- Brown thinks Gary and Hurst are the best Anchor-3T combo in the nation
- Mike Wroblewski was talked up as a guy who knows the scheme so well that he makes calls for not only his but other position groups; Brown has to tell him to let other guys make their calls, a first in his career
- Current combatants at Peppers’s vacated VIPER spot: Khaleke Hudson, Jordan Glasgow, Josh Metellus
- Hill and Long have first dibs on the corner spots, but the plan is to let everyone compete and see what happens
- On the defense’s youth: “I’d rather be talented and young than not, than the alternative; have a bunch of veterans and you’re going, oh my god, what am I gonna do?”
- Devin Bush is flipping between Mike and Will. Brown feels like he’s got three guys for two positions between McCray, Wroblewski, and Bush
“How are you guys?”
Good, how are you?
“Glad to be coaching ball, that’s all I know. Good first day. Guys worked hard, really did. The youth on our team…you know, you can look at it and say ‘Oh, we got a long way to go,’ which we do, but it’s just such an energizing feeling when you go out there and you’re actually walking off the field going ‘Damn, we functioned pretty well today.’ So, you know, excited about it.
“It’s a good group, but kind of an interesting blend. So there’s enough guys that have been around that will demand execution and demand effort and energy that I feel like we’ll be in great shape.”
Some of the guys at Pro Day today, Taco and Chris [Wormley], were saying that they think this defensive line group is maybe more athletic than the group that’s departed. Is that fair?
“I think with Rashan and Mo Hurst…I have to tilt my head back and think for a minute. [He really is tilting his head back.] I don’t know, I’m not sure there’s a better tandem Anchor-tackle in the country. I’m very confident with Bryan [Mone]—here’s the key: we played eight guys last year. Four are gone, but we’ve got a first team with Bryan Mone—and Chase Winovich is such a better player.
“I think back—I did a bad thing yesterday. I went back and watched practice #3 of spring last year. Hooooly moly. What was that? We’re just so different, and those first four guys are really, they’re setting the tone. We’ve got some youth there that I’m very excited about. I thought Donovan Jeter, his raw ability today, thought he showed some really good signs, which is good.
“The Sam-Mike-Will thing: getting Mike McCray back. (W)robo, Mike Wroblewski, there’s another guy where I’m watching him in practice last year [and] just can’t even believe it’s the same guy. You talk about a self-made football player, but a guy who knows it all. Here’s—I’ve never had to do this before. He’s telling the secondary, making their on-rights and lefts call, he’s making the tight call, he’s making the detach call for the outside linebacker and it’s finally like, ‘Hey Robo, you need to shut up and let those guys make those calls themselves.’ ‘Oh yeah, Coach, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ That’s how well he knows the scheme. So him and Devin Bush and Mike McCray. Furbush was good.
“We got Uche goin’ at Sam and Khaleke Hudson was our VIPER today. Arrows up; really excited about him. Glasgow was a VIPER today and that young secondary, Lavert Hill, David Long, Josh Metellus, Tyree—Tyree Kinnel has just quietly done a nice job.
“So, we’ll see. There’s a lot of youth there. St. Juste, he’ll be an interesting guy as we move forward. Ambry Thomas, again, another interesting guy. J’Marick Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell, all those guys are good players. The nice thing is I don’t think there’s a lot of guys that are misplaced. They’re in the right place in terms of their level of competition.”
[After THE JUMP: on the concept of the VIPER and an excellent, in-depth response to criticisms of Peppers’ game]
Is Metellus still an option at that VIPER spot?
“Yeah, yeah. I’m gonna let him look at it and we’re gonna rotate through it. Yeah. That’s—every day competition’s a beautiful thing, and we have several battles goin’ on so it’s exciting, too. You know, young guys are hungry. They just seem to be hungry. I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a great thing for our defensive football team because everybody’s trying to make plays, which isn’t a bad thing.”
How do you balance filling that position with needing depth at the safety spot, because you do lose quite a few players from there also?
“You know, it’s a good question. That’s why when Khaleke’s there at the VIPER we leave Josh [Metellus] at the strong safety position and Jaylen’s with him. I’ve even toyed with the idea of giving Jaylen some work there but [chortles] I mean, his world right now, things are happening so fast, let’s get him comfortable and settled a the ROVER position but I can rotate those guys and feel pretty comfortable with it.”
Does it tweak what you do at the VIPER spot without Jabrill or is it the same concept overall?
“Oh, there’ll be tweakin’. Do you know how many calls I’ve gotten this winter? ‘I’m the next Jabrill Peppers!’ ‘No, you’re not.’ No, I’m just kidding. But, I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of those emails, you know.
