Football

Football Press Conference Transcript

Aug 26, 2013

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COACH MEYER: Good to see you. Obviously game week, Ohio State style this week, relatively healthy going into it. Do we give out the depth chart yet?

THE MODERATOR: We have not yet.

COACH MEYER: We'll discuss our depth chart, even though, still a little chance for change because you still have three days.

It's a plus one day, after a bye week, our first game of the season. Normally give our players Mondays off during the year. But today is going to be Monday, full pads, and tomorrow if everybody acts appropriately, we'll go Buckeye gear on Tuesday and then Wednesday, same, cutback practice, get their legs back, and typical Thursday and best Fridays and football on Friday. So that's our week schedule.

We are going to have our captain vote tonight at 2:10 and I will let you guys know where that ends up. With that said, I'll answer any questions for you.

Q. Last year every was asking if you were a different guy than you were in Florida; wondering a year after, if you are different guy now than you were last year?
COACH MEYER: I don't think, pretty much the same guy we've done all right. I don't know. I don't know I just can't wait to play football. All due respect, answer questions about football.

Q. The last time you talked to us, four or five units had your attention. Are you more comfortable with those now or do you still need to see a game to truly.
COACH MEYER: No, much more comfortable, the area we still trying to solidify is linebacker. Just because there's some young guys in the depth and then also Curtis Grant has not really played a whole lot of Mike linebacker. He's catching up quick. He missed a lot of practices because he got injured during training camp but he's going real hard and trying to catch up as fast as he can. That's the only one area that we are a little bit behind.

The other positions, offensive line, feel very good about, quarterback feel good about. Receivers probably one of the most improved areas on our team. Running back feel very good about, so just kind of going through it. Kickers, interested to see how our kicker, our punter reacts. That's one unit that remains to be determined and then defense, defensive line, they are young, but Coach Vrabel has done a really nice job with them.

Secondary, I'd like to see how Armani reacts to getting his first college start. Safety is a pretty veteran group, three older players. Tyvis Powell is getting his first college start. There are some units, but the linebacker is the one area that's the most concerning.

Q. At least some stretch where Linsley and Moreau (ph) was banged up, did they get enough time together in camp?
COACH MEYER: That's a good question, not enough time, but they are a veteran group, played all 12 games together last year.

So Linsley the good thing that gave us was a chance to get Pat Efflein and Jacoby Boren in there, and they will play Saturday. Both those kids have earned that right to play, so they will both play Saturday.

Q. How much of the playbook will you use this year, as opposed to last year if you can quantify
COACH MEYER: Last year we were not a read offense and to be honest with you, I'm not sure how much read offense we are going to be.

I think we are going to have the idea that we want to do is get guys in space, but we might be doing that throwing more this year than last year so, I don't want to give away too much, but I'm not sure it's going to be everybody wants to equate it to maybe the 2008 offense at Florida or last year's offense, which was really not that was either quarterback run or hand it to a big tailback because we just were not very good at certain spots.

But those areas are much better, and so I hope that we can spread the field however we are going to do it. It might not be that read option part of it. There might be some other ways.

Q. Curious about freshmen in particular, which freshmen do you know today will be on the field Saturday, who have earned that right?
COACH MEYER: For sure Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott will play. On defense, I would imagine Joey Bosa, for sure will play; Mike Hill we are hoping to get in there and the freshman punter. I think that's those are the ones for sure and then the other ones, depend how they practice and get going.

Q. What's the common thread that has led to maybe so much success, what is it about year two having the foundation?
COACH MEYER: Just how fast we are going, and it's a blessing whenever you have no staff transition. This time last year was I don't want I use that word a lot; it was terrible. It was awful.

Last year on Friday in preseason, we went to dinner at the golf course for no other reason, just to because I wanted out of their system, what's next. I wanted the players concentrated on their game responsible ties and when you have the same coaching staff, a lot of the same players, certainly on offense and even the defensive players at least were here a year ago.

So usually, and it's not just our teams tend to have a much better year their second year, if you have the players.

Q. Just wondering if you're talking about the stage that the offense will be this year, with Braxton, a year ago, he led the team in rushing. Do you I don't know if you can predict things whether he will again, but do you foresee that or would you rather?
COACH MEYER: I hope that doesn't happen. He was by far our best player and when I say by far, I mean, it wasn't even the same hemisphere as far as who the next player was that could go make a play and help us win.

