Bielema: Last year when we came back from spring break, my thinking was they just had nine to 10 days off, we'll put them in a full intense, hard, full-padded practice and it was probably one of our worst practices of the spring. So what we tried to do this year as a coaching staff, the NCAA mandates we take a third day in just helmets out of the 15 practices, we used that for what we did today, kind of going back to last Tuesday and Saturday, just focus on the fundamentals, hand placement and body position and try to get good at the basics, which make us a better football team.
Where's Hodge at from when you left ?
We could not get him in to see the doctor until this afternoon. Our thought is today, he went through some limited stuff with the gear and the trainers did not want to put him through drills and make him full go until the doctors saw him today. Hopefully Thursday he'll be ready to mix it up on the inside on some limited things. It probably won't be a full practice.
It seems you guys are really taking advantage of Lance Smith's athleticism by using him as a wide receiver. How did that discussion go?
Well Lance has a lot of athletic ability. The tough part was we really tried to do some things, and you guys saw over limited bowl practices, and he tweaked his hamstring if I am not mistaken right before the bowl game. This is a continuation of that. Lance has got a lot of skills that he can bring to the table. The thing I like about him, the first day was a little rough and we wanted to get him more reps. Him and I had a nice discussion and I told him that talent does not get you on the field, production does and I think he sees that certain plays are designed for him to get the football and that's what he gets even more excited about.
Ricky Garner is out now?
Apparently he tweaked his hamstring in individual work. They don't think it's very serious and they did not want him to go through today and not go through Thursday. I wanted to err on having him on full pads on Thursday because really, the defensive end, I have been really excited about the progress of Dan Moore and (O'Brien Schofield) in particular. Ricky isn't there physically yet but he's probably a lot better than he was a year ago at this time.
They aren't going to need you to suit up soon will they?
(laughs) Charlie (Patridge, defensive line coach) is voting for it. But I am enjoying. I've been working with the defensive tackles for a couple of periods and it's kind of fun for me. One of the things that I wanted to do was to be involved with the defensive line during individual period.
Where's Louis Nzegwu at? You know, Louis was a running back more in high school and we had him in camp and really felt that that could be something for him down the line. He's really probably one of our better pass rushers not knowing what he needs to do but he's got a tremendous learning curve that he needs to go through right now. He just needs to learn to mentally concentrate during the course of practice just as much as physical concentration.
You mentioned the wide receivers that somebody has to step up there this spring. How important is this spring for a guy like Anderson, who has an injury history and did not play last year?
Him and Xavier (Harris) both. When they first came in, we were high on them potential wise. Xavier went ahead and played last year and Isaac came to me and was a little bit banged up, but I also think he saw a lot of players in front of him at the time. He asked me to redshirt and took advantage of it. His body has changed. He's put on weight and I've been happy with him through the first couple practices and showing up again today. I think it is important for him right now to get on the field, not just because he's been sitting for long but that first year, I don't know if there were two to three weeks his freshman season when he was totally healthy.
What have you seen from Dustin Sherer that you really have been impressed with so far?
The thing I like about Dustin is that he's given the signals the last two years. He's into the game and I think for a quarterback, just to sit and observe over the last two years, his first year with John Stocco and learning kind of a different way of looking at the game versus the way Tyler Donovan looked at things. So, it's been a great learning curve for him. It's very important to Dustin. There's a lot of talk, obviously, because Allan came in, a transfer quarterback, and anything there is a newly recruited quarterback they get a lot of publicity and Dustin has been waiting in the shadows. I thought going into spring ball that he'd be a guy that makes a run.
When do you start pairing down the quarterback runs?
Well, really after Saturday. Our intention Saturday is to go through a 40-minute practice and then get some extensive scrimmage work and see how those guys handle the bullets with things coming at them. We'll probably going ones vs. twos just to try and create some good reads for our quarterbacks and a understanding from what they can process down the field.
Niles Brinkley still in the running? Who else?
Mario Goings, throughout the course of spring, has probably been the most consistent. Otis (Merrill) understands the concept and has the ability to do some things. Niles has tremendous talent, got a little hung up with a leg injury on that third practice but he'll be ready to go in a bit.
How much time did Otis miss last year?
He practiced basically three days. The third practice he slipped his shoulder out and he was out all the way to bowl practices and even then, he wasn't 100 percent. I thought it was great our defensive coaches recognized he's got great talent. I sat him down yesterday and said ‘Hey, you got the ability.' It's one thing to not have the ability and coach you up but he's got to go every play. That's one of the things I appreciate from those Glenville (H.S.) kids. They love to compete. He's just got to get out more of that. He needed a couple more years at Glenville because those other guys really enjoy the competition.
Coming back from spring break, are you pleased with the injury the guys brought today?
I am. I was very excited today. Our coaches had a huge emphasis with it yesterday, had meeting with them yesterday afternoon, and we emphasized again a year ago at this time, we went full pads, hard practice and it was not a great atmosphere, wasn't a great feeling leaving the field. But today, there's been great energy and excitement and hopefully this will parlay into Thursday and Saturday, pretty tough days.
You talked last year about David Gilreath not being able to concentrate at wide receiver so much because of special teams stuff. Is this spring important for him?
I think it is. I have deliberately very slow in implementing special teams phases because he can run out and catch punts all day but he doesn't have to learn the concept of kickoff returns. The biggest thing he had to go through and develop as the year went on was to begin to learn the concepts. I think just in the beginning phases, he's got to be stronger with the football in his hands. But, I have never has a kid brag to me about putting on six pounds but that's like 10 percent of his body weight. He really made a conscious effort during the off season to build himself up, too.
Everything go smoothly with Mike Newkirk's surgery a week ago Friday?
The procedure went very well. They were very excited when they got in. Mike's kind of a freak genetically. He didn't have much swelling and I saw him yesterday for the first time, he did research on his rehab, and he said a good aggressive rehab is great for this surgery. So he's all excited. It just shows to me how you approach things mentally has such a huge factor on things physically, especially when you're working with injuries.
Is he still going to be back by summer workouts?
Yes. That's the reason we basically went ahead with the surgery. His surgery wasn't anything compared to what Travis, Garrett and other guys in the past have had. This is the first one of those surgeries that I have been around from a football coach's standpoint. They expect him to be back within an eight week margin.