How was the first day? “It’s always good to be out there the first day. Thought the guys worked hard, ran around good. Sometimes it’s hard to get the real good work you want without shoulder pads on, but I thought we got some real good work out there."
On where Jake Browning is now compared to a year ago “Day 1, I think all the guys that we had, it shows up pretty loud and clear. Hopefully Day 7 we won’t be overwhelmed like a lot of times the new guys are. There’s just a lot more command. I think with all the guys that were here, not only Jake, but all those freshmen we played. At least they know the drills. They might not know the plays, but they know the drills.”
On what improves the most in that time “Well, you hope it’s the command, and it’s all these subtle things. How he operates in the pocket, and throwing the ball with a little more anticipation. It’s all the subtle things that I think are hard to see by just the average person kind of watching ball.”
On what the emphasis was with him this offseason “Just everything we’re talking about. The command of the system, to know it. It’s one thing to be a chalkboard expert. It’s another thing to be a field commander, and that just comes with a lot of reps.”
On moving some people around at tight end “I think that’s a really important position for this offense. It’s hard to find that one guy that can do everything – that can run like a receiver, block like a lineman, smart enough to move them around. We need a bunch of guys there, so we’re looking at different guys. Will Dissly, he may be one of those guys that’s truly a two-way player, (and) we don’t just lock him totally into tight end. We know he can play defensive end and he’s a real valuable guy that – we kind of threw him in there at the end, bowl-game wise, and he did a nice job, so we’d maybe like to increase his package a little bit. But we’ll concentrate him at the tight end position and kind of go from there.”
On Jeff Lindquist at tight end “Like I said from the start, he’s such an awesome person, and he wants to contribute any way he can. That’s what we want, too. We want to be able to get this good athlete on the field, whether it’s special teams, tight end, quarterback, it doesn’t matter – we just want to play guys that can help us win."
How does John Ross look? “I think he looks good. John Ross always looks good. With a little luck we’ll keep him healthy and do some good things.”
What’s his schedule like for spring? “He’s good. He’s good to go. I think any time a guy has a significant injury like that, we’ll always monitor it and we may pull back, but he didn’t miss a rep today, so we’ll just take it day by day. We don’t have to win spring ball with him. We’ve got to have him ready to play in September.”
On what he hopes Ross learned about playing receiver last year while sitting out “Like I said before, John Ross has played very little receiver. Since he’s been here, he’s really been all defense, and then by the time we got him back, he didn’t make it out of spring ball. And so I think expectations are great, but expectations need to be kept in check. We all know the explosive player that John is, but it’s not fair to him to expect him to be the answer to solve all of our issues. He’s got to develop, and he will, because he’s a very committed, very focused, hard-working guy, but he’s played no offense since we’ve been here and we’ve got to keep that in mind. He’s going to take a while to develop, and one day at a time.”
Has he lost any speed since the injury? “He’s so explosive that it’s hard to know. If he has, he’s still faster than most. But like I said, I think he’s still getting all of this strength back, and as long as he’s got it all back by September, we’ll feel good about things.”
On the program being where he wants it going into Year Three “I think so. I think we’re pointed in the right direction, and now we need to go. You’re never there. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been somewhere. A lot of times you start from scratch and it’s two steps forward and one step back. We understand that. But we’re definitely pointed in the right direction and I think the kids are hungry and now it’s time to just build on everything we’ve done the last couple years.”
On strong finish last season "All the lessons, the good lessons, the bad, the hard lessons."
Even the middle part? Absolutely. That might be the strongest lesson that we learned. That it takes time. It takes time to build true skill. Everybody is impatient. Starting with the fans. No let me back up - starting with the coaches. Going quickly to the fans (and) going to our players. They want it right now, but true skill takes time and it has to be persistent, consistent and day after day. And if we can keep that mindset, we'll go somewhere."