But I'm very comfortable with Philly Brown. Evan Spencer has had a tremendous camp. Jordan Hall looks better than he ever has. We have two tight ends that I can't wait to get them involved.

If Braxton is leading, I don't see that happening this year. If it does, that means something's not going well.

Q. When you think ahead to Saturday, what are the big questions that you have? What are you most eager to see?
COACH MEYER: The game, the reaction by Ezekiel and Dontre Wilson in the stadium. They weren't here in spring practice. The kids that came early, at least they had a chance to play in front of the big crowd for the spring game.

I don't, but I think coaches have a tendency to devalue what happens when you jog out that tunnel, especially a place like Ohio stadium. There will be a lot of deep breaths being taken and you just can't create that animal until you get that opportunity.

That's what I'm anxious, but I've been there a few times, so I want to see how Dontre he's going to return the opening kickoff of the 2013 Ohio State football team.

The thing I like about Dontre is he doesn't seem fazed, but he has not done that yet. You see me jog someone else out there, you know we are having a little hyperventilating issue (Laughter) which I've seen before. Isn't that beautiful about young players (smiling).

Q. As much as coaches have learned about the way you have to handle practices, do you know more than ever what you've got a as a coach?
COACH MEYER: I think the question is because you can't put so many cripples and so much contact in practice, absolutely. And we were very smart this year as far as the way we practiced.

If I had a greater depends how we play coming up here, but I really like the way Coach Marotti and myself spent an inordinate amount of time with our trainers and just making sure we are doing it the right way.

I feel really good about where we're at. There's a lot of truth to what you said. You can't simulate the game, the game situations, as often as maybe you did in the past. Very rarely did we have those kind of situations.

Q. No. 2 in the nation everybody thinks you got a lot of talent, are you at all concerned that the players are aware of that and could believe it and could alter how they perform? Think a little bit too much of themselves?
COACH MEYER: I'm always worried about that. The question is, because of high expectations, that they think they have got some of the answers.

I would be disappointed in our staff if that happened because that's what practice is for ask corrections and meeting rooms and meetings. I don't think we have that problem. I really don't. First of all, we are not that good yet. I'll tell you if I believe we are, and we're not. We have a long way to go, especially on certain areas. So I don't feel that at all.

Q. No. 1, do you feel like you're coming out of preseason, you talked about this a minute ago, deeper than you thought you would be at offensive line?
COACH MEYER: Yes.

Q. What's your take there?
COACH MEYER: Much deeper. Pat Efflein is a great story, what a worker, what a tremendous kid, tremendous family. Just tough. I love that group. He's a guy that has really come on. Kyle Dodson has come on. A guy named Darryl Baldwin has come on. Those are all players that a year ago, to think you would ever let them on the field in a situation where it counts, that's not going to happen.

Darryl Baldwin, he's one of the most improved players on the team. I don't know if I've even mentioned him. What great kid, no maintenance, no nothing, other than just hard working guy that gets great grades and is a wonderful player. Great, great representative of Ohio State. He's a guy that you could see him going to the game. I have no problem putting him, Pat Efflein, Jacoby Boren in the game and Kyle Dodson is getting close.

Q. Running back, obviously looking you would think the top two guys are not available this week, maybe Jordan is one of those top two but what's sort of going to be your plan Saturday with your running backs to accelerate like Wilson and Elliot's chances?
COACH MEYER: Jordan Hall is the best running back on our team right now. And so he'll have to lose that spot. I'm talking next week, the week after, whatever. Jordan, it all depends, he's a tailback at Ohio State, he's earned that right.

Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball are the next two in, and we want to get Ezekiel in to see how he responds in that kind of environment. I'm not sure how early but he certainly will be carrying a ball on Saturday and he's earned that right as well.

Same with Dontre Wilson; we'll line up with some tailback positions. It's really neat to have that many spots, have those choices.

