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Football media day press conference

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Football media day press conference

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The following is a transcript of the opening press conference by University of Arkanass Head Coach Bobby Petrino, Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino and Defensive Coordinator Willy Robinson to begin the 2008 Razorback Football Media Days. The questions were from the assembled media at the event.

Bobby Petrino

(Opening Statement)

“It was good to get started yesterday. Our coaches and our players were excited to get out on the field. Obviously, handling the heat and being able to practice as efficient as we wanted, I wasn’t as happy with the practice, but we did get a lot accomplished. When you go back and watch the video you see good things that maybe you don’t see when you’re on the field and we’re not working at the tempo that we’re working at. We’ve just got to get use to that. We’re bringing the freshmen out early about 45 minutes of individual technique so that when the vets come out and join them they know the drills and they can repeat that. It’s an opportunity for them to get caught up and compete for a position that’s why we do that. At that, I think I’ll just open it up for questions.”

In the spring you were pretty physical and did a lot of ones-vs.-ones. I’m wondering when you put the gear on this time, will it be as physical and will you go as long as you did in the spring?

“We will definitely work on the physical part of the game. I do believe that you do some type of hitting every day and you get use to it and you get better at it. I believe that’s how you stay healthy. There will be a time when you quit doing ones-vs.-ones and you do more of what we call cross over where you still have a very fast look with ones vs. twos and the twos are giving us a different defense, playing that off cards. Then there’s a part where you go against scouts, but we will always do some periods where it is ones-vs.-ones, but not quite as much as we did in the spring.”

Coach could you tell if with the volunteer workouts if they have improved since the spring, are they where you thought they would be right now?

“They definitely worked hard in the summer in the voluntary workouts. I’m not sure it all showed up yesterday, simply because of the adjustment to the faster tempo and the heat and some anxiety. There were certainly some guys out there trying a little bit too hard and when you do that you kind of wear out a little quicker. I do think the timing of the passing game and that is certainly ahead of where the first day of spring practice was, but like I said, I think we have a long way to go as far as being able to keep our intensity, our practicing with a purpose, because there was a point we hit yesterday because of the heat and the fatigue that some guys were practicing to get through the practice as opposed to practicing to get better.”

Casey Dick has some real experience, but it seems all the other guys have some question marks around them. What are you expecting to see out of those other quarterbacks as you get ready for the first game?

“Nathan (Dick) has really improved since we started spring last year, there’s no question about that. He knows the offense better. I’m impressed with his movement and his feel in the pocket. Again, I’ve said this before, we really might not know how good Nathan is until it’s live tackle and he has the chance to move out of the pocket and make plays. Because when you’re not hitting the quarterback, you blow the whistle early or he moves and throws the ball when he could have run for 15 yards. He has a real good sense of where the pass rush is coming and how to move. I think he’s throwing the ball a lot better. Alex Mortenson continues to do a good job of operating the offense, particularly in the run game. He understands what we want to do. He made a couple of good checks yesterday in that aspect. The two young freshmen were at an all-time anxiety high yesterday they were trying to go as fast as they possibly could, so we’ve got to get that slowed down and be more precise with their footwork and just relax a bit. They were both pushing and trying real hard, and that’s not that unusual. That happens in the first practice. They are both very competitive and they both want to do real well. They just need to relax and become accustom to the tempo and the speed of the game.”

How difficult is it to reprogram a quarterback that’s on his fourth offensive coordinator in four years. Every year he’s had someone different. How hard is it to deprogram him?

“I guess I never thought about any deprogramming or anything like that. We just try to install our offense and really work hard on his technique. I’ve been really impressed with Casey on how much his technique has improved and how coachable he is. The greatest thing about him is he tries to listen to exactly what you say and then he tries to do it the next time. That gives him a chance to keep getting better and really have a good year for us. His footwork has improved tremendously. When we tell him he needs to sit on your third step before you deliver the ball, he’s worked hard at doing that. I think his accuracy has really gone up. I look forward to him having a really good year for us.”