On biggest question mark "I would just say that if we can continue to keep that hunger and that edge. I think we have some talent, but if we truly have that scratch, claw, underdog mentality that every day is truly as important as any day that we've had - not when we show up to play a game. I think the kids did a great job with that all of last year, but have we lost any of that because it's spring ball? The game is not for five months away, or whatever.
On question as it pertains to a position battle "There's some position, which might have a little more depth which is awesome because you get tremendous competition there. But there's no question that for us to do what we need to do every group needs to step up. If the defense thinks that we've arrived because of what we did last year - that was last year. We lost some pretty good players off of last year's team. And you lose one, two, three or four - you lose Tani Tupou who no one is really talking about. That guy was the heart and soul of that defense. That changes everything. So we got to start from scratch there. And then on offense obviously we got to score more points. We had a good finish, but we were average in terms of our overall picture. And so we need to have that hunger and that urgency to get something really done."
On BUCK linebackers "We'll have another good couple of buck linebackers when it's said and done. I don't know who that is right now, but I know that we have some really good coaches and we have some young talent so some guys will emerge. Excited to see that battle go."
Joe Mathis at BUCK - “Those guys are so interchangeable. That BUCK is a defensive end half the time… or maybe three-quarters of the time he’s a defensive end and one quarter he’s a drop guy. A little bit like the tight end position. They might have a certain strength we’ll play to, but they can do multiple things.”
On moving Coleman Shelton to Center - “Going back to last year we really wanted to get him some reps in their last year but he was hurt for all of spring ball so we couldn’t get that done. He’s extremely smart…one, he’s extremely competitive, and three, he’s athletic. Those are always good combination for a center.”
Ever see a guy play all five spots along the offensive line? - “Coach Strausser over the years has moved a lot of guys around, so I don’t want to say no, but I think that’s a testament to Coleman and his mental capacity and how athletic he is.”
On Ikaika Malloe - “We’re excited about Ikaika, think he’s going to bring tremendous energy to that d-line, and really to our whole program. It’s always good to have new blood and change is good. We certainly miss coach Choate and know he’s going to do some awesome things at Montana State, but it really is. We tell the d-linemen…any time you get a new coach, it’s like look at all the wonderful things you’ve learned from that coach. Because we’re going to get a great coach in here. Look at the opportunity you get to learn all these new little tricks to the trade, it’s an unbelievable opportunity for those guys.”
Someone have to pick up the slack for the energy and noise? - “I think Ikaika’s got some juice to him. I don’t know if anyone is as loud as coach Choate but we’ll get a close second.”
Hype for Gaskin - “I think he’s a really good player. But we have to manage these expectations. He’s a true sophomore and hopefully he can take the next little step. He played at a high level, we had a lot of luck keeping him healthy, so all those things play into it. But he’s pretty focused, he’s pretty even-keeled guy, which is what you like. Hopefully he stays off social media and stops reading about himself and just stays focused. It’s usually not a problem, but it’s a problem for everybody else, so we’ll see if we can keep him grounded.”
What are the expectations for the season? - “You’re talking about stuff so far away…I don’t want that to be the expectation of this team. I want it to be on Wednesday. I mean that sincerely. I know that’s so easy for the coaches to talk about but if they are thinking about that…if they are thinking about that right there, there’s probably a good chance we’re not going there. We need to be thinking about how good they’re going to be on Wednesday and get a little bit better. And it really needs to be like that; how good can this spring ball be? If we’re talking about going to the Rose Bowl, that is so out of whack right now. It’s not even fair. It’s the wrong thinking.”
On Deontae Cooper - “Coop…great kid. We all know that. Wanted more touches. He thinks this opportunity is going to give him a chance to do that.”
On the women’s basketball team making the Final Four - “Oh yeah! I think it’s tremendous. You talk about just keeping things, staying focused and kind of almost flying under the radar and just getting better at the most important time…really excited for them and I think it’s great…that’s what we ought to be looking at, the women’s basketball team. Not Rose Bowls. Let’s stay focused on that. One game, one day at a time - and if we can have that mentality, maybe we can get something done. Hat’s off to the gals for sure.”