Q. Doing a story about scheduling, and a lot of talk about you guys going to nine games in the future in the conference, I assume you collaborated with Gene Smith what you guys want to do, you have two night games this year, and I think one year down the line you are playing Cincinnati, TCU and North Carolina. That's a pretty I have stuff schedule. Talk about the philosophy in what you're doing.
COACH MEYER: You know, Gene I really don't get involved that much. We have very few discussions. I have many more issues that I have to deal with about just getting this team ready to play. So I trust; we have one of the best ADs in America, I trust him, and he knows more than I do about that kind of stuff.

So we'll have a conversation, but it's not very long, and like I said, I'm back in that meeting room trying to get our team ready.

I think there is going to be a shift. I really don't understand the playoffs. I really don't it's really not my job to understand that. I'm trying to get ready for this game Saturday. So I do think there's a philosophical, I'm not saying shift, but awareness of what's going to be necessary down the road.

Q. Two night games, are you excited?
COACH MEYER: I'm really excited about that, because that's recruiting, and especially the night games we have. The earlier games are a hard time I didn't really realize that, but they were hard to get guys here because you're leaving at 6 AM, 7 AM after a Friday night football game. And a lot of times Saturday, the high school coach has a player, they have to come in and get treatments and all that and the kids can't make the games; where night games, you shouldn't have any issue.

So really excited, plus I think our atmosphere at night is magical.

Q. I guess with Jordan and the other running backs behind him, how comfortable are you with not running the ball
COACH MEYER: Jordan is a little smaller but he is arguably one of the tougher guys pound for pound on our team. So I'm pretty good. Stan Drayton has done a nice job with pass protection, which that is a big part of it, and catching the ball in the backfield is a big part of it and Jordan is fantastic at that, and the other guys are, too. We are comfortable going into this the game.

Q. Braxton, the offensive line, you've talked in the past about Braxton could be a better scrambler in the pocket but with the offensive line protecting him, how do you feel about that whole situation, avoiding sacks?
COACH MEYER: Feel very good. Fundamentally he's a much different player than he was at this time a year ago. Pocket presence, which includes when it breaks down, getting plus yardage, not a very good scrambler most of his yards last year were on design quarterback runs and maybe a play that got screwed up. He was not a very good scrambler. He's much improved.

Q. Aside from winning, I think times last year that you were not real happy about. What does success look like for you Saturday? What puts you in a good mood?
COACH MEYER: I want us to play well. I want us to play clean. Remember, last year the first quarter, it was 7 0 after the first quarter. Should have been worse. Could have been worse. So I just didn't think, really, up until about the third or fourth game that we acted clean.

So I'm just I made this comment, many, many times, that fundamentally, we were 12 0 and some really great things happened, some incredible leadership, motivation and a team that got really, really close, which is probably more important than everything not probably; it is.

But the second most important part is just blocking, tackling and great football position and all the great things that we work so hard at. I mean, work we start in January on that. That's a big part of the chase.

I'm hoping that we leave that field Saturday obviously with a win, but you feel good about the fundamentals of your football team. If you do that, that's a real positive and we didn't we'll that way, it took us awhile last year.

Q. As you've studied Buffalo, what's stood out?
COACH MEYER: They have one of the best linebackers. He's No. 2 on the board as far as the NFL Draft, No. 46, tremendous player. They rush him a lot off the edge. They play a very unorthodox defense. It's called 54 I, which mean it's all there's 3 4 and 4 3, this is an inversion of the 3 4, and they play their defensive tackles inside our tackle which is just screws up all our blocking scheme and a really unique coverage called 2 invert which we have not seen in a couple years.

Good thing is we have been working on this for a while but it's a pain in the butt. I this think they play extremely hard and they have got good players. That staff has been together, also. It's not an unprepared team so I think that it's a good team, good players, and a unique scheme that's hard on offense.

I think they are going to probably switch up things a little bit. We are not quite sure exactly what we are going to do get. They do sometimes shifts and motions which can always cause you issues. So I think the first quarter, kind of settle down, in typical openers, they let not get too nuts out there and let things get settled down, find out what they are playing and then your game plan adjusts, because you're going off last year's stuff, but a lot of things change.

Thanks, have a good day.


THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the Q&A with Coach Tom Herman.

Q. With captains being voted on today, do some teams need more leadership than others and where does this team fall in that spectrum?
COACH HERMAN: I think all teams need great leadership. All great teams need great leadership, I should say. This team is certainly, the unique thing about this team is that we have got a lot of guys on the fringe of being great leaders. They are good leaders.