Talk about the advantages of having an experienced offensive and defensive line when you’re putting in new systems and working early with new players.

“That allows you to be able to build our team with the young skill guys that we have. I would much rather come into a new situation where we have experience on the offensive front and experience on the defensive front and have young, inexperience at the skill positions because we know the offensive line and the defensive line really control the game. They give the quarterback an opportunity to have some time and space to throw the ball. I think our defensive line has a chance to really grow and get better. They’ve had a very good summer. They’re stronger, they’re faster and I thought that Adrian Davis and Jake Beckett had real good practices yesterday, and I’m looking forward to seeing our inside guys getting more work too.”

I know you weren’t happy with Casey yesterday, but how much do think the spring helped out his confidence to kind of realize that you’re going to ask him to make plays rather than just trying to avoid mistakes?

“He is much more confident, there’s no question. The last scrimmage prior to the spring game he executed well, distributed the ball, had an understanding of what he was seeing and where to go with it. In the spring game, for the most part, he did a nice part. He got bogged down a couple of times in the Red Zone. He knows that we have high expectations for him, and he’s starting to have those same expectations out of himself. Like I said, as long as he can see the coverage, distribute the ball properly, I really think his accuracy and his timing have improved a lot.”

Offensively, is the team where you want it to be as far as learning what you’re trying to do after the spring, or this there a lot of teaching?

“Oh, there’s a lot of teaching. A lot. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. There was pretty good carryover from the first practice. We’ve already basically gone through that two times already, and there was good carryover. They were communicating well up front so you knew they had an understanding of what we’re doing. I’m excited about our running backs, there’s going to be some young speed. Guys who work hard. I thought the running backs worked hard yesterday. Michael Smith did a nice job and was giving us some good leadership out there. DeAnthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson I thought showed their abilities. I think that we’ve got a chance to keep improving but we’ve got a long way to go, there’s no doubt about that.”

Can you talk about the new “Jack” position, and what kind of player you’re looking for there?

“Well it’s basically we’re going to be playing with an outside linebacker-slash-nickel-slash-strong safety. It’s a kind of a combination of the three. Walner Leandre who we didn’t get to see a lot in spring ball in the physical part of it, he was out there in the movement and looked real good and athletic at that. He’s kind of that size that we want. I think it will be a good position for him. Dallas Washington is about 218 pounds and very physical. He came out of spring ball doing a real good job. And then we’ve got some young freshmen to compete for it.”

Can you talk a little bit about Robert Salinas, Ray Dominquez and Alex Tejada and what those guys will bring to your team?

“Well Alex has got to do a great job of being consistent. I know that he wasn’t happy with missing two field goals yesterday. He’s back healthy. He had a tough summer. He had an injury that occurred and we went through that. I think he will be a really steady force for us. We feel like anytime we can get the ball on the 40, 43, yard line we should get three points. He’s got the ability to do that. The other two guys at tackle are going to be very good. They’re doing a nice job, and (Robert) Salinas is a guy that we moved from linebacker to defensive end in all our spring video he showed great ability to rush the passer, is very quick, can bend, and will be utilized as a rush end and a little bit in our nickel and dime package where he can do both, a combination of a linebacker and an end.”

How’s the leadership doing?

“Leadership? Wasn’t as good as I wanted yesterday. But I think throughout the summer they did a nice job. They worked extremely hard. We voted for captains and we did a nice job picking captains. Offensively it’s not hard to know who they are: Casey Dick and Jonathan Luigs. Defensively it’s Jamar Love, Elston Forte and Malcolm Sheppard. That’s who they voted on for captains. And we always do that the first day when we report to camp right before dinner, and the reason that we do it then is we want to make sure they know who the guys are leading them through the summer, who did the good job of organizing things and making sure everyone was there and working hard through the entire summer.”

On the captains, did the defensive guys vote for defense and the offensive guys vote for offense, or did everyone vote?

“No we do it where offense votes for offense and defense votes for defensive captains. There are a lot of times where we didn’t have the freshmen vote, but since they were here all summer long most of them, we did have all the freshmen vote.”

