Bret Bielema: When we planned this thing out before spring started, we had a good scrimmage today but just because of certain situations, injuries at certain positions, we were only able to scrimmage the last segment. We did red zone and goal line. I thought the kids came out with great energy today. You don't play hard today, you're not. It was a great day today. The first good weather day we've been able to go outside. I like some of the things we did, especially the last route here, Curt Phillips being able to move the ball a little bit here towards the end. Some guys are stepping up and making improvement. Got nine down, six to go.
What do you think of John Clay out there?
Bret Bielema: John's an impressive player. He doesn't say anything. He just works and I like the way the kids respond to him. I've said that before. Offense and defense when John starts running, everybody gets quiet to see what he can do.
Gilreath had a heck of a catch out there. Talk about his strides so far?
Bret Bielema: Again kind of like we said last week, he's taking some steps forward as a wide receiver. We all know what he can do in the return game but I really like the way he is focusing on being a better receiver and catching the ball well.
When you look at the four running backs you are working with, does anything stand out at this point?
Bret Bielema: P.J. we would expect to be the best at doing the day-to-day and every down things and he's probably shown how to do that. Lance Smith is doing certain things for us in the backfield and some of the abilities we are using him on some perimeter throws and catches. Zach has been a little banged up, got his forearm banged up a little bit. John just continues to get better the more reps he gets.
Some of the former players that we out here today just watching practice said we got four pretty good running backs and I said absolutely. It's a good situation for us
How many running backs can you realistically use in a season, at any given time, if they were all healthy?
Bret Bielema: I don't know if there's a season answer but you can answer in a game. It's very hard to get more than two guys involved in a game plan. Three, if there's a specific role for that third guy. Probably based off what you see, a running back in the rhythm of the game is doing some good things it's hard to get him out of there.
How do you think Evridge is coming along at quarterback?
Bret Bielema: Well I like what he did today. He kind of tweaked his hamstring the other day and to come out here, I really didn't see anything negative as far as his movement. He's got a better understanding of the offense than he did a year ago at this time. I think his huddle presence is a little bit better, as well.
He's a guy a lot of people are expecting to be the starting quarterback next year. Is that going to his head at all?
Bret Bielema: That's probably a question for him. I haven't seen anything different from him. I know he has certain expectations because he's a senior and his final year of college eligibility. The outside world and the expectations they have, we can not control those things.
How good does it feel to practice outside and be back outside?
Bret Bielema: It feels good and next weekend we're going to practice in the evenings rather than the early morning. We feel we might be able to get outside in the evenings and obviously it's better for us in kicking. It was great today to get out here and obviously the first punt was a little gruesome but after that, Brad DeBauche and also I was really happy with how Philip Welch was able to punt the football. As you saw to, our return guys just got to get use to fielding the football with a full kick.
It seemed like the defense dominated the scrimmage. Is that a bad day by the offense or a good day for the defense?
Bret Bielema: Not what I saw. The offense scored in two plays against the No.1 defense in the red zone. When they back out there, they scored again so they were 0-for-2 in the first live scrimmage situation. There were parts during practice predisposed for the defense to have success – third and six, third and eight, third and 10 and third and 12. Those should be defensive stops.
I like the way how the offense responded once we went live in the red zone. Two plays and they were in the end zone.
Is Jay Valai taking advantage of this opportunity?
Bret Bielema: I think him and Aubrey both. You know, they've improved quite a bit – Aubrey from a year ago to where he is right now and Jay with the momentum playing in the bowl game. It's classic example. At one point, Jay during the fall was a guy that came into my office and I thought was thinking about if he needed to be here. We made some things happen for him that were positive and now he's in the position potentially to be a starter on the defensive unit as a sophomore.
Coach, one more question on Allan Evridge …
Bret Bielema: You doing a story on him?
Yeah. What's the biggest strength you have seen in him thus far?
Bret Bielema: Allan has game experience. He started for a year as freshman at Kansas State and as he have been able to move through his career, he's seen different quarterbacks have success. John Stocco was a guy he could just watch from the sidelines and not be involved and then obviously last year when TD was a starter, I am sure if affected Allan. He wanted to be a starter but he was able to learn and process throughout the course of the year and now his opportunity is here and I am anxious to see what he does.
You talked a little about Curt (Phillips) in that last offensive series. What did you like about that offensive series that he ran?
Bret Bielema: Well he made a nice throw on the sideline pattern over there and converted a couple third downs. One thing that Curt can do is when he starts running, he has some wheels and has the ability to do it. He went the wrong way though the one time you probably saw. He's a freshman in his second month of being a college student. He's making some steps forward and that's all you can ask him to do.
Bret, Butrym is getting some reps with the first team here. Once everybody comes back from injury, where do you maybe see him going?
Bret Bielema: Patrick was one of the guys running with our ones but a week ago Tuesday, he injured his shoulders a little bit. The thing I like about him is he lived in training room to get out here today. It was important for him for himself to scrimmage and that's what I like about him. It seems to me that Patrick, it's very important for him to play and now wait for his sophomore, junior, senior year, he wants to play next year. He reported at 228 and I think on Monday he weighed 268. He's put on 40 pounds and it's important to him.
But like when Chapman and Newkirk come back, where do you see him fitting into that mix?
Bret Bielema: Obviously because of what Chapman and Newkirk have done, they'll be in front of him. But those guys could be sitting on the sidelines next fall just as easily as they are right now. That's where he needs to be and have an understanding. I really like the work our defensive tackles – Jasper Grimes, Patrick Butrym, Jeff Stehle (he's playing as good of football as he's played) – because they have gotten so many reps. It's just reinforces in the coach's minds that the more reps they get, the better they become.
Coach with all the injures on defense, not just the line, who else has stepped us this spring that perhaps you didn't see coming?
Bret Bielema: Well again those guys I just mentioned. Jeff Stehle in particular is probably playing as good as I have seen. The flip side to that, anytime you have any type of injury, you have some surprises. Josh Neal is a guy that has played I think four different positions now in our program. He's shown that he could give us some success in a limited role. I really like the development of a couple linebackers – Blake Sorensen and Culmer St. Jean. I really feel that they have move forward in being able to play their specific position.
Was the turnout with the coaches as high as always is?
Bret Bielema: Yesterday at the clinic, all the rooms were packed. I heard a number of 3400 and that's right about what it was last year. We had some great draws out there. The Appalachian State coaches were really big draws for people and the Oregon State coaches did a great job Thursday night.
The other thing that's been very beneficial for us, we've been able to invite in speakers from across the country out of our recruiting areas. Last year, Aaron Henry's coach from Immokalee spoke and Ken Leonhard, Leonard Hubbard's coach, came and spoke. So it's a great way for us legally to fly in coaches from different parts and they are probably the best lectures because they don't play against the guys in the room. Coaches get a little anxious when they tell their opponents what they are doing. That's been a great part for that clinic.