The first of three posts from yesterday's Media Day. Tomorrow: The assistant coaches.
Austin White is the only player that has left the roster in the past few days. For Rodriguez's full comments on White, see yesterday's post.
QB. Quarterback rotation (if it happens) is by feel, not a scripted thing. They're getting closer to finding two guys to win with. Won't be there at every position, but quarterback will have that. The three quarterbacks are responding well to the ongoing competition. The race won't be settled within the next couple days.
"Rod Smith has done - particularly with Devin and Denard - getting some of the throwing stuff down and decision-making down in the pass game. We've really simplified things to help in that regard."
Denard's throwing mechanics are better, and his knowledge of where to go with the ball is better. "It's a natural maturation with any quarterback, understanding where to go with the ball, where your eyes are at, particularly in the passing game."
In this offense, those factors are important in the run game as well. Rodriguez is pleased with Gardner's progress. He's never played before, but he's talented and is battling for job.
RB. Running backs will be a committee and there's not one guy separating. "I see us having a situation where there's 2, 3, maybe even 4 guys that emerge a little bit. That's not a bad situation to get in." It's hard to get them all reps, for comfort with QBs. Three or four guys will play tailback in the first game.
Vincent Smith has not been tentative with his knee except the first couple practices back. "He's 100%. He's ready to go."
Stephen Hopkins has progressed really well. He's a big physical guy. Initially, the coaches thought he would redshirt, but he'll probably play this fall because the team needs a big back in some situations.
OL. The offensive line is much improved over last couple years. Two years ago, Schilling was only guy with any game experience. "Not quite as talented 1s and 2s deep-wise as we would like to be... We'll have 7-8 guys that we feel comfortable with playing." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury can back up at any interior position. More guys are ready than the last two years. Pretty close to what we want there. Experienced starters backed up by talented, but inexperienced guys.
Upperclassmen Huyge and Dorrestein are battling to keep the offensive tackle spots. "The two young tackles Schofield and Lewan have been pretty solid. They're bigger; They're stronger." The competition has been pretty good, Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge, and are having their best camp in the past three years.
DL. Don't want to compare people to Brandon Graham, because he's a once-in-a-lifetime player. "We don't have a guy that's 'BG-ready' to play right now, but who does?" Several guys can create pressure, including Roh. Mike Martin can create pressure from his position. The unit as a whole has to replace Graham.
Davion Rogers had a "clearinghouse thing," and just got into the mix. [Ed: probably explains why he's so skinny. He's a lock to redshirt anyway.] Jibreel Black is the frosh lineman with greatest chance to play this year. He's not ready to start, but he will provide some depth as long as he continue to progress. "He's a very active guy. He's got great get-off. He wears #55, and he looks a little bit like BG at times, but he's not quite that strong and explosive." He has natural athletic ability, and Rodriguez is pleased with his progress.
Craig Roh played at 225 last year, and he's closer to 240 or 245. "He's running just as well if not better." The added weight and experience show.
LB. "Obi [Ezeh] has really responded to the challenge." He can play all three linebacker positions, and played two of them yesterday. Great job being a leader - like whole senior class. He's a good player and wants to prove himself in his final year. He's not geting hung up on starters, worrying about how to help the team win.
JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens have played a bit, lots of special teams. They've had good camps. JB knows the defense very well and can play a few different positions. Demens has also had a solid camp. More linebackers will play. Ezeh, Moundros, and Mouton (veterans) will be the biggest key. Usually guys have their best season as seniors. "If every one of our seniors has our best year, particularly defensively... we'll be OK."
Hybrid. Jordan Kovacs earned a starting spot last year. "He's taken some challenges and maintained that position so far." Just a great story. He's in better shape now, and his experience shows up. "He's gonna be a huge factor for our defense."
Josh Furman has done well. He could play OLB/S position, or grow into a WILL/Samm linebacker. Will have a great career. One of the fastest freshmen, not sure if he has a shot to play this year. Physically he has a chance to play this year, the coaches need to evaluate him mentally.
DB. Cameron Gordon has more to learn, but Rodriguez says "we're looking for a big year from him." He's very physical, but hasn't played on the big stage yet.