So we have got probably eight to 12 guys that are there on the fringe that are right there ready to make that next step into the elite leadership kind of category, but we are not there yet.

So I do think for us to ultimately achieve what we want to achieve, we do have to have a few of those guys, if not all of them, make that next step.

Q. Coach Meyer on an interview with ESPN yesterday said he holds his coaches accountable for behavior, and I'm assuming you're not
COACH HERMAN: Yeah, how about that.

Q. I'm assuming you're not running stairs or doing 6 AM workouts, but what does he mean by that? What does that mean to you?
COACH HERMAN: Well, it means that we are in control and we are held responsible and accountable for the decisions, the actions, the performance of the guys in our meeting room.

Ultimately, their performance on and off the field is a reflection of us as leaders and mentors, so it is a and it's been that way probably everywhere in the country. I think maybe a little bit more here under Coach Meyer, and it's something in the last year and a half that I've really grown to like and embrace, because you are almost forced to form that bond with your players.

Now, on the flipside of it, you're also held accountable for the actions of 18 to 22 year olds which I know if any coach was held accountable for some of my actions when I was 18 to 22, I don't know if that guy would still have a job. But they also didn't have Twitter and camera phones and Facebook and all that stuff back then, too.

So long story short, I think it's fairly common throughout the countdown try. I think maybe a little bit more emphasis is put on it here under Coach Meyer and I think it's something us as staff members have certainly embraced.

Q. How different is the team going to look for the average fan out there?
COACH HERMAN: Maybe to the average fan, not a whole lot different. I think we're not going to go from what we were last year to the triple option to a wishbone team or an under center 22 personnel I team or anything like that. So our base tenets and foundations have been an up tempo spread, no huddle offense. I think we'll stay the same.

I think when and how the ball is distributed may be a little bit different being that we have improved at some areas on the perimeter. We have improved a little bit at quarterback, too.

So I think in play selection and ball distribution, there may be some differences from last year, but I don't think our core foundations are who we are and what we believe in will change.

Q. What about tempo?
COACH HERMAN: Yeah, I think again, I've been asked that. We are not, nor will we ever be, one of those teams that they exist in a country and that's great for them, and they want to run 90 or 100 snaps.

For us, it sounds cliché, but we are going to do whatever it takes to win. We are better at going fast now than we have ever been. If the situation dictates that we need to do more of it, we certainly will, and feel confident that we can.

But at the same time, we don't have an we don't want to play the game, the entire game, lightning fast, because we understand that there's a lot of different pieces to the puzzle in terms of winning a football game.

Q. Can you discuss the progress of Cardale Jones; how is he coming along?
COACH HERMAN: Improved slowly. I think he does a lot of things really well. I think he's like any of the other quarterbacks; I think his understanding of what we are doing offensively has improved. I think his decision making has improved. His biggest hurdle right now is just to maintain a level of consistency. It's like I've said about other guys before, you know, his good is really, really good but his bad right now is really, really bad.

So we need that good there a lot more than the bad right now. And so he has spurts where you think he's regressed a little bit maybe and has not taken that step, but more spurts now than ever before of where you can see some steady progress.

Q. J.T. Barrett, is the plan to redshirt him?
COACH HERMAN: I think it would be too early to say. I would hope we have that luxury and that he would be able to have a year to season himself a little bit. But at this point, who knows. But yeah, I think, you know, your fourth quarterback, you hope you don't get to that point I guess.

Q. Talking about Braxton's development, reading defenses, leadership, where area do you think he came the furthest in the last nine or ten months?
COACH HERMAN: Confidence in himself and in what he's doing. We can say all we want to say about his improved mechanics, his improved fundamentals, but I think when the confidence in what he was doing and the plays that were called and where his eyes needed to be and the reads that he needed to make and the decisions that he needed to make were second nature to him and very comfortable for him, he gained a level of confidence that then allowed him to play with much better fundamentals and mechanics.

Because we always knew it was there. We had seen the guy last year make some really, really sound, fundamental plays that he looked like a million bucks. The problem is I don't know that he was ever truly confident in himself and in the big picture of what he was supposed to do and how he was supposed to do it, so we didn't see those near as much as now.

