March 8, 2011
Audio: Bryan Harsin
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin
On what has stood out the most after the first few practices: Well, I think just for myself getting a chance to see these guys play, and that has been good. We've seen them in workouts. We've seen them in the weight room, but now to be able to go out and see them run around and play football, that has been good. And it has been good to get out on the field with them, to start coaching, and just have that experience together.
On the quarterback situation: All four of those guys right now, they are learning, they are preparing, and that is the one thing we are looking for right now. They are in there studying film. They're answering questions in the film room, and they are applying it on the field. It is not perfect right now. It is a new system, but they're out there working. They are coming to practice prepared, and we're just looking to build off that. I have been pleased with their effort. I have been pleased about what they have done to get themselves ready for practice. All of them have been splitting reps. We've had everybody go with the ones and twos, and so we're in that pecking order each practice, and we're just trying to put them in different groups and different scenarios. That is just the main thing right now, to get them in all different scenarios, with different groups, in different situations, and that is what we are trying to look at right now.
What qualities can separate the quarterbacks: There are four things that we talked about, and this is just quarterback play in general. One is toughness. Two is preparation. Number three is decision-making, and four is accuracy. And so we have been really trying to talk about those preparation habits. We've been talking about the decision-making process while we are out there on the field, and then we have been working on the fundamentals to try to get better with our accuracy. The toughness part will come when you get into the scrimmages, when you get into those game situations where those guys will stay in the pocket and move around, or they will throw the ball away when they are supposed to and that is the only play. Those are some of the things we've been looking at. Those are the qualities we've talked about, and those are the qualities we will continue to talk about.
On freshman QB David Ash: I like David. He has done a nice job. David is a senior in high school right now. He has come in with a great attitude. He comes into meetings prepared, and he has done a nice job out there on the field. He is trying really hard with some of the new things we're putting out there - some of the mechanics we've talked about he has really caught on [to]. He is a quick learner. He has a great attitude. I've been real pleased with him.
On if the system is quarterback-friendly: I hope it is quarterback-friendly. We want to put everybody out there on the field in a situation to be successful, but we have got to start with the quarterback. And that is really our number one thought. From that point, we also want to push that quarterback a little bit, so we can do more. When we get to that point, we'll start doing that. When they get a handle and get comfortable with a system, when they start seeing things before you tell them to see it, then you're getting to the next step and you can add more to what their package is going to be.
On if the offensive line has been juggled: [Offensive line] coach Searles has done a really good job of that. He really has a plan together for those guys, and he is moving them around. Yeah, we've had to do that. He has moved some guys around with different groups and different positions, and it is good for those guys to learn those positions - guards, tackles, centers. So, he is doing a really good job handling that.
On what has been the most pleasant surprise of practice: I think the best thing is just the attitude of the players. They don't know everything that we're trying to get done, but they are out there trying. If we have to reload a play, if we have to do something again, they are right back on the ball ready to go. They understand we have to do this to get better, and there haven't been any issues from that standpoint. We know it is going to be hard with a new system, but let's do it again, let's improve upon it, and let's move on to the next play. And those guys have had a great attitude out there, and what I am seeing now in practice is the tempo is starting to pick up. Now they are learning, and they are starting to pick it up a little bit better. Now the tempo is getting better at practice, and the tempo is moving along like you want it to.
Listen to Applewhite (Audio)
Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
On players responding to the new coaches: Just the openness [stands out]. The players are willing to learn new things, new ideas, new tempos and new ways to practice. Trying to understand that it's more than just putting in new plays, we're trying to change the culture of how we practice - the effort that we put forth and the tempo in which we practice drill-to-drill.
On OG Tray Allen: He's done well. To be honest with you, I watch my position out there. We'll watch [other players] on tape. He's done well. [He's] overcome the foot injury and gotten back. We're all working on it as coaches and players, getting mentally tough and physically tough, and he's had to do that with his foot. And he's done a great job thus far. But we're not even halfway through, so we've got a little more spring ball.
On the running backs: I think it's kind of an across-the-board statement. Guys are really taking to the offensive scheme. They really like the stuff that we're doing. But more so, they're taking to the tempo - what we're doing in practice and how we want to see them work. Everybody runs the zone, everybody runs the power, everybody runs four verticals, but how do you practice it? How do you tempo things in practice to get where kids are getting as many reps as they can and getting geared in to what they need to do?