Do the coaches get a vote (on captains), or is it straight players?

“No, the coaches vote. We get the strength coaches involved with it, and all the coaches get a vote. Offensively, it was pretty easy. Defensively, it was close and that’s what we had three captains on defense rather than two. We usually have two on each side of the ball, but because it was so close we decided to have three captains.”

Do you worry about overworking the team with the heat outside, I see you guys are basically working every day. At this point in the summer is that something you take into consideration?

“The first thing that we’ve got to make sure we do a good job of and I’m real happy with our knowledge of how to handle the heat and handle the humidity is that each day we’re careful and we do things right. We’ll always take a break during practice, we have fans set up, we get a lot of Gatorade in them, our new trainer Joe Sheehan spent 12 years with the (Jacksonville) Jaguars in the heat and humidity down there. With all the heat and humidity down there, he knows how to deal with it. That’s the biggest thing. We weigh everybody in before practice. We weigh them in after practice. And then we weigh them again the next morning. We want to see how many pounds they lost in practice, how many they gained back over the night. We had a couple of players that lost up to 10 pounds during practice, and then they gain it back. If they don’t gain a certain percentage of it back then they don’t get to practice the next day. The first and foremost thing is making sure that the health of the player is at mind, and we we’re going to do everything for that. I don’t think we can worry about wearing them out. Everyone has the same amount of practices, but what you do need to do is as we get closer to the game we need to get fresh. We need to get our legs back and we need to make sure we are at full speed. It’s a real timing of when we want to peak and be at our best for that opening game and we’re a long way from there so we get to pound them for a while.”

To reach your full potential this year, how much do you think you will need to get out of your true freshmen?

“I think we’ll need to get a lot, I really do. When you look at our depth at running back, you know, they will have to jump in there and go and the great thing is I think they have the opportunity to be special players. They way they can move their hands. I was impressed with how quickly they learned, how focused they learned, how they paid attention to detail, and the different things we have an opportunity to do with them. At receiver, we’ve got to get production from some of those freshmen and coming out of yesterday, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright showed some real good signs, showed some real speed. Joe dropped one deep ball, but his ability to separate after you get 20 yards down the field is exciting for me because he really has that stride and looked like one of the fastest guys on the field yesterday.”

What about Jarius Wright?

“We were really happy with what he did. He’s the speed and size you want at that position. Talking with Coach (Reggie) Johnson after practice, he’s very focused and really wants to play right now. That helps a lot. He’s a quick learner, too. I like the looks of our freshmen secondary. They’re good looking. They’re big. They’re fast. You look at Khiry Battle and his physical size and look, Matt Marshall, he’s going to end up being one fastest guys on the team for us, certainly very flexible, and real good hips. Tramain Thomas is a taller, longer corner which we’re trying to work to get. But that’s a real good looking crew. Elton Ford, Elton’s a guy that we’ve got to slow down a little bit. He was like the quarterbacks yesterday, he was trying to do everything so hard and so fast that he was a little bit out of control, but he certainly is a big powerful young safety that I think will end up helping us as the year goes on.”

Coach, this summer when you spoke to the high school coaches you mentioned something that you wanted more yardage after the catch from the receivers that you weren’t able to get in the spring. How do you go about getting that out of the guys?

“Well you work on it. You work on running with the ball after the catch. You work on one-on-one tackling and open field run against the defensive backs which is a great drill for both of them. You try to get them in a position where when they catch the ball they’re moving and catching it on the run so you can get more yards after the catch. But we also recruited to it too. That’s one of the strengths that I really think Jay Wright is going to have and Joe Adams is there ability to make things happen after they catch the ball. Carlton Salters is in great shape, he looks faster. He made a couple of real nice moves and runs after the catch which excites me a lot because he has sure hands, he understands how to get open and that was the thing we really wanted to see improvement out of him in the spring was making yards after he catches the ball. I know he’s really making a conscious effort for that.”

How did Jerry Franklin and Ryan Powers, can you tell that they are prepared to take on that role of backup?