He is very got tunnel vision, so to speak in, terms of I know what I'm supposed to do, I'm getting it done and now my mechanics and my fundamentals can flourish a little bit.

Q. Coach Meyer was talking about Braxton's pocket presence and confidence, or how does a quarterback work on that, understanding when to take off, when to hang in?
COACH HERMAN: I think it's all here. None of it we do fundamental drills every day, and he's really, really good at them in the drills.

It was the translation of the drills into an 11 on 11 game setting that because of his lack of confidence and maybe where to go with the football, and what to look at and what to see and how to do some of the things that we were asking him to do, led to a diminished pocket presence so to speak.

I think once all of that came and again, not to sound like a broken record, but once that level of understanding and confidence in his competence and his mental aspect of the game started to come around, now everything around him from fundamentals to pocket presence to all the minutia details of how to be a really, really good quarterback started to come a lot easier to him.

Q. It's a little murky at wide receiver and offensive line, can you take us through those two groups and say who is one, two is two, and where he can where he can this things kind of lie right now?
COACH HERMAN: Yeah, we feel like we have got four wide receivers right now that would definitely be considered starter/ 50 , 60 , 70 play a game guys can and that would be Philly Brown, Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and Chris Fields. Those four guys we feel very comfortable about. Philly is kind of a swing guy, if you will. He can play outside receiver and he can play some inside receiver. Chris Fields is mainly an inside receiver, and Devin and Evan are mainly outside receivers.

And then beyond that, you've got a couple guys in the mix that are trying to fight for that fifth and sixth spot and Mike Thomas and Corey Smith and I drew a blank the freshman, James Clark I recruited him (laughter) shows you how and James Clark. And then obviously we'll sprinkle in some Dontre Wilson in there, as well.

So those guys are kind of, like I said, they are the ones that are battling for those left over reps and those left over snaps during the game.

Q. Define what you mean by "sprinkle in some Dontre Wilson." What does that mean?
COACH HERMAN: He's going to touch the ball. We'd be foolish not to have him touch the ball. I think that you have to be careful with a true freshman that has to play some running back, has to play some wide receiver, has to flex out and run routes, yet be in the backfield and run run plays if you will.

And so the package will be small to start the year off, and let him become an expert at the few things that we are asking him to do. Through the first few weeks, we have thrown a ton of tough at him and now that he's been exposed to so many different things and he's screwed a lot of them up, but the exposure is there, and now this last week will be kind of fine tuning, here is what you need to be really good at come Saturday against Buffalo, these eight, ten plays, formations, routes, runs. That's what we need you to be good at.

So how many times and how often and how many snaps and how many plays and where is he I don't know. And I'm not being coy. At this point on Monday of game week, I don't know that we know that. But I know he'll touch the ball and I no he he'll have a condensed package for him to get the ball to him.

Q. When you look at your running back rotation, do you see four, five, just totally different guys, or how would you you go from Jordan Hall to Bri'onte Dunne to Warren Ball to Ezekiel Elliott to possibly Dontre Wilson also in there. How do you use those parts?
COACH HERMAN: You feed the guy that needs to get fed I guess. The guy that's playing the best will get the ball and so we'll determine early who that is the Jordan Hall, obviously he's had a great camp. He will be the guy that starts off at that spot and will continue are at that spot.

And then as need be, again, a running back can't play 75 plays a game, so we'll figure out who goes in next and see how he's doing, if he's having success, and then maybe some of the other guys, their reps get limited or if he's not having success, okay, let's try Plan C and let's try Plan D. I think there's a little bit of a hierarchy. I don't know that I'm prepared to share that now.

But beyond Jordan, you certainly want to get those guys some game reps and then just kind of see how they do.

Q. In a general sense, for lack of another term, do you feel like your begun is fully loaded going into this season compared to a year ago, from an offensive standpoint, to your weapons are fully loaded?
COACH HERMAN: I don't know if I would ever say it's fully loaded. I kind of like those teams they put out there in Honolulu in the Pro Bowl and then I would feel like we are fully loaded. But we are closer than we've ever been. That's exciting.

Again, the hard part as coaches is that you have to temper your creativity a little bit because one of the things I was so proud of us as an offensive staff and players in this fall camp was we did the same things over and over and over and over and over again and we did them and we were successful week three when the defense knew exactly what we were doing, we could still execute.

