“Everybody good? Yeah? Great. Who’s kicking us off?”
I’ll kick you off. It’s only been a couple of days but what have you seen out of your quarterbacks so far?
“Uh, well, right now we’re seeing progress. That’s, I think, the first thing we’re looking for is how they’ve picked up what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve seen them now- this is what, practice four? But it’s been 16 hours on the field so we’ve had a lot of repetitions and we’ve been able to do a ton of drill work with them and been able to watch them kind of pick up the system the best they can at this point. I think there’s some really good progress in terms of command at the line of scrimmage. I think there’s good progress in terms of understanding the offense. Now it’s a matter of slowing the game down for them, and that’s what our next step is.”
How do you slow it down?
“I would say that slowing it down comes from knowledge, number one. Number two, it comes from experience, and then three, it comes from some form of comfort level. Right now their knowledge in terms of what we’re asking them to do is still growing and it’s kind of not where we want it to be yet in terms of you’d love to always fast forward the process but right now the process is what it is. In terms of experience they have none in the system and the really don’t have much college football playing experience, but with us they’ve had four days of experience. And finally, as we continue to go through this process and give them opportunities I think we’ll see them continue to develop every day and that will slow the game down for them.”
You mentioned progress. How long of a road do they have to get where you want them to go?
“I think that we’re certainly in a situation where we don’t play for a while, so that’s good. We’ve got 11 more practices, so that’s really good, and then we’ve got a big summer where they can really grind themselves. I’m a huge believer in that philosophy of players coaching players. I think that it’s huge during this time of the summer when we’re not with them that they can really take what we’ve kind of coached them on and then help each other and really continue to develop one another. And then finally we have training camp and we have all of camp to get ready for opening day. So they’ve got some time and we’re going to use all of it, every second we can, to try and help them improve and be comfortable and then be able to go out there and put us in the best possible position to succeed.”
What are the differences you see in the three scholarship guys?
“Well, they certainly do have different skill sets. Wilton is a very large man He’s a big guy and he can see everything. He’s a pretty good athlete. Throws the ball well. He doesn’t seem to have had a ton of experience. I know Shane probably took more reps last year, I would guess, because he was probably the 2. I know he went in one game, two games, whatever and then played the year before also so he’s probably had some more practice reps than Wilt has but Wilt makes a lot of nice throws and is a good sized kid.
“Shane has a very strong arm, which everybody knows. He spins it well. He just has to understand that’s really not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm you have a really strong arm. That’s what you have. So now it’s a matter of what can you do with it? How do you utilize it? So his skill set, you know, his arm strength is tremendous and he has really good- he’s very comfortable as a quarterback, so that’s fun to watch him in the huddle. He has really good command of what we’re asking him to do and Alex- Alex should be a senior in high school right now.
“I know my senior spring I wasn’t in college, so I know that he’s got a lot going on and he has handled it unbelievably well. He is like- he’s unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him, to be consistent, and to jump right back in and play the game. If a play doesn’t go right he’s right back in [and] ready for the next one. Short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: more honesty]
He appears to have a quick release. Talk about how that’ll factor into what he can do.
“Yeah, we’ll just have to continue to look at all of their mechanics. [They’re] getting tweaked here or there and obviously the way we do it we almost have four eyes on them all the time so there’s a lot of- there’s a tweak here or a tweak there. Try to make them comfortable and really with them being comfortable should come quick delivery, should come quick decision making. I think, though, the most important part of the game is decision making and therefore if you have a quick release it helps, but if you’re a slow processor or slow decision maker [it doesn’t matter] no matter how fast your release is so right now we’re working on them being good decision makers first.”
How comfortable are you with the talent in the room?
“Right now I’m just going ahead every day and coaching the guys that we have and coaching them as hard as we possibly can and I’m comfortable for sure, and then there will be more guys that come in. It’ll be a constant battle. It’ll be a constant battle of competition. It’ll be a constant battle of trying to get better and as I’ve told those guys I think Mark Cuban said ‘Work every day like somebody’s trying to take your job 24 hours a day.’ I want them to take that approach, that they need to absolutely challenge each other every single day to get the next guy better, to get the next guy better, to get the next guy better, and if they really work that hard then I think the talent level’s plenty good.”
What does Zach Gentry have to do to get into the mix over the next five months?
“Well, arrive on campus. And when he gets here then we have to see how much he really knows. We have to see how much can he really handle, and we don’t really have a great feel for- in terms of how much he can process. We haven’t been in a meeting room with him. He doesn’t have our offense, so he’s going to have to- when you arrive on campus- when he arrives on campus in June he’s going to have to come and dig and really dig into that playbook and then when we see him I think it’ll be a matter of much between, oh, let’s say June and August when we’re not with him, can he pick up from the other guys to be somewhat ready to compete with the other guys to go.”
It’s only been a week but has anyone started separating themselves at all from that group?
“No, not yet. No one has. We just continue to mix it around and every day rotate who’s playing with who. Don’t want to hear anybody saying, ‘Well, I played with this center and I played with this guard and I threw it to this wide out.’ They all have everybody.”
