March 2, 2013
On the first six practices of the spring: We’ve gotten better. We still have a lot of work to do. I like the fact that we were public. It put some pressure on the players today and yesterday. Overall, today was better than yesterday. I thought David Ash has had a good six days- yesterday was ok. I thought today was much better. I’m glad to see Mike Davis back out there.
When you lose Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran and you lose Mike Davis for a day, it forces other guys to play and we’ve got to have depth. I thought Kennedy Estelle stepped up well in the last two practices. I thought Wednesday he was average and the last two he was better. We will watch tonight and see if that is the fact.
We are really trying to work on our tempo, which I think will be better for our defense than even our offense. In this league you have to practice against it everyday to be able to play against it I believe, and watching our problems last year early in the year. It will force us to play two-deep, which when we have been good we have played two-deep. I think we can do that now. We said we don’t want to be talking about one’s and two’s anymore- we want to be talking about our team and developing the two deep.
The kicking game is better at this time than last year, obviously. I don’t think we’ve missed a field goal in the last two days and have gotten some good work out of that.
Case [McCoy] would be the second-team quarterback today, obviously. What we’ve got to do is separate the younger ones, and figure out which guy is going to be in that mix and we’ve got to do that pretty quickly. When you’ve got three young ones working, you need to get it down to one, maybe two, so that you can divide those guys up better.
I like that our offense is getting guys like Daje Johnson, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray on the field at the same time. I think that utilizes our strengths. As we’ve said, you’ve got some other guys with skill, those wide receivers that can help as well.
We know we’ve got to tackle better at linebacker and we know we’ve got to tackle better in the secondary. We are working really, really hard on it because this league is becoming a space league. We are working on those issues every day.
On how the young wide receivers have progressed: I think that right now all three young receivers can make big leaps. We have been really pleased with Kendall Sanders. He has made some huge plays in the six days. Marcus Johnson is getting better every day and Cayleb Jones has got the size that we all know and he made some tough, physical plays. The guys that played some last year are usually ahead of the guys that redshirted, because they have had more full-speed practice with intensity and urgency and what they’ve had to do with the games. Some of the guys that redshirted have to wake up in the first eight days of practice and they are usually better in the last seven.
On the defensive backfield: The best thing we’ve got is competition back there now. They’re probably seven guys that all have a chance to play, so someone will have to compete to play. We’ve got to figure out who the best three safeties are, because then you start talking about nickel and dime. Then you’ve got to figure out who your corners are. I do like the fact that Sheroid Evans is out [at practice]. He’s not in track and is out everyday making progress. He made a great play with Mike Davis down in the corner. I like the fact that Duke Thomas is tall and physical; they can really push the corners. You need at least three corners, maybe four, and then you’ve got to figure out who the safeties are. We’ve got to be physical at safety, other than Kenny [Vaccaro] that hurt us last year. Those guys have to grow up and be more physical. We have to do a better job of tackling in space in the secondary and we’ve got to do a better job of being more physical.
On Dalton Santos working with the first team: He really worked hard to lose his weight and I think that is forcing Steve Edmond to do the same. They are in a really good battle right now and it is fun to watch. Jordan Hicks has a sore hamstring and he would have played had it been the fall, so we’ve got to get him back out there. Peter Jinkens is knocking people out. Tevin Jackson had a sore foot today. We’ve got to stop having sore stuff and practice everyday. That is something they all understand. We are going to hit all spring and be physical. We are going to work on tackling all spring and the toughest ones are going to come out of this.
On the front seven in the goal-line drill: The front seven did really well on defense the first time. I think Steve [Edmond] is at a different place with his intensity than he was this time last year. I think Dalton’s [Santos] helped that and they are best friends. They pick with each other every day and they are fighting for playing time. I thought it was good. That is the first live goal-line work we’ve done. I thought it was really, really good to have Joe Bergeron stopped on the first one and then he knocked through on the second one, so we have something to coach on both sides. What you find out about spring practice is you walk in mad at someone every single day. If the right guard does really well then that means you are mad at the left tackle on defense. You can’t be happy with everyone that is out there. That is just how it is in the spring. I thought we got a lot of good video the last days that we can grade.
