News bullets and other important things:
The team started practicing in pads on Wednesday.
Jack Miller has also been taking snaps at left guard along with presumed starter (at this point) Elliott Mealer.
Brandon Moore has established himself as the current number one option at tight end.
“We’ve had four practices to this point, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got some positions obviously that need to be addressed. I like how we’ve come out to practice. I don’t know if I like how we’ve finished it completely. We have to do a better job of finishing. That’s a big part. You want to finish games. You want to finish the month of November. That’s something that we talk about, something that we need to do. The leadership’s been good. I like how our guys have worked together and the things that they’ve done. I think there’s some examples out there that guys are trying to show and trying to do a good job with. As far as that goes, I’m excited about being able to be out there in pads. We started that yesterday, and it was good to be out there and see some guys hit and be physical.”
Can you name some positions that you feel need to be addressed?
“I think they all [need to be addressed] as you know. But the front defensively, the front offensively -- that’s where the game’s played and that’s where we have to be more physical. I don’t think we’ve been as tough at the point of attack in the four days that we’ve had as we’d like to be, but I probably said the same thing last year at this time. I think the guys are working at it. I think Will [Campbell] is trying to step up as a leader. I think Ricky Barnum is. You see Taylor [Lewan] coming along as a leader, so I think guys are working together well. I think they understand the expectations.”
Do you feel like you need guys on the line to be team leaders?
“You know, I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but I think if you have a guy who plays in the most physical part of the football team, I think that can make a difference to some degree. Defensively, Kovacs is a guy who shows a great deal of leadership. I think Craig Roh’s doing a great job with the position change. He’s been active. It’s going to pay off in the long run with that change. And then offensively Ricky’s a senior. Elliott’s doing a good job at the guard position. And then Taylor. So if you look at those up front guys, those guys are doing a good job, but it doesn’t necessarily [have to be them]. I think Denard is really working hard to be a good leader for us.”
What do you like specifically about Elliott Mealer at the left guard spot?
“Right now I like his work ethic and his demeanor. I think he’s got a bit more confidence than he had last year at this time.”
Mattison mentioned that Craig Roh is better suited on the strong side. Do you feel that way, too?
“We wouldn’t have moved him if we both wouldn’t have felt that way. He’s gained strength and the weight … that he’ll continue to do, but he has a burst in him and a good first time which gives you a little more speed and more of a guy who can give you a three-way move, which is important up front. We’d like for him to be 280-282. Boy don’t quote me on this, but he was 273 when we got started, so if he can maintain that and then gain a little more during spring ball, then during the summer he’ll be able to gain that weight. ”
How does the game change between being a weakside and strongside?
“You’ve got more combination blocks with the tight end and the tackle. If you’re on the open side then the tackle’s the primary guy who’s going to block you but you don’t have as many combinations.”
How is Ricky Barnum adjusting to the center position?
“I think he’s doing okay. We did so much with him a year ago. When we go to our quarterback snaps and all that, we have about five guys snapping. We’ve always done that part of it. He took some snaps in some live situations a year ago. I couldn’t count the number for you, but I think he’s doing okay.”
Have you seen consistency out of Will Campbell so far?
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say all the way yet. I think there’s so much more that we can get from him. What I like about it is his attitude towards it. We do some ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ every practice, and it pays to be a winner and losing -- there’s consequences. Defensively, we’ve had some consequences, and he’s done a great job of running the consequences.”
Who else is snapping besides Barnum and Jack Miller?
“It’s Jack, Joey Burzynski, and Ricky. Joey’s a guy that’s really grown into it pretty well.”
Has anything stood out at the left guard spot yet?
“No I think Elliot’s done a pretty good job with it at this point. And you’ve got that three-way rotation -- Ricky can bounce over there since he’s played it. Jack’s taken some snaps there. Joey’s taken some snaps there. If anything, we’re developing guys that have multiple skills who in the long run can help you.”
Can you see the comfort level in Denard that you may not have seen last fall?
“Yeah I would say so. Not watching the practice tape yet of what we just did, but from yesterday, there wasn’t any doubt that I thought there was marked improvement in some areas with throwing, decisiveness, good decision making, those things.”
What’s the most notable thing you’ve seen from him?
“Decisiveness with his throws.”
What are you looking for in the tight end position?
“Well we have to have a guy who can move the line of scrimmage first and foremost. Whether we run the power out of the one-back set, gun set, or if we’re running the power and the outside stretch play out of two-back. We’ve got to have a guy who can combination block the defensive end with the tackle and a guy who can handle what we call the 6-technique -- head up guys, defensive end -- if you want to try and get to the edge. That’s what you have to have. Koger was a guy who could do multiple things. I think Brandon Moore these couple of days has grown up a little bit. I like what he’s doing.”
Is Brandon Moore far and away the best one?
“I don’t know if it’s far and away, but he’s the best one at it so far. Most experience, too.”
How are your three freshmen holding up?
“Really well. Really well. I think they’re all three very willing. They all three have an athelticism to them. I think Joe and Kaleb are physical linebackers and they both run pretty well. Jarrod, he’s pretty good playing the ball and those things. At the same time he’s learning all this stuff -- this coverage is this, and when they motion this guy over, what do you do? And is it a zone, a fire, or a zone blitz, or is it man coverage? I mean, there’s a lot of things and it’s always hard at the safety position. Probably as hard as any within the defense because of the adjustments they have to make.”
Last year you coached the interior defensive line. Are you still doing that with guys like Will Campbell and Jibreel Black?
“Yeah. Jibreel at times, Jerry and I switch him back and forth, but Will and Quinton Washington and Richard Ash are the three guys I’ve got a great opportunity with.”
Does losing so many veterans change how you approach coaching the position?
“You know, I don’t know if it ever changes how you coach, because I think you make a real mistake -- and I did it here in 1998, having three returning starters back from the national championship team. I didn’t do a good job as coach with sticking with the basics and the progression that we want and the expectation that we need to have. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.”
Do you like Schofield’s move to right tackle?
“Yeah I do, and I think he’s playing with more confidence. I really like it. That always helps when you have all of the snaps that he has in big games. I’m real excited for him.”
How has level of physicality been now that you’re practicing in pads? Is it to your liking?
“Yes, no question about it. We will be as physical as we can possibly be.”
Do you expect Roy’s numbers to go up with his move to Junior Hemingway’s position?
“You know, I think the expectation has to come with how people want to defend you. I think that’s always a big part of it. Roy is a guy who I should have mentioend earlier as far as leadership and doing those things by example that I’ve been impressed with.”
What do you see from Jerald Robinson?
“Jerald’s got a chance. He’s got a huge chance to be a contributor. He’s shown more consistency. He’s caught the ball well. Gallon and him and Roy both, Drew to some extent, have done a good job. The receivers have been competing well.”
(I'll have some player transcripts up later today.)