“Jerry Franklin looked good and his movement is good. He has more understanding of what we’re doing so he got lined up quicker and faster. A lot of times with linebackers the test is when you put pads on and then you start stepping up and taking blocks on and getting off blocks and making tackles. I think for them, when you’re just in helmets it’s an easy day. You learn more about them once we start hitting.”

Coach, you’re just one day into practice and what are some of the areas you’re looking for individual improvement in players that will allow you to figure out who you can rely on heading into the first game?

“One of the first things is how quickly we move on and take from what we’ll have in the meetings today and last night to practice this afternoon. We continue to install. We’ll be running new plays and new defenses and new things in the kicking game today than from what we did yesterday. So the ability to really take it from the meeting room into the individual technique and fundamentals drills, then into our group drills and that’s why we end it each day with team drills is we want to see how well they carry that over. A lot of times with young players, they will do a nice job in individual drills, your technique work, but when you get into a group drill they’ll still do OK and execute, do alright there. But once you get to that team aspect of it, now things begin to start falling apart a little bit. So we want to see them carry it over and execute when the entire team is put together. And that’s a lot of our coaching. We want to make sure we have a progression of everything we’re doing and make sure that we practice and we’re working towards putting it all together as a unit.”

You have a lot of people at quarterback. How will you split up your time?

“That’s a lot of quarterbacks, and I’ve not been involved with that many. We’re going to have to let it play out for about 10 days and then make some decisions about who the one is, who the two is, and they’ll get most of the reps and most of the work. You need to get more reps for them. Ryan Mallett is going to do as much as he can to get him ready for the future, and we threw him in there yesterday at the end of what we call our pass skelly, or the seven on seven part of it, and he looked really good. He did a real nice job. He’s improved on his footwork. He’s got a great release and throws the ball real accurate. It’s going to be hard on him because he such a natural leader to have to stand there and watch a lot is hard. He’s just going to have to make sure he has a good redshirt year, and he can either have a real good redshirt year or a bad one, and he needs to have a real good one.”

There’s a lot of good QB’s in the SEC. How much might Ryan get on the scout team simulating those other quarterbacks?

“He’ll get some. He did some stuff yesterday. The best thing about Ryan is his personality is such he’ll go do whatever it is you ask him to do. He was happy to run over there and give 15 minutes to the defense. I think it will just be whatever style of quarterback we’re playing that week. If we’re playing the running style and the read-option style, he’ll probably stay over with the offense. If we’re playing the drop-back thrower or the spread offense where they throw the ball a lot then he’ll probably be over there servicing the defense. That’s part of your redshirt year.”

Yesterday, five or six guys were working out at returner and you were working personally with them. How do you narrow that down?

“It’s an area that we make sure we get the right guy back there and coming out of yesterday, Michael Smith did a nice job. He understands what he’s suppose to do and we’ve got to figure out if he’s the guy we want back there, really. I thought Dennis Johnson with the young guys was real natural, a real quick five yard, 10 yard burst which is how you get a really good punt return. DeAnthony Curtis, I mean we’ve got some talent back there it’s just a matter of continuing to work with them, find out when we get the live returns to see who can catch the ball when there’s people running at them. Flashing in front of them and continue to concentrate. I thought Coach (Tim) Horton did a real nice job with the technique and the fundamentals on how to catch it. It will narrow itself down. We’ll continue to work the whole group and sooner or later we’ll figure out who can handle it when the pressure is on.”

So that group is the kick returners?

“No, we had couple of new guys on that. Elton Ford is a guy we want to look at as a kick returner. He was a real powerful running back with a long stride. Sometimes we want to have a little bit bigger kick returner because you have to hit it downhill and have some guys bounce off your hips. So we’ll have a few more guys working back there on kickoff return.”

Seems like the wide receivers were making a lot of catches yesterday, not a lot of balls hitting the ground, at least not as much as was happening in the spring. Do you see a lot of improvement and confidence in the wide receivers being expected to get the ball on a play-by-play basis?

