last week has been great.
We'll have great work today again and it should be a very high level scrimmage (tomorrow). This is a very competitive looking game we're playing tomorrow. I think you'll see a lot of juice in that. That's probably the difference. The QB play might be different. We'll get more movement out of our QBs than we have in the past."
(on playing Ohio State in the home opener and whether you have to do anything different for a game of that magnitude)
"No. We don't do anything different. We have a great opener (at Virginia). Then we have a bye to get ready for the second game. That format for us has really provided for us like we have two openers. We have two totally different situations. We have so much time to get ready for the second game. And whenever you play at home early in the season it's a blast. The fact that it's a big-time team from the Big Ten makes it that much more special for the fans and anyone that follows us. But for us, we'll follow the format that we always have."
(re: Turner and Ausberry)
"David's caught up. He's a different style player than Patrick. They are both 6-5 but play differently. You see David run so strongly with the football after the catch. Patrick is more of the intricate route runner. With his experience, all of that really helps us. Those two guys give us a great 1-2 punch at that position. We've always loved having a big guy at that position.
"It's going to be interesting to see what Jordan Cameron can do. You don't know much about him but he's an exceptional athlete. He's 6-5 and has a 40 inch vertical and has great hand eye coordination and will be in the same mold as guys that we've had. We're really excited about seeing what he can do."