On the carry over from the Alamo Bowl game victory into spring practice: The bowl game was huge for us. It took so much momentum and confidence in the fourth quarter to win. I think they know now that because we did it with tempo, that helps them moving forward with this process. They also know that we’ve got a chance to be the best we’ve been over the last three years and they are excited about that. They know nine [wins] are not enough.
On which side of the ball has a tougher time adjusting to tempo: I think the defense for sure. The offense has done it enough. The fact that we did it last year in the bowl game and it was successful helped David [Ash] feel really good about it. The biggest thing when you use tempo is people have different thoughts about what it really means. What it means to me is you move the ball and don’t huddle and you get more plays. Where we lost our spread part of it with Colt [McCoy] at the end was we weren’t physical enough. We still want to be physical, but we want to do it at a fast pace- and a faster pace than what we are playing at now. We are learning what to do, but we want to speed up more than that. That is something that will really help us. What it does is it makes you play with fast defensive linemen and defensive ends and linebackers and that is more realistic for our league. We were doing it with scout teamers last year and then a West Virginia comes in here and we just aren’t prepared for it. We are doing it with like talent now and it wont be such a shock. We aren’t losing our physical presence on offense, so they will still be able to take on the I-formation, the power plays and that is why we are doing both.
On the difference between day six and day one of spring practice: Number one, I think it would be fair to say how different is day six from day three, because [practices] one and two are in shorts. Everyone looks pretty, everyone is excited and no one has to hit anyone. This is a game about passion and toughness. You can throw all the stuff you do out. If you don’t do it with guys that are talented and tough and passionate about it who want to do it everyday, it doesn’t work. We kind of lost a day Monday. We got some stuff done in drills, but we lost some of our team stuff with the 60-mile per hour winds. What I’m seeing is we are getting more guys that are playing harder all the time and being tougher than we did four days ago. That is exciting. I thought even today there was some more toughness. We did more individual toughness drills yesterday; we did more team things today. But you are seeing bigger hits and more passion and I like that.
On Quandre Diggs covering the slot: He has. He played safety when Adrian [Phillips] was out [during] bowl practice, so he has worked there some. [Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] has usually been the master at finding the right combinations and he is trying to do that right now.
On the attributes of junior-college transfer TE Geoff Swaim: Yes, he is really physical. He’s got a lot of what we want at tight end, but he’s playing too high and he got knocked down twice yesterday. This isn’t junior college and he found out yesterday in a drill when he came out faster than he went in. He was lower and better today. He is going to help us with that physical aspect.
On practicing in front of the fans: It is great to have some out. Friday is a tough day for fans. They are going home and the traffic in the city is tough. We had our high school coach’s clinic and we had our dinner at 6:30 p.m., so we couldn’t move our practice around. I thought today was great and the crowd was great. Not everyone wants to come watch spring football on a sunny day in Austin, Texas, but we felt like when our coaches are here it gives everyone a chance to watch them. It gives the coaches a chance to come out and the players like the excitement of the crowd. If you want to plan for it, it is something that we have tried to do each year. Then we try to take a break, go back to work and let people compare what they saw yesterday and today to what they will see in the spring four or five weeks from now.
On freshman QB Tyrone Swoopes: He is really talented. He is smooth and he’s got a great arm. [Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] Major [Applewhite] is working really hard with his motion, but he’s got it all. He’s fast, he’s big and he’s tall. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that he is not overwhelmed with the huddle and not overwhelmed with the things around him, like we thought he might be. We are really excited about him. We’ve got a really good nine days left with him to see where he will be at the end.