“Yeah, they know they’re going to get the ball and the good thing about that position is there is going to be a lot of competition. It will play itself out. I thought we had a few too many hit the ground yesterday. We expect to have a lot of completions. We expect to not have drops and we’re certainly working toward that.”

In light of the recent problems some players and others indicated you’ve had off the field, have you read these guys the riot act and say that’s it, no more?

“We’ve talked about what our expectations are in the classroom and off the field and how to conduct ourselves socially, and we continue to work hard towards that. Certainly, our players have an understanding that the incidents that happened this summer we are not proud of and it is not going to continue.”

Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino

Can you talk a little bit about your running backs and how you plan to use them this year? Is that by committee, and the two or three guys that will do that?“Coming out of the spring, Michael Smith was definitely the number one guy. A couple of other guys had been injured a little bit. I think our freshmen are really exciting. DeAnthony Curtis the first day out there shows a great burst and really made things happen. Same thing with Dennis Johnson. I think those are definitely three guys that are going to have to carry the load and make things happen and play real well for us. Albert Gary is another freshman who wasn’t here this summer so he’s a little bit behind. The next couple of weeks will really tell who is going to step forward and get the most carries but we will definitely us all of them and whatever their talents are. I think that’s something we’ve always tried to do with our backs, use them to do that.”When you recruit running backs, is it hard to explain to them, listen I know you hear about our offense and how we throw the ball, but look at what we did with Michael Bush at Louisville. Is that something you point out to them?“You could go all four years. Really our first two years at Louisville we averaged over 200 yards a game rushing too. So you can show them Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates, Michael Bush and Coby Smith – all four of those guys made it to the next level and had a lot of carries. It’s easy. The biggest thing in recruiting is when you can get them in and show them film. When you can actually show them film of the offense, I remember sitting down and showing DeAnthony Curtis our whole running back tape and all the different ways we’re going to use the back. I think showing them on film is the biggest thing. That’s what I always try to tell recruits to make them show you on film, don’t let them just talk to you ‘cause half the time they’re just telling you a story.’ If they can show it to you on film, that really helps.”Those freshmen receivers, talk to us about how you thought the first day went?“I thought it was good. It’s a whole different level of intensity and level of how they practice. They hit the wall a little bit, but I thought Joe (Adams) came back. He definitely hit the wall at one point in practice, but he came back and caught that nice fade route for a touchdown. He made some nice plays. Joe has a definite different speed. He can go out when the ball is in the air, something good to have out there. I thought Jarius Wright had a real good day. I thought he fought through the getting tired the best of all four of them and he had some good quicks and good change of direction. The two big kids kind of hit the wall. It was hard on them. They weren’t use to that level of intensity and working that hard, so those two hit the wall a little bit but I like their big size. I like them in the release drill. They showed some strength. They could throw some guys around. Those are four guys that really excite you, that could be a great class, to keep those four guys around together. That’s what you’re really hoping for. You got two guys that can play fast and stretch and change direction and then two big guys that can be physical. It’s very similar to some of the groups that we had when we were at Louisville.”Were some of your guys a little out of shape? Did they have some nerves?“Oh, I think it’s a little bit of everything, the anxiety of going into your first day of practice. They’re out there for an hour before the vets came out there. They’re not used to going at that speed and level of intensity in the individual part. I don’t think it was as much out of shape as they have to learn how to fight through it when they get tired.”Is Rod Coleman getting better in overcoming his inconsistency?“Rod showed some good things at the end of the spring and did some nice things, but he’s got to kind of as you said yourself he has to be consistent every day and go out there and play at a fast level. He has a chance to be in the role. It’s wide open once you get past London (Crawford) and Carlton (Salters). Those two have stepped themselves up above everyone else and after that it’s pretty wide open. Everybody’s competing to see who will be the next guys are.”Talk a little bit about Casey Dick. This is his fourth system in four years at Arkansas. What do you see as the quarterbacks coach? Are you comfortable with him picking up this offense and succeeding?“Definitely. I think he did a great job of working hard all spring, improved and got his footwork a lot better. He’s worked real hard at learning the offense, learning the system. He did a good job of getting everyone out there during the summer. He ran the show and did everything. He’s worked real hard and his confidence level is up and our confidence in him is up. I think he’s really improved and we feel really good about him. This is a big month for him. It’s a big month, we’re repeating the insertion of what we did in the spring so each day he should get better and better and feel better about the offense.”Do you feel like him (Casey Dick) having confidence that you guys as coaches have confidence in him to throw the ball and run the offense helps him a little bit?