A couple veterans will step in at corner after Woolfolk's injury, James Rogers has had a good camp. Freshmen are competing at that position. It's a young secondary (and would have been even with Troy), a couple guys will move back and forth. "Our defensive coaches have a pretty good plan to be able to compensate for that." All freshman corners are getting lots of reps because of the situation in the secondary. They missed meetings the first week of camp because of the Bridge Program, but now they have a couple weeks to focus solely on football.
Marvin Robinson and a few other frosh will probably not redshirt. "More than you'd like at this point." All three corners will probably play - Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery. Carvin Johnson and Ray Vinopal have a chance to play at safety. This week is most critical between summer school and fall school.
Carvin Johnson has played a little bit at corner, along with Teric Jones. After watching film from Saturday and Wednesday scrimmages, they'll determine the 4-5 corners that have to be ready for the first game.
There's no word on the timeframe for Woolfolk's injury until after he can have surgery. He will be able to play again at some point. "Troy's as tough an individual as you'll ever be able to find, so he'll bounce back from it."
Special Teams. Kicking and punting are a concern because there's no game experience. Feel better now than two weeks ago. Broekhuizen and Gibbons are both doing well on kickoffs, and getting more consistent on their field goals. "Our freshman punter is a real talent - Will Hagerup - and I mean a real talent. He's had some days where he's kicked and I'm "wow look at this.'"
The scrimmage went well and nobody got hurt. "I saw some good and bad on both sides." Offensive execution was decent with wet ball. Defense didn't tackle too well. There were a couple turnovers, for first time in a few days. "Some guys stood out a little bit, and other guys still have a ways to go before they can be ready to play for us."
QB play was pretty solid. Receiver play was good, especially slots with Roundtree, Grady and Gallow having good days.. Shaw had a good day, Cox and Smith each had a few good runs. The offensive line was good, which the coaches expect from them now.
Mike Martin was limited because the coaches already know what he can do. He been the team's most consistent defensive player since camp started. Molk scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. "We didn't have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well." Vincent Smith was able to go full bore.
There will be another (smalller) scrimmage Wednesday. After that, the projected two-deep and travel squad will be mostly settled. At a lot of positions, guys are competing to be #2 on the depth chart.
"It's not a true 3-3-5." As much scheme remains from last year as there is new stuff. They're keeping it simpler because of youth and the need to play a little faster. "From a mental standpoiont, there were a few mistakes yesterday's scrimmage," but they've done a good job with the mental game through camp. They've had a lot to digest so far, and the next couple weeks will be easier because there isn't as much installation.
Pleased with the team's attitude and work ethic the last two weeks. Though it's a small senior class, they've done a great job with leadership over the summer and the last couple weeks. Team is hungry, anxious to prove themselves.
Notice in practice that guys have been there through a couple camps, and know practice routine. Moving around a little quicker. People who have come in from the outside notice how much quicker guys are moving in certain situations.
The team has some fundamental work to do. It's tough, because you can't tackle every day in camp, or guys will get hurt. "Other than yesterday, I thought they did pretty well tackling in camp."
Team strengths are offensive skill players, experience along the offensive front, and attitude and team speed on defense. "We're not as deep experience-wise, so probably my biggest concern is experience defensively." The team feels a sense of urgency.
For the new captain method, we selected Moundros and Schilling, and will select two more at the end of the season. Mark and Steve have done well, other seniors are excited for the opportiunity to prove themselves and be game captains and maybe year-end captains.
Same pressure to succeed as every year. "Any time a player or coach says 'well I have nothing left to prove,' he'll never get any better."
Brock leading team out will be pretty emotional. Rodriguez spent time with Mrs. Mealer yesterday. Brock's progress and work ethic are amazing, and he's dedicated his life to proving he can walk. To do that in front of our fans and national tv will be emotional. It will be (and has been) an inspiration for the whole team.
Connecticut - Know them well, played them a few years. They get a lot of respect for the past couple years. Most of a good team from last year is coming back. They'll come downhill and make you beat them. Some players have watched film on them, and the whole group will start watching more film this week.