Connor Brewer didn’t miss a pass for about six plays there today. I thought he did well. Jaylen [Overstreet] got his yesterday; he didn’t get as much today. We know what Case [McCoy] and David [Ash] can do and they need to just keep growing. We’ve got to figure out where the younger quarterback fits with Case and all this at the end, but we cant do that until we figure out which of the quarterbacks fits what we are doing.
On establishing a second unit on the offensive line: It’s great that we are being forced in a way to play [Sedrick] Flowers and Kennedy [Estelle] now with the group that has already played. [Injured right tackle] Josh Cochran is a 4.0 student so it is not like he is going to miss anything. This gives him a chance to get in the weight room and get to 310 [pounds] or maybe 315 instead of 300. He is going to work and he is going to do everything right. So in some ways, it is a blessing for him to get stronger. He will have an extra month to get stronger even though you didn’t want him hurt. At the same time, Trey Hopkins is going to be a doctor, so it is not like those two need to be out there looking at schemes every day. They are both really good players that will play for us. Sedrick Flowers played really well at the bowl game. He has already looked good in our early practices, so this is going to really help him. It is going to force Kennedy to grow up fast, faster than he would have as a second-teamer. I think sometimes second-teamers think they are second-teamers and when you are put with one’s there is a sense of urgency you have to have. We are pushing a guy like Mason [Walters] to go from being a good player to a great player, and that is what we are doing across the line.
If you look at it that way to start out right now, you are going to have seven that have played a lot or will be starters through a spring practice coming in. Hopefully some of those guys that we signed that we think are really good, especially an older [player like incoming junior-college transfer Desmond Harrison who] should be able to come in at 6-8, 325 lbs. and help us. Now you are going to force some of these other guys to be seen more, because those other two are out of the second team. I think what we are going to find is our backup offensive line is not where it needs to be. If you take a Harrison, maybe a freshman and maybe a Camrhon Hughes with the two that are hurt along with what we have starting right now, that is working in the right direction. Then you hope one of these others steps up and have something happen for them. My goal for us is to get two-deep. If we are going to stay out there 85-90 plays which I hope we do, you are going to need some back-ups in August and September. I want to have a bunch to just go out there and go without a big drop-off.
On establishing a second unit with the defensive line: Jackson [Jeffcoat] could probably practice the last part, but there is no need for him to. If it is still on the back end of his healing process there is no reason to put him out there and get him hurt. If you get him back and all of a sudden Jordan Hicks is full speed [it would be great]. But now you are forcing Caleb Bluiett, Shiro Davis and [Bryce] Cottrell to get quality snaps right now, and it is really helping all of them. Reggie Wilson has been around for a long time and he is really good, but we would like him to be great. It gives him some more work this spring. Those young ones need all they can get, but we have really been impressed. We saw Shiro quite a bit, but we didn’t see Cottrell a lot. We saw him in pass-rush drills and he is really a good pass rusher; he is so quick. He is up to about 240 lbs. and he wasn’t when we signed him. We think that Caleb Bluiett is really a good, quick athlete as a pass rusher. He seems more athletic as a defensive end probably because he has played there more than he was at tight end.
On the tight end position: We had a lot of uncertainties at this time last year. What we’ve got now is a year’s experience with Greg Daniels. He should be a much better player now than he was last year, because he had been a defensive end. We’ve got to figure out with what we are doing now and not substituting what Greg and Geoff Swaim can do as compared to [Miles] Onyegbule, John Harris and [M.J.] McFarland. Obviously, they are different body types. The short yardage and goal-line stuff will be more Geoff and Greg, but what can you do in substitution? What can Geoff and Greg do in the flex and what can John and M.J. do tight? That is what we are working on now. When you get two of them in the game for short yardage and goal line, can they flex? Can you use Geoff Swaim or M.J. as an H-back? We have been working on that quite a lot as well. M.J. has gotten to be a much better blocker. This time last year, he could not block.