“Oh I think that’s a huge part of coaching. You’ve got to put guys in a position to give them confidence in practice so they see themselves having success then they walk around with a little more bounce in their step and feel better about themselves. Everything is about confidence in anything you do, and if you feel confident about yourself you’re going to play better. It’s important for him to have success. We’ve always built our offense around the quarterback being successful and having confidence. So we try to do things for them to have success early in a game or in a series to get into that flow and get into that zone and get to feeling good about themselves and that’s kind of how we all are. If you feel good about yourself and confident you’re going to play better and coach better, be a better husband or whatever it is."Casey Dick has played quarterback under a number of different offensive coordinators. Is that something you’ve encountered at other jobs with guys that have things in their heads from other coordinators, how do you approach it?“We really don’t talk about anything that’s happened in the past. We really just move forward and try to teach our offense and we have a way that we try to teach it and how we work with the quarterbacks. So we really haven’t worried about what happened in the past. We have a big offense and a lot of stuff to learn. He’s worked hard at it and done a good job. It’s just really important for the upcoming days for him to continue to improve.”Talk a little bit about your tight ends?“D.J. Williams had a real good spring. (He) did a lot of good things. He’s got to continue to go out there and improve. Andrew Davie is a guy that runs well after the catch. He does a good job of blocking at the point of attack. Ben Cleveland came on at the end of spring and had a good day yesterday. He ran around and had some nice plays yesterday; had one blown assignment but he did some nice things. They’re going to be a big part of our offense and we’re using them a lot of different ways so they’ve just got to keep working hard continue to improve.”Around the locker room you guys have signs that say be accountable throughout. Why did you guys put that there? What’s the message that you are wanting to send to the players with that statement?“Well, being accountable is being accountable to yourself, to your teammates, to the team and to the whole University of Arkansas. Every day coming and going out there and getting better and preparing to be the best. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve got to really make sure we understand as we go out there to the practice field every day to be the best offense in the country not just to get through practice. When we can get that, that’s when we know we’re where we need to be. We’re not going out there to get through practice, we’re going out there to work hard and be the very best we can be. That’s what we need to understand. That’s being accountable.”Defensive Coordinator Willy Robinson

