Did you do a lot of top-secret stuff today? - “Yes. We scrimmaged. It was great. Guys played hard. I think we’re making big strides, got a lot of material in and I think they are handling it okay. And we’ll just keep piling on for a few more days and then go back and clean it all up and really get to some game planning.”
Has the team heeded your advice about keeping things internal? - “Yeah, I think they’ve been pretty focused for a while and we’re at that point where, practice eight, something like that - it seems like practice 80 to them but they are powering pretty good and I think there’s pretty good energy. Tomorrow will be an important day for us and then rest their legs a little bit and get back at it.”
Does it feel like you’re further ahead this year compared to at this same time last year? - “In some ways yes. But I always think that’s a hard question to answer until you play. It’s always, is that side of the ball real good or is that side of the ball real bad, or just a bad play? Why is all this happening? From my vantage point everybody separates to their own little corners and makes sure their group is performing how they need to. But for me it’s, that’s good but your worried about the guys that just gave up something or didn’t make a play. So it’s hard until we play. But I do think the guys, for as much material as we have in right now, it feels a little different.”
Did you plan the red zone day to give the offense confidence after the defense got off to such a good start this past week? - “I’d like to tell you I was that smart and really had that in my back pocket…no (laughs). A lot of that goes to the coordinators. We’re just going to put in run-down type thinking, third down-type thinking, red zone…where does it all fit? It was time to work a little red zone. You look where your scrimmage days are going to be and we hope we’re going to be around the goal line or the red zone. If not, we’ll create that, so we’ve got to have that package in. So that’s what that was really all about. I think the offense is doing some things. They did a nice job again today. There was some big plays out there again. You’d like to see that by the offense, but then you’re looking and going okay, defense where are we?”
On impressions from first week of practice - “… You see some strides out of guys, you see some strides out of sides of the ball. I don’t think it’s just one side dominating all. I think our defense early on was really doing a really good job, and I think the offense got enough stuff in now they’re countering a little bit. And I think maybe getting back to your point was, last year maybe at this time we had the same stuff in and there would be too many mistakes on offense, and now they can handle it just a little bit better and not shoot themselves in the foot and be able to attack back.”
You talked last season about receivers not winning enough 50-50 balls, etc. Any progress there so far? - “I haven’t seen enough 50-50 balls, but I have seen some pretty good route-running. I’ve seen some pretty good catches. So for that specific 50-50, jury’s still out on that. That’s going to be a work in progress all season long. But I have seen receivers do some pretty good things. They’re going against some pretty good corners each day in the secondary, so I think that iron sharpens iron thought is a good thing for us.”
Any way to coach that aside from live reps? - “I think you can get it in 1-on-1s. I think you can get it in 7-on-7. So I don’t think it all has to be live. I think there’s different ways. We don’t have to scrimmage to get those. They’re still going to be few and far between. We may go a practice without a 50-50 ball. So when we get a chance, we’ve got to compete for it and learn from it.
On tight ends being an important group for the team this year - “I think so. We’ve been saying all along, even from the spring, that we thought that our tight ends need to be a good group for us. We’ve got some experienced guys there. they’re unique, they all kind of have a different skill set. That’s kind of how we like to use the tight ends anyway. We’ll mix and match them and move them around. They can be pass receivers, they can be good run blockers, they can be fullbacks. They can do all those different things. So we’ve got to try to create those mismatches."
On depth in the secondary — is that group as good as we think they are? - “Probably not — not as good as you think they are (chuckles). We haven’t played yet. I think they’re good — (but) we’re kind of back to square one. We won’t know that until we play our first game. We’ve been pleased with what they’re doing out there, without question. But to really say how good they are, I mean, I don’t know. We’ll find out here on (Sept. 3).”
Strausser said he feels better about the O-line depth now than the last couple years. What have you seen from the line so far? - “I’m always worried about depth, always. Because I just know how fast that changes. We’re talking about the corners — we’ve got a lot of corners, but I just know (if) one or two (go down), all of a sudden everything changes. And I’d say the same thing with the O-line. I think he probably feels more like … guys have heard it before, so you put a guy in there and it’s not, you can only run these two plays because it’s a new guy in there. So going into Year 3 that probably helps everybody.”
On early impressions of Vicis helmets - “I think it’s all still a work in progress. Some guys are getting used to them; some guys like them a bunch. I think there’s 13 different styles of helmets out there, so some guys got used to one. I think the majority of our team really likes ’em. Time will tell (as) we do a little more hitting and those types of things and see what comes out it.”
One thing the players seem to like is the increased peripheral vision created the new helmets - “So I can’t remember the exact percentage — 13 or 18 percent more vision. It’s cut back wider, which is a really big advantage in terms of putting that on and making it feel like you can just see. I think that’s really smart by those guys, Vicis, designing it that way. It’s all about safety — that’s what we’re talking about — but to make it more effective as well, that’s really pretty good.”