On the redshirt running backs, Jeremy Hills and Traylon Shead: The good thing is, for those guys it's kind of a blank slate. No one's played in this offense before, so from all position's standpoint it's been great. But for those guys specifically, to come in as a junior and a redshirt freshman and to be on an even playing surface with Cody [Johnson] and Fozzy [Whittaker] - who are fifth-year seniors - it's really helped them out. They've got to battle some things to get back on the field and be more consistent in their bodies and be able to go practice to practice, but they've done a good job of learning the system and they've learned a lot like Fozzy and Cody.
On RB Chris Whaley: He's working at a fullback, H-back type roll - a true H-back. We have roles now where there's a true fullback in the backfield, and there's guys that play along the line of scrimmage. He's a guy that plays a little bit more along the line of scrimmage than from a true fullback set.
Listen to Allen (Audio)
OL Tray Allen?
On how it feels to be back playing: I've been looking forward to getting back out with my teammates. It ate me alive just sitting on the sideline last year. I feel like I just needed be out there, especially for the last game of the season. I got so excited, people had to hold me back on the sideline. But my teammates have welcomed me back with open arms. When they need to be pushed, I am pushing them. When I need to be picked up, they pick me up. We're getting back to our old way, pulling together and being a team. Coach Brown has been stressing that we are our brothers' keepers. We keep each other. This is our family. What we do here stays here.
On what is the biggest difference from last year: A new system. The new coaches are intense. We need to pull together. The offense isn't going to work unless we all come together and we all gel as a team. That means getting in the film room with each other. That means talking with each other, calling each other up on our off days - grab a couple boxes of pizza and come watch film. Or just hanging out and gelling with each other, getting in sync with each other. So we know who is going to do what on what play. How they are going to block it. How the back is going to fit in. Where the quarterback is going to read from. That is the biggest change, just getting acclimated in this new offense with each other.
On the offensive line's mentality: We have the desire to be the offensive line. We did not end last year on a good note, and we all know that as a unit. We're just trying to work on our techniques. We have a new coach, so there are new techniques to be learned. We need to not necessarily break all of our old habits, but build and learn on the foundation we had before [offensive line] Coach Searles got here, and make ourselves better and push ourselves.
On the most fun thing about the new coaches: [Coach Searles] makes me race him to the next drill. That is the coolest thing to me. I beat him sometimes, depending on the drill we did before the race.
On his mental approach this season: My mental approach coming in is to learn and just make myself better and therefore make my teammates better around me. Learning a new offense is hard. You have to sit back and learn and help your line mates learn offense. That is what we have been doing. We've been helping each other. I know I am an upperclassman, but all of us are on the same level right now. We just have to help each other, gel and move forward.
On last season: It was very frustrating. I felt almost hopeless because I couldn't do anything about it. All I could do is help cheer my teammates on when they were on the field, or help them when they come off the field and keep their spirits high. It was just very frustrating for me not being able to play.
Listen to Whittaker (Audio)
RB Fozzy Whittaker
On practice: So far it's going well. We've been stressing a lot of tempo this year, just getting everybody going fast and working on that. Not just in practice but also through our workouts when we're lifting weights. It's a lot of tempo, but it's making us a better team as a whole.
On working with both offensive coordinators: Especially from a running back perspective with Applewhite being our coach, he's able to explain what coach Harsin wants to do with the offense. He's able to give us everybody's detail in position to help us further understand why our job is important and what we need to do to help our offense be successful.
On the new coaches: They've been very hands on. We have a young, energetic staff. They're able to get out there with us, show some emotion and passion with us, and it's just an exciting time.
On stressing tempo: It started when we first came back in January from the break. It started with the workouts with new coach Bennie Wylie, our strength coach. He's been stressing tempo this whole time, so whenever we got out to the field there's nothing new for us.
On learning a new offense: It's something new just because it's totally new terms and new lingo that we have to speak now. I fee like I'm adjusting quite well, and I'm looking forward to it.
On being a senior leader: I take it upon myself. I'm one of the people that has been here the longest. Younger people are going to look at me and look up to me to do certain things, so I feel like it's my role to step in as that leader and be a positive light to them and show them how to do it the right way.