“It’s even. I don’t think I’ve counted per se how many true reps but I’ve certainly counted how many pass attempts they’ve each had and it’s very close in terms of that number and they are constantly being rotated around. You know, we’re out there a long time so there’s plenty of reps to go around for both those guys- all three of those guys.”
What are your first impression of Amara Darboh?
“Today was the first day we were able to see him go full-go and he was exciting. You know, I haven’t seen him. I’ve heard about him and he’s a good football player. He is a good player. I’m excited about the receiving corps and I think that we’ve got some size, I think we have strength, I think we have catching ability, we have some guys that have instincts, we have speed but we also have quickness. Now what we have to do is we have to get them to understand and to really grasp everything we’re asking them to do. When they do that they’ll go from thinking to just playing, and when they’re not thinking and they’re able just to go, like they do if you kind of tell them what they have rather than just have to process the whole play, I think we’re going- I’m real excited.
“From Amara, but also what some of these other guys are bringing; Jehu [Chesson], what he’s bringing, what Freddy Canteen is bringing, what Moe Ways is bringing, what Brian Cole- I mean, he’s another one, right? The guy should be a senior in high school and he goes out there and I told him, I said, ‘Your ball skills are unbelievable. When you actually know what you’re doing it’s going to be unreal,’ because he makes some plays that are just tremendous. So right now he’s just kind of figuring it all out being on a college field. So it’s an exciting group. And so are the- you know, Drake [Harris] and Da’Mario [Jones].”
A lot of great receivers were running backs in high school and he [Brian Cole] certainly carried the ball a lot. Talk about how that works out in terms of what you can do after the catch if you were a running back.
“Well, yeah, I think that what those type guys have, and a lot of them, a lot of wide receivers in college were spread quarterbacks as well and they’re just accustomed to how their make-miss is. They have an ability to see the field in a certain manner. They have an ability to kind of use their peripheral vision in a way where when you’re a runner you have to run a different way than when you’re a wide out and you have all that space as a wide receiver and what do you do with it all? Rather than having to run between tackles now you’re outside of them all the time, so he’s just kind of going through all of that but he’s just kind of one of those guys, and I don’t know how many others did that on our team because I wasn’t part of recruiting any of them, but I know that there’s some fun guys to watch with the ball in their hands on our squad.”
You said Shane has a huge arm but he needs to understand the position’s about more than that. Can you go into detail? What do you mean when you say that?
“Yeah. What I mean when I say that [is] he’s got a very strong arm, he can make all the throws, so one of the things you talk about with guys like that, and I’m talking about in general, is you talk about the prettiest ball isn’t always the best ball. If I threw you a knuckler but it landed right here [holds hands to chest] and you caught it for a touchdown to win the Super Bowl it’s better than if I threw the best spiral in the world but I missed you. So one of the things that we want to talk about is the first and foremost thing for every quarterback is complete passes. Take care of the ball. Don’t turn it over, complete passes. Don’t turn it over, complete passes. So with all of our guys that’s what we’re trying to drill into them right now. Be smart with it and that was one of the things that wherever I’ve been, wherever Coach has been that’s really been the philosophy. How can we be smart with the ball?
“Even with a guy like Blake Bortles last year. The first nine game of the season I think he threw 17 interceptions. The last six games of the season he threw one or two, and one was on fourth-and-20 with one second left on a Hail Mary.
“You just kind of have to treat that [like] the ball is gold and you’ve got to take great care of it, and also you have to realize that your job is to be a point guard. Give assists, give assists, give assists, and by doing that that’s completing passes, so that’s really what we’re emphasizing with all of our guys.”
Is decision making more a function of understanding the offense better?
“I think so. I think it’s all- I think decision making is all about your understanding of the offense.”
So it’d be too early to grade these guys?
“Yeah. I think right now it’s too early to grade them on so much. We’re really trying to- we’re evaluating them. We’re evaluating them right now. Kind of treating it like if the marking period of semester ended at the end of spring ball maybe you have a grade, but each day is a quiz or a test or each period might be a quiz and at the end of the day a test because we have to just continue to evaluate, evaluate, evaluate and the more knowledge they have I think we’ll see them- I feel very comfortable saying we’ll see them play faster.”
Do you want someone to start pulling away by the end of spring or do you not care?
“I’m sure that’d be great if one of them did. You always look for that. Just like I’d love a receiver to pull away. You’d love for someone to separate themselves, and someone will. At some point someone will. And what they just need to do is to make sure that they understand that to separate themselves it’s not just one thing. It’s the whole game.”
Are there specific things or goals you want those guys to accomplish this spring?
“The first thing is, the first goal I would tell them is continue to raise your completion percentage every day. That’s the first goal. Second one is to not turn the ball over in practice. If we can accomplish that, if we have those two things, then we’ve had a success. And then avoid the sack in practice. Then create the explosive play. And if we can start doing those things the rest of the goals will come in the future.”