Kiffin wraps up minicamp

"I'm really pleased about the five practices that we had in three days," said head coach Lane Kiffin. "It was great to see guys working and getting themselves out of the training room and getting onto the field. I'm really pleased where we're at right now, but obviously we still have a lot of work to do."

How important is the competition aspect of practice between the offense and defense?

Lane Kiffin: It's the theme of our program here — competition. It's not just on the depth chart, it's all around. It's offense versus defense. We're just motivating them every day to get them out here and get them to work. I don't know of any other way to do that and create competition. So we try to do it at the end of practice, in all of our team drills, keeping score and putting balls in different positions, and also putting guys in pressure situations as well.

What was the one thing you wanted to get accomplished in this camp above all others?

Lane Kiffin: Practice tempo, no doubt…guys understanding how to come out here and practice at this speed, especially with a lot of college guys coming in, understanding how to stay up so that we're looking after safety as well. I think we made a lot of strides there.

Was the tempo as good today as it was when you started on Friday?

Lane Kiffin: Yeah, it was. I actually think it was better. Guys are getting used to it, and it helps too that there was only one practice today so they're not having that weight of having a second practice today. I thought today was great.

How closely do you stick to your practice script?

Lane Kiffin: I change it up a lot actually. I watch how practice is going, the tempo they're working, and if the players are working in individuals and the tempo is great, I'll cut down individuals. I'll cut some plays out of team or seven-on-seven depending on how it's going. I do that for the coaches as well, to keep them in different situations, different things that they aren't prepared for because that's football.

What did you want to see out of JaMarcus [Russell] and what did you see?

Lane Kiffin: First off, I wanted to see him come out here and just be able to handle the pressure of the whole new environment and playbook; and a new huddle, and getting in and out of the huddle. We weren't expecting great things right away, obviously, because there is so much thrown at him. We're pleased with where he's at, and as soon as we get him back here we've got a lot of work to do with him.

How hard is it not to have [JaMarcus Russell] here after this?

Lane Kiffin: We get him back on May 14, I believe, so it won't be that long. He'll be back here for OTAs (Organized Team Activities).

What team activities do you have next?

Lane Kiffin: On May 15, OTA days start. Next week there's lifting.

Do you agree with the practice the NFL has for not letting draft picks come back until they finish school?

Lane Kiffin: Yeah, I do agree with it because I think that if you did it the other way, there's a lot of guys on this team that are just fighting their way to try to make the team, and so they feel that if they're staying and going to school they're losing out on a chance, so I totally agree with it.

Do you have a timetable on when you would like to see [Jeremy] Newberry get out on the field?

Lane Kiffin: No, I don't. Once again, we don't set timetables on those things because we don't know enough. We let him go one-a-days for three practices, three of the five. We're just going to take it in steps. We're not going to push him too far, and see what we can get out of him.

Will the tackles be assigned a right or left side by the time you get to training camp or will you still be evaluating them in training camp?

Lane Kiffin: We don't know yet. We're going to come out of this camp and study this. I would think we'd still have open competition going into the next one at this point, and we'll figure it out after that.

What happened at the end? Did you let them go early when [Sebastian] Janikowski made a field goal?

Lane Kiffin: We had hour-long meetings after this, the last meetings before they take off. So, same thing, competition, putting guys in situations, putting Janikowski in a 48-yard field goal I think it was right there. And if he made it, they got meetings off, and if he missed it, they had meetings. So he made it and it was a good thing because there would have been some guys down if he had missed it. It worked out good.

How much has the evaluation process of the roster started?

Lane Kiffin: The evaluation process on our roster started the day that we got here. These guys know everything you do counts, and we're taking it all in. We're watching everything, figuring out the right guys for us to win.

Is the competition on defense the same type of competition on offense since most guys on the defense are returning?

Lane Kiffin: Yeah, no doubt. We watch practice here, and we see different guys in. If you want to make a ‘first team' that goes out there, it's not always the same. We'll rotate different guys in, getting guys different shots, and so they are playing with some of the veterans. We're seeing different mixtures of people and seeing how they play in that. We don't just wait and say, ‘Okay, well, here's the first team, second team, third team. Well, here, now all you rookies go in.' Now they're all scrambling around. They're not with the great quarterback, and they don't all have the same chance because the linebacker has a different front four in front of him. We're trying to give guys opportunities and create competition.

How important is the ability of the tight end to drop into the open spots of the defense? This guy [Zach] Miller seems to be pretty good at it.

Lane Kiffin: Yeah, Zach has a really good feel for the game. That was a big part of picking him. Watching him, he's a football player that digs in there and grinds away. His coaches called him the best competitor they ever had. So those are the type of guys you're looking for, and at the same time he has great football savvy as well.

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