Coach, most important matters first, you shaved your mustache. What’s the deal?“I knew that question was probably going to be proposed to me and stuff. I can give you a lot of different answers. I’ve tried hard, and I’m going to try hard, and my goal is to buy into this college game. The reason I did it are for many reasons. First, the people I work with our head coach, our offensive coordinator, our staff – you know, I didn’t fit in with my mustache. I miss my mustache, but I didn’t have the look. I think the look is very important. (muffled laughter from the media) OK, I know it’s something that we do laugh about. We sat in on a meeting the other day with our Chancellor of our school who met with our athletics staff and our athletic director. The thing that they kept saying over and over again was projection, perception. I want to have that projection, that perception. I don’t want to be somebody who doesn’t look of the quality that we’re trying to strive for in this program. The honest answer is I want to stay one step ahead of the posse. (more laughter)”Talk a little bit about the freshmen in the secondary, he (Coach Petrino) was impressed with them. Talk a little bit about what you saw.“They’ve worked awfully hard this summer. It’s a new system for everybody involved. We had our ups and downs. Those kids would throw, and the next day they’d sit down there and walk in and say these were some of our problems so how do we handle it? They were willing to learn. And the fact that they worked so hard they were able to paint that picture when they came in and talk to us. You know it’s just in passing, but the fact that they gave some questions that created problems they went back out, and “Coach, that worked; that helped us out a lot.” The thing is through that hard work, we had great carryover yesterday. Was it perfect? No. But we are so much farther ahead yesterday than we were at the beginning of our practices in spring we’re really where we want to be but still not quite there yet. They worked awfully hard and they did do a nice job. We had a lot of people around a lot of balls. We’ve got to stop giving up the deep ball. That’s the one thing that stuck out a lot yesterday was that we’ve got to understand we’ve got to take away the deep ball. We can’t give up cheap yardage, so if we’re going to have an area to improve, that’s got to be there.”We’ve heard a lot of talk about the linebackers, talk about the freshman linebackers coming in. Was it refreshing to see that they kind of look ahead of the curve, especially Tenarius Wright?“We have a great anticipation for that young man. The game seems to come fairly easy to him. The more reps he’s going to get and because of our depth there he’s going to get a lot more reps. He’s come in here with an attitude to be a starter on this football team. When you bring that type of attitude you’re not going to take one play off and have a good play next. You’re going to continue to work hard. I mean obviously we have that (attitude) at that position, but gosh darn, they’re so excited about being here and about understanding and learning the system. And the thing about it is that where is different we’ve got older players here that are helping those younger players come along. That’s important. If I’m an older player and I look over my shoulder and I see this freshman I can handle that two different ways. I can either be a helpful factor as a team player and help coach that kid, or I could be that older player that’s a little concerned about getting pushed and shut that kid off. We’ve got some people that are helping these young men besides our coach Reggie Johnson who does a great job, but we’ve got some older players that are helping these young men. And they’re not afraid to ask questions. It’s always easier to ask a peer a question because you’re probably going to get an honest answer, you’re going to get an answer of experience. You ask a coach, that kid might not feel like that question he’s asking is not a smart question so he’s a little shy and timid in asking a question. So you either get those guys that ask questions and our approach is there are no dumb questions. They keep asking questions and learning and you get that kid that’s afraid to ask that question and that guys going to stay stalemated for quite a while.”On this “Jack” position, you kind of discussed how that came about with the good body type that you have working there . . . “We’re playing this young man at an outside linebacker. Basically he’s kind of a mix between an outside linebacker and a safety type position. We’re playing this young man as an outside linebacker. We’re still in a 4-3 scheme. So we’re looking for a hybrid, speed-efficient, connect-the-dot kind of player. What we’ve got to get better at that position is being the stout player that we’re expecting out of that position taking on blocks, quick to read, understand fits. So we’re looking for an intelligent football player where the game is a lot quicker down in the box than it is on the back end. So all of a sudden if you take a kid from the back end and move him up there then that game is that much quicker (snapping fingers rapidly). To be able to connect the dots there you’re looking for a guy that has a feel for the game and picks things up quickly.”Coach, you’ve been out of the college game for a few years. What’s changed the most to you when you walk out there on the field? “The quality of college football. My last years (in college football) were about 12 years ago. I’m not sure when my Oregon State stop was in my career, but I did had a break between my first and my next three stops. The quality of college football is amazing and I continue to see that when all of a sudden as an NFL coach we’re getting ready for the draft and free agency or the draft itself and watching college football develop. I mean it is so much more diverse than it has ever, ever been, and it’s a lot different from the pro game, a lot different. The fact that you have to play option football and read zone football – you don’t see that