Pretty pleased with the progress of your group?
“Yeah, I’m pretty pleased with the progress so far. I think the guys have played well. Gotten off to a good start. Look forward to continuing that this week.”
What kind of a challenge do the MSU receivers pose to your guys?
“Well, they face a good challenge. They’re good, solid receivers. They’re young. Felton’s [Davis] coming off a big game against Iowa and he’s a threat down the field. He’s a tall guy so they can throw him the ball and he can come down and get it so he poses a problem and they’ll spread it around a good bit, so we’ve got our hands full.”
Do you sense a different energy in the building this week or is it business as usual?
“Obviously we had the extra week of practice last week and were focusing on getting better that week. Call it improvement week. We’ve had two weeks waiting for this game to come so everybody’s ready to go.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a bit on improving communication in the backfield]
How have you seen in particular the freshmen improve from that first week in practice? I think maybe it surprised people that maybe they haven’t played a little bit more but it shows that they are freshmen.
“Yeah, a number of our guys were actually here in the spring. They were early-entry guys, but guys that came in in the summertime, they’ve made leaps and bounds. Improved tremendously from the first day. They’ve kind of gone through that whole Bridge Program that we have here and they were missing meeting time because of that but now I think they’ve grasped the system and they’re getting more comfortable with what we’re doing and now you can just see them go out and play rather than worry about how to get lined up and where to go.”
What do you attribute the growth in leaps and bounds to in particular?
“I think just repetition. You get better at football by actually playing football, so the more reps that they can get the more comfortable they feel and when you come to the line of scrimmage you don’t have to worry about formations or actually what my job is or what I’m supposed to do. You can just go out and play, and that helps a lot.”
Lavert [Hill] talked Monday about how he felt the communication was the thing that had changed the most. Where does that show up and do you agree with that?
“Definitely the communication has improved with the group as a whole. Again, just seeing things over and over again for the first time. Guys learn differently. Some guys learn in the classroom and other guys learn by actually playing out on the field and doing it and getting reps and you can see it when teams are giving us different looks, maybe a look we haven’t seen before, and we can adjust to it. That’s all about communicating and getting on the same page.”
Is there a certain game or a certain drive where you can recall that changing?
“No play or drive really sticks out in my mind. This past game, Purdue, they threw a lot of trick plays at us [inaudible] throwback passes, flea flicker, and our guys communicated. There’s a certain play called a jet sweep where a receiver fast-motions across [and] I think our guys did an excellent job communicating on those switches whereas in the past it’s given us problems and I think they’ve done a good job adjusting.”
Given Lewerke’s mobility, does that affect at all how you coach them in terms of how they prepare for that?
“Yeah, anytime you get a running quarterback, a guy that can run and throw as he can, obviously that presents its own set of challenges. He’s their leading rusher right now and obviously he’s somebody we’ll have to account for.”
Is it something where you focus more on telling them they have to cover for the long term or is it more about keeping their eyes forward in case he breaks free, that they have to be prepared for that also?
“We always have to take care of the pass first. As a defensive back, that’s what their assignment is.”