“He’s a unique talent and I thought we did as good a job as possible trying to use him as much as we could. And like I told you before, we just gave him a bunch of jobs and moved him around and tried to complicate people’s world and I thought that was fairly effective.
“The concept of the VIPER position really isn’t gonna change much. We’re gonna play, I don’t know, ten spread teams? Michigan State will come at us. Wisconsin will come at us. We’ll see on the rest. I mean, Ohio State comes at ya but in a different way. It’ll be interesting.”
Hill and Long, are they the leaders at corner at this point? Do you go into it with that in mind, at least?
“You know, I’m really not. I’m just kind letting them play. Obviously they get first dibs and if they can hold onto it, great. They’re such young guys, just let ‘em compete and it’ll take care of itself. I’m really not—you know, I joked around last fall and said I’m not afraid.
“We’ll get it, we’ll be settled, we’ll have our packages down, and we’ll have a very, very solid group that’ll be able to compete at a high level despite the age. I’m not worried about that at all. I’d rather be talented and young than not, than the alternative; have a bunch of veterans and you’re going, oh my god, what am I gonna do? I’ll take the alternative and be happy with it.
“It’s really a fun group to coach. They’re kinda like the Feed Me Patrol, so it’s kind of a fun thing. They just want more and more and more. They’re coming in extra, which they don’t have to do, and they want to be good. That’s half the battle is when guys want to be great players. Usually that’s a good sign that they’re going to be.”
What’s it going to be like for you to watch all those guys who were at Pro Day today go on to the next level?
“Ah, I’m so excited. I really am. Those four guys up front. Ben Gedeon; he’s really atoned himself well. Wish we had him back for another year, but I’m happy for him. Obviously Jabrill, Delano [Hill], Dymonte [Thomas] ran really good today, so that was good. Strib did a great job, and Jourdan Lewis is, in my opinion, the best nickel corner in the country, but that’s me. And I am prejudiced about it. He is. He’s the best. I think that’ll show itself out over the next few years; he’s a great player. Good bunch. Really good bunch.”
We all know that Jabrill’s athletic. You’ve talked about him at length. Do you feel like his intelligence might be an underrated aspect?
“Yes. He’s one of the brightest football players on the field that I’ve ever been around. It was one of those [things where] I’d see the hand go up and I’d know, hey, you better have your stuff together because this question’s gonna have some substance to it. He’d have his couple questions and when you told him once it was over. I mean, it was done and it was handled. We asked a lot of him mentally and I thought Coach said it the best; I heard him on the tube today say he’s the best tackler in the country. What an underrated skill in college football, being the best tackler in the open field in the country. That’s a hard thing to do, now. You know, that, coverage skills—I had somebody ask me, ‘Well, he must not be able to catch very well since he only had one interception.’ Well, we play a lot of man so you’re gonna get a lot of the pass breakup stuff. Go back 50 yards and try to catch those punts and then tell me you have no hands. I mean, that’s just ridiculous.”
What do you make of the discussion of what position he’s going to play?
“I just had film on today, I was watching Patrick Chung of the Patriots. Okay, he’s covering the tight end, blitzing off the edge on the next play, back covering the tight end, he’s back covering half the field. There’s guys like that in the NFL all over the place where they give ‘em jobs and give ‘em a bunch of things to do.
“I will say this: probably part of the thing that hurts him is we asked him to cover the big tight ends and the hybrid tight ends for us because he had that uncanny ability to be able to play against big people. So, who’s gonna throw the ball to him? If I’m a quarterback going back and there’s the tight end I’m not sure that’s my prime target.
“Maybe his opportunities were down a little bit in terms of number of balls thrown at him. Plus, I can only think of four or five catches that he was even remotely involved in.”
With McCray and Bush both playing at the Will last year, is one of them moving inside to the Mike so that they can both be out there?
[long pause] “Kinda. I’m flipping Devin around because he knows how to play both. He’s been learning Mike but he knows how to play Will. I’m leaving Mike [McCray] where he is. I got Robo there. I kinda got three for two at the start of spring practice and I’m working hard to develop some depth there, but I’m very happy with those three guys.”
I know Pep [Hamilton] and Greg [Frey] coach the other side but can you pick up things from them?
“Oh yeah. Coach does a great job of hiring guys that bring stuff to the table, so I’m sure we’ll get tested during the spring. Greg will be a great asset because obviously he had to gameplan us last year. We’ll definitely share some thoughts, and we have already.”