in the NFL. Trying to get involved and now that becomes part of my thought process, that’s where I really look for help from Coach Petrino because of his experience, and our defensive staff. That’s been a big stepping stone for me. And then, these gosh darn hash marks. They’re so wide now. I told coach, I think it was yesterday that coach and I had this conversation. ‘Hey coach, I’m not real familiar with these hash marks,’ so I looked for Coach Horton and Coach Petrino and I get their advice on it. But it is a growing situation for me in regards to that. The attractiveness of this game now at the college football level is immense, just because of the diversity. I think you become a better football coach going through this level. Now I’ve accelerated and I don’t see it as a step back for myself. I see it as another growth period in my career. I’m always one to sit down there and grow each day and learn something different. The other thing is too is you have got to be extremely organized, and you’ve got to make sure that our players understand the message of that because they’ve got to learn to be organized not just with the game but also with school. It keeps me on my toes. I love to wake up in the morning and come to this job.”Coach the defensive line has a chance to be special this year, particularly on the ends. What kind of pressure, talk about putting pressure on the quarterback?“Rush the quarterback. Hit the quarterback. What kind of pressure? It depends on how we match up. I’ve been in programs where you have to create pressure because your four down linemen can’t get there. That’s a feast and famine when you deal with stuff like that. If you can’t create pressure with your four down linemen, now all of a sudden you’re back there and they’re holding on to the ball for an exorbitant amount of time, an extraordinary amount of time, doesn’t matter how sticky the coverage is, somebody is going to be open. If we can get a development in our four down to be those pass rushers so we’re not always having to create pressure, we’re going to be so much further ahead and have the advantage to pick and choose when do want to pressure. Again, it’s just a matter of how well we develop and find those guys who can rush on down and distances that pertain to that. They still have to play both phases, both run and pass.”Talk a little about your philosophy and what you’re looking for this team to be able to use once the season rolls around?“I cut my teeth on blitz. Whether that’s going to be the case here, we’ll pick and choose. It goes back to the question I just answered when do we want to do it? What personnel group do you want to do it with? What down and distance do we want to do it? I cut my teeth on pressure. I learned that a long time ago that as a player and I learned that as a coach throughout my career. You know as far as what we want to look at percentagewise, maybe 60 percent non-pressure, 40 percent pressure. Each game it’s going to be something different and how we view our opponent. You just can’t go in and think pressure, pressure, pressure, and again if we do that every single down eventually it’s going to jump up and bite you in the rear end. You’ve got to sit down there as a staff and look at it, see what the game plan is going to take care of itself, we’re looking at a 60-40 balance. That might be too high, might not be high enough. It depends on what we are doing. But we’ve got to be solid like I said. If we’re going to pressure, we’ve got to be solid against all the phases. It’s not just the passing game. All of a sudden they have some options in their responsibilities they’ve got to deal with as well.”Coach, what’s it like to prepare against this offense on a daily basis?“It’s a great challenge. If we can understand what our offense does to be honest with you, we’ve talked about it as a staff, we’re probably not going to see a whole heck of a lot different from anybody we face. Our offense prepares us for two back, one back, spread – those things, if we understand our roles and how to get ourselves out of situations, then if a formation all of a sudden creates a situation that we’ve got to get out of, we’re going to see adjustment, we’re going to see formations, the only thing we’ve got to make sure we’re square on is people’s personnel. We have some fine, fine personnel on offense. To be able to sit down there and judge our players against the personnel we have on offense at the skill positions day in and day out is a competitive situation. So we’ll be able to go into the game with confidence when we play whoever we play.”What is the defense’s overall confidence level?“It’s got to get better. It’s got to get better. I think the thing that we walked out on the field yesterday with as a defense was we walked out on the field, (just) make it through the day not playing at the level we expect our players to play at. Our expectations on this football field as a defense is we could be good. I’m just telling you right now, we could be good. But for us to be good, I’m not going to say great, but we could be good. For us to be able to deal with that, we’ve got to be technique sound. We’ve got to be physical. We’ve got to run to the ball full speed and we’ve got to be mistake free to be good for this football team. If we fault in any of those areas, we’re not good enough to overcome. And the only thing that’s going to allow us to overcome is running full speed to the football to give us one more chance to make up for mistakes; turn a negative into a positive, cause fumbles and those types of things. The barometer at that – our expectations as far as coaches is we want to be great. But we’ve got to go from one level to the next. We could be a very good defense right now, but for us to be there we’re talking about those four or five elements I talked about. If we fault at any of those things, if we’re not mistake free, if we’re not running to the football hard, if we’re not physical, if we’re not technique sound, we’re not good enough to overcome our mistakes.”



Sports Category : Football