So how do you like your position group so far?
“I’m pleased with the position group right now. We’ve got some talented young players and it’s coming together well so far. It’s a good safety unit and I’m happy with their progress so far.”
How is Woods looking?
“Woods is looking good. He’s a young guy who came in mid-year. He’s picked up the system well. He’s a guy that studies hard off the field and puts in the time in the classroom and he’s progressed well so far.”
The news came out yesterday that Florida suspended seven players, including their top wide receiver. Does that affect how you prepare in any way to face Florida’s receivers?
“Well, right now we’re just focusing on trying to get better. We’re at a point where that’s a few weeks in the future and we’re just trying to get better from the standpoint of our assignments, getting guys lined up—you know, we’ve got a lot of new guys in there—and focused on getting better.”
How much has Tyree Kinnel been able to really embrace that leadership role?
“He’s embraced it. It’s something that we’ve been talking to him about, stepping up and being a leader in the group, and he’s done a good job of that so far. He’s a guy that communicates well back there. He knows the system well. He’s been in it for a year and he’s the most experienced guy, so he’s done a nice job taking some of the younger guys under his wing and showing them the right way in how we do things and how we practice. He’s a good example for them.”
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What have you seen out of Brad Hawkins in the early going?
“Brad has come in, he’s done a good job. He’s still learning but he flashes a lot of talent. He’s got good man-to-man coverage skills and he’s a good athlete. He’ll be able to help us back there.”
Are there any cornerbacks like a Watson or a St. Juste that are also working with the safeties to give you more depth there?
“Right now really no corners. They’re concentrating on playing corner so yeah, we haven’t gotten into that situation yet.”
Has Jaylen Kelly-Powell been working both with you and at corner, because he was coming in as a safety and I think we heard he was going to do some stuff at corner also?
“He’s a guy that has great man-to-man coverage skills. Really good man-to- man coverage skills, and he has the ability to do both. We’ll see how that goes but right now he’s done a good job at safety and that position.”
How deep can you go in a regular game rotation when it comes to your corners and your safeties? How many do you need and how many do you think can play per game?
“I think how many we need kind of depends on the opponent that we’re playing and how many receivers they’re putting the game. A lot of times we’ll try to match what they’re doing so that depends on it. Right now we’re trying to figure that out. Ten or 11 practices in, however many practices it is, just taking it one day at a time and trying to figure it out, so we’re still in an open competition trying to see which guys can play and which guys can’t.”
Going back to the Florida stuff, do you find yourself having to dissuade the players to not pay attention that stuff as it comes up?
“Yeah, I mean, like I said, we’re just focusing on ourselves and trying to get better every day. We still have a long way to go and just working as individuals to improve our technique and work on our craft.”
Which freshmen are standing out to you?
“In my position group they’re all in there in the same boat. You mentioned Woods earlier; I think he’s done a nice job. He’s a physical guy but they’re all just learning how to practice right now so we’re trying to get them practicing the right way and learning the system.”
I know you don’t directly coach Bryan Mone but when he gets put on the Polynesian Player of the Year watch list it got me curious as far as the Polynesian influence on college football. In your experience, guys that maybe you’ve played with, maybe guys that you’ve coached, can you add to that a little bit?
“Definitely a lot of good players that I’ve been around just on the professional level there’s been some good players. He’s one of them. He’s done a nice job for us. Worked hard. He’s a load inside to move and he’s a guy that’s been working hard to get better. Looking forward to him having a good year.”
Any guys that you’ve played with or had relationships with Polynesian guys?
“There’s been a few over the years. Sione Po’uha, he was with us when I was with the New York Jets. Kind of stands out. He was a really good player, but there have been a ton of good players I’ve been around over the years.”
Since the secondary is so young, what are your goals for this position group? What goes into getting better every day?
“Well, some of our goals—obviously when there’s a big play out on the field, run or pass play, that’s kind of on us. We’re the last line of defense so just eliminating those explosive plays is an area that we concentrate on. But I think the big thing that we’re focusing on this year is creating more turnovers. When you have the opportunity to get a turnover, be it an interception or a forced fumble or a recovered fumble, that’s something I think that we focused on and we want to get more of this year.”
Do you still do a lot of teaching at this point with some younger guys?
“Yeah. It’s a lot of teaching, lot of fundamentals and foot work at this point. Guys coming up from high school, they’re used to doing things a certain way so just teaching them the way that we do it and our base fundamentals, breaking some old bad habits—that’s a lot of it right now.”
You spent a lot of time in the NFL ranks. How did you have to change your coaching approach when you came here? Was it the expectations [or] maybe that teaching mode in terms of how you went about coaching these guys?
“Yeah. In the NFL, you have to teach fundamentals but a lot of guys already have a solid base for the most part. In college, you almost start from scratch in some instances in terms of fundamentals that you have to teach. You gotta spend a little bit more time on it, so I think that’s a little bit more of a difference. In the NFL, I think you’re teaching a little bit more scheme and the volume of defenses that you have may be a little bit larger.”
Does it test your patience as a coach a little bit more in a certain way?
[laughs] “At times it does, it does.”
Is Jordan Glasgow working out with you guys or is he more at that Viper spot?
“Those guys, those spots are kind of almost interchangeable so we’ve got a bunch of guys that have the ability to do both. He’s definitely a guy that could fill in that role if you needed him to.”
What have you seen from Josh Metellus so far?
“Josh has been solid. He’s done a good job communicating back there. He along with Tyree, they’ve been kind of our leaders as far as the communication is concerned. He’s a guy that competes; he’s very competitive and he wants to be good. He’s a smart player. He’s very instinctive and you tell him something one time and he’s picked it up. He’s a guy that you don’t have to worry about too much back there.”
What prompted that move with Josh? Last year [he was] working with the linebackers.
“Like I said, they’re kind of interchangeable and there are certain guys who have that skillset where they can move back and forth and he’s one of those guys that can do that.”
What has he improved on most?
“I think most he’s improved on his man-to-man coverage skills. He’s done a nice job in man-to-man coverage.”