That was exciting to me, and so I think that you have to be careful to temper your enthusiasm and creativity, because at the end of the day, you can over think and over coach yourself at being really good at your identity. This is who we are and this is what we are going to do and we are going to do it better than anybody in the country.

If that means that, hey, we want to get in a two tight end package with no running backs and put Dontre here and Jalin Marshall here and put Jordan here at the end of the day, hang on, let's do what we are really, really good at and then figure out how to plug those pieces of the puzzle in what we are really good at.

Q. Can you talk about Buffalo's defense, what they do and how you try to attack it? Just beyond winning the game, as an offensive coordinator, what your goals are?
COACH HERMAN: Buffalo's defense is actually pretty unique. It's something that is a little bit difficult to prepare for because you've been playing against a certain style of defense all fall camp and then you go into your first game and they are a 3 3 stack team that they will play three down linemen, three linebackers, three safeties and two corners.

The unique thing, not only if the front unique, because it's from a three down rather than a four down front; their coverage schemes are very unique. They do a lot of unique things in terms of having their corners as their half field players to get to the safeties, those three safeties involved in the run fits.

So it will be a challenge as we go through this week to kind of re train our brains offensively to what we have been facing for three weeks and then retrain them to, okay, now this is Buffalo, this is completely different than what you faced.

They have a really, really good linebacker, No. 46. I can't remember his name. But he is an extremely, extremely talented player, probably will be a first few round draftable kind of guy after this season, so he poses some matchup issues that we'll have to game plan for.

To answer the second part of your question, what are we looking to get out of it, obviously we want to win the game. We want to score. We want to execute. We want to minimize our negative plays, that was one thing. We felt like we took too many sacks last year. We had some probably a few too many negative yardage runs.

So we want to be we want our execution level and our fundamentals and our techniques and we want everything to be sound and at the end of the day, you know, we don't ever set a point total; we want to score this many points; we want to rush for this many yards; we want to throw for this many yards.

We want to be very, very sound and very fundamental, which is something we weren't last year in the opener, and I think we have got a chance to be this year.

So if we can minimize or eliminate those negative plays and obviously turnovers, I think we'll have proved to ourselves that we are headed in the right direction.

Q. Just to clarify real quick, I don't know if you mentioned Jalin Marshall and the receivers, is he in that mix?
COACH HERMAN: He was setback a little bit, yeah. We'll still try to get him in the mix a little bit. But he's got some ground to make up.


THE MODERATOR: Open up questions for Coach Fickell.

Q. As you get ready to play a team you've never played before, what are the rudiments of getting obviously you got a take from last year, they won three out of their last four, they got a new quarterback near the end of the year, how do you sort of plan for what's coming?
COACH FICKELL: You don't always know. The first game of the year, that's kind of the beauty of it. Coach Vrabes (ph) is talking about it all the time, hey, we don't have a preseason game. I'm used to having some preseason games and things.

So you don't really know so you have to really focus on what you do. You have a concept and idea of what they have done last year, obviously what they were successful with in three of their last four games, but you have to be prepared for anything. And the most important thing is we want our guys to go out there, feel confident in what they are doing. It's about what we do, and you've got to be able to react and respond to the difference things they will give you.

Q. When you look at the room, you will have eight new starters compared to the end of last year and stuff. What will be your message to them? What do you want to see out of them more than anything else on Saturday?
COACH FICKELL: Hopefully we put them in the toughest situations they could possibly are have been in. That's with the scout crew and different things we have done, obviously it's going to be different at some point in time; the style of offense, this, that or the other thing.

But in front of 107,000 people we don't want them to worry about those things. We want them to say, hey, we know we have grinded through some great things, played in some great competition day in, day out; the offensive line that we have played again, the quarterback that we played against, the tailbacks we've played against.

We want those guys to feel confident in what they are doing, go out, let their actions speak and play the game of football.

Q. How much of a setback for Curtis was the injury or concussion earlier in camp in how much time did he miss? Is he ready to be the starting middle linebacker like Urban called him at the end of spring practice?
COACH FICKELL: We'll see. It's hard. A guy that you would say, a guy that's a junior in college maybe wouldn't miss a budge because he's been here for two years and a lot of experience but the reality is he has not had a whole lot of experience. He has not had a hole lot of game.

He started maybe three or four games last year at the beginning of the year so, that was a little bit of a setback but the great thing about it is Curtis Grant has come a long way. And I don't mean just what he's done on the field, but his maturity and how he prepares and things like that. I don't think it's going to hinder him.

For a day or two out there, it was hard on him, but the reality is if that was a freshman that missed ten or so days or ten practices or something like that, you would be much more worried. I'm not worried about Curtis Grant, because his passion and his energy is what's going to show.

Q. You had some issues early last season with keeping leverage in tackling, from what you can tell in practice, how do you feel about the basic aspects of defense?
COACH FICKELL: We felt better about how we finished the season with that stuff. The toughest thing about the first game of the year, we kind of stressed we are going to stress it today. We have not done a ton of live tackling. Not that we have not gone to scrimmages and different things like that, but maybe our ones have not been against the offensive ones a whole lot. We have not tackled a quarterback, that's for sure.

So a lot of those things in that first game, you're not used to. You're used to tagging off a lot and you're used to pulling off the quarterback. There's a lot of things that you've got to emphasize throughout this week that they have not done, and that's the thing that probably makes you gives you a little bit of that gut ache to say, okay, how are they going to react and respond, in open field, trying to attack a quarterback. So used to running by a quarterback or don't get within three yards of Braxton.

Those things that you do, no matter who your quarterback is during camp, those are the things that during the first games whoas, goodness sakes leverage, shouldn't be an issue. It shouldn't be an issue. I tell you that we stressed that. We did a much better job in the last few games of the year last year, and now the big issue is can you beat your tacklers and can you have confidence in what you're doing, and maybe not have done a ton this fall camp.

Q. How strong a field do you have on how the front seven will play? Do you feel good about it? Are you interested in seeing how they are performing?
COACH FICKELL: No, I feel great about it to be honest, I really do. I know there's some things that, you know, just getting shirt up and tackling and different things like that, but you know, I really have a lot of confidence in what they have done, what they have shown, the maturity they have shown throughout the camp.

We played against a really good offense, and I think that's one of those things that those guys will realize as they go out there and they start to play throughout the entire season, that, wow, what they see on a daily basis from our inside drill to our pods drill to just even ones against twos is going to be very indicative of what they are going to see throughout the season.

So I think those guys, to me, the biggest thing is they have confidence in what they have do. I have confidence in them and I know Coach Withers has got confidence in them, Coach Vrabel, Coach Coombs; that's one of those things that we feel really excited to see. Obviously not saying everybody knows who that is or who they will be just yet, but I can sit here and tell you, I've got a lot of confidence in what they are going to do.

Q. Puts a lot of pressure on himself and said his play reflected that, he was not real happy with the way he had practiced, how have you seen his development and how important is he to this defense?
COACH FICKELL: Well, he's very important. I think each and every guy the one thing we are going to stress the whole time is, there are not a whole lot of names out there. I know people know about Ryan and they know about Robe (ph) and they know about Christian, but the idea is we are not looking for the best 11 guys, and sometimes out of different things that happened, you say, here is your best 11 offense, give us who you think are our best 11 and then we'll rank our guys the best 11. That's not always what we are looking for. We are looking for the 11 best and those are the guys that work together and that's the thing that you're really going to see is Ryan, a guy that has to provide a lot of things for us, yes, he is, but he has to work within the framework of what we are doing. Sometimes that's the problem, you put so much pressure on yourself, it's my duty, I'm this the reality is we need you to do your job really, really good and I think he's hopefully gotten back to that a little bit.

Q. Is he more disciplined in the last year; has that continued this year?
COACH FICKELL: He has. He has. He's become what I like to say is a linebacker. You see him start making linebacker plays instead of just highlight reel plays that he can make, the play that is we expect him to be able to do, doing his job and then obviously when the lights come on and the plays are there to be had, that's one guy that has shown that he can do it.

But sometimes you go into that junior year, you put a lot of pressure upon yourself and we already feel a lot of pressure on these guys and then you put it on yourself and whether it's coming from wherever, home, friends, all those different things, the reality is we need you to play within the framework of the defense, be really, really good at whatever it is that you do and the rest will handle itself.


 

 

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