Aug. 14, 2014
COACH KELLY: Finished up practice at 11 today. We wanted to get in the stadium on Monday, but the weather was such that we had lightning in the area, so we wanted to stay closer to Loftus in case we had to go inside. So today was our first day in the stadium, got a lot of work done. 11 days into it, you’re really working on the guys picking up some of the nuances in the offense.
You’re trying to look at variables such as different pressures, situations, really trying to really each practice now takes on different parts of the game now that you’ve installed your offense, defense and things of that nature. You’re working on tough territory coming out from your three yard line. You’re working on some blitz pick ups. You’re working on some specifics within your offense and defense. We did a bit of that today.
But typical camp stuff, right? We got guys in the lineup, out of the lineup, and nothing to report that would cause anybody to miss any time other than Torii Hunter who we don’t know what his status is going to be. He’ll have his second PRP on Thursday. He’ll have his third the following Thursday, and then obviously we think he’s probably doubtful for Rice. But other than that, nothing from an injury standpoint that would have anybody miss any time against Rice. But guys in and out of the lineup for certain ailments whatever they are from day to day camp stuff.
But pleased, again, with the work ethic. Pleased with the learning on defense. We’re obviously getting a lot of young guys work. There are going to be a lot of freshmen playing on defense, and offensively trying to gain some continuity on the offensive side of the ball with the offensive line. We’ve got some battles at wide receiver, and then you guys know the situation.
We’ve got three very good running backs. So with that, I’ll open it up to any questions.
Q. Do you still have people moving up and down the depth chart? When do you get to a point where you have to kind of narrow it down to the ones and twos and the other people don’t get the reps?
COACH KELLY: I would say probably through the weekend. I think at the wide receiver position you’re probably still going to go with some threes just to save the legs of your guys. I’m always cognizant of the fact that you peak your guys at 17, 16, 17 days. So even though they may not be getting game reps, you’re probably still going to use them in the rotation to make sure you’re keeping your guys fresh.
I’m not one for putting up depth charts. I’ve never put up a depth chart. I want to keep competition within the ranks. But I think it’s pretty clear our guys will know what their rotation is here by the end of the weekend.
Q. How did the offensive line come together? I know you said you wanted to kind of stabilize who was playing where. Were you able to accomplish that this week?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think fully because we’ve had some guys in and out of the lineup at the offensive line. I think we’re still kind of a work in progress there. Ronnie was out for a day, Hegarty’s out for the day, Hanratty’s out for a day. We’ve had guys out for a day, so it’s messed up our continuity a little bit. So we’re settling into that group. But I don’t think we’re ready to announce the starting five there yet.
Q. Has Hanratty been able to come back with the concussion?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, yeah, they’re back in.
Q. Any closer to the quarterback race?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think I’m ready to make that decision. Everett Golson will be our starter against Rice. You know, generally when you look at making that decision, I’m using from January through right now as the basis of that decision. So winter workouts, how he handled himself with the team, our workouts, his leadership in the spring, his spring practice and then his leadership in the summer, and then camp here, I think he’s put himself in a position to get that opportunity to be our starter against Rice. So Everett will be our starter.
Q. Did you tell him that specifically? Was there any difference with him, I know under the assumption that it was competition and how he handled it?
COACH KELLY: There was competition up until I made the decision and there will continue to be competition. So Everett’s the starter for Rice, and we hope he’s the starter for the entire year. But just like I tell them, we’re all in this in a merit based kind of situation. We’ve got to win, and Everett knows that. I told Malik first and let him know what his situation was, and I got the right answer from Malik. He wasn’t happy. If he gave me a hug, I’d be very disappointed. So he went out and practiced well and he wants to be the starter here, and he’s going to keep working to be the starter.
Q. When did you decide and let those guys know?
COACH KELLY: I let them know this morning both of them. I made the decision last night and told our staff last night.
Q. Was there any one thing that Everett showed more that you liked or he’s shown better than he was two years ago?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, overall understanding of the entire offense, the entirety. Not singular plays, but the entire offense and how the offense operates. So I think that was more of the bigger picture, understanding the bigger picture and his leadership and his ability to lead, those two things.
Q. What do you want to see out of Malik other than the competitiveness? Do you want him to be a guy that can come in in the middle when Everett’s not hurt and can give you something different or is he really truly a number two and there is not going to be a package for him?
COACH KELLY: No, there is no package. He can run our on entire offense. That is the difference here. We’re not in the wildcat package. We’re not in a separate package that we’ve had over the last four years. He’s going to run our entire offense. There is not a play that he can’t execute and run that Everett runs. So we won’t have two call sheets. It will be here’s what we’re doing. We’re running our offense.
Everett would play unless he was injured and couldn’t answer the bell, so we’re not looking to play two quarterbacks. We’ve got one starter. But I think we all know, we want a spread offense and we want to run the quarterback. That puts the quarterback in a position of he could get hit and you better have a quarterback that can go in there. I’m confident, knock on wood, I hope it doesn’t happen, but if Malik goes in there, he can run our offense and we can win with Malik running our offense.
Q. How do you get Malik experience? Is it a matter of let’s win big and then he gets in the game? Is that the best?
COACH KELLY: That would be my ideal circumstance. Win big and get him in. We think just by his experience and situationally against our defense is going to have to be enough. Spring ball he’s had two of them. We’re going to hope that all of that, the accumulation of that is going to do the trick for him. Anytime we can get him in the game, hopefully we’ll get a couple of those opportunities. But other than that, he’s going to get his first true start or his first true opportunity if it does eventualize will be under circumstances that I hope we want, and that is we’re up big.
Q. You said Malik was disappointed, but what was Everett’s reaction when he found out?
COACH KELLY: He didn’t it was just a matter of fact. Okay, Coach. Not much reaction from him, quite frankly. Just kind of was really more of just an acceptance in his own mind let’s go to work. Let’s get out there and practice today.
Q. Tommy was known as a guy who knew the offense really well. How would you say every receipt compares to Tommy and understanding what he used to do out there?
COACH KELLY: I think he’s made up a lot of ground. There was a lot of ground to make up there. Tommy had a superior knowledge base, but now he’s at a point where he is now in an area where he can run our offense and run it effectively. I don’t know. Tommy Rees has an incredible knack of understanding football from a different level. You don’t need that to be a great quarterback. Everett possesses some of the other skillsets, but he has got a very good understanding of what we’re doing offensively. He just needs to see more reps to get into that level. He’s just got to continue to get more reps.
Q. Would you say you are comfortable with him now to look over the field and check in and out of plays, or is that something that’s still going to have to come?
COACH KELLY: Oh, no, we’re very comfortable. Again, some of it will be control. We’re just going to run the offense a little differently than we have in the past. Tommy needed to check a lot of plays. As I said before, we don’t have to block that end for Everett every play. We had to for Tommy. He wasn’t going to make the end miss. Everett doesn’t have to check every play, and every pressure. So it’s a little bit of a different offense with Everett back there.
Q. Coach, you were cautiously optimistic, I guess, in the spring about Ishaq Williams. How has he performed so far?
COACH KELLY: Solid. He’s our starter strong side end, and he’s had a good camp, and he’s earned a starting role right now.
Q. I guess staying on that strong side, are there people you moved around to create competition in positions? How is that strong side linebacker panning out?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, I think right now James Onwualu is playing the Sam with Turner and Councell. That’s your three man grouping right there right now. Schmidt, Nyles Morgan, obviously at the Mike linebacker, and somebody that’s really emerged for us at the Will is Greer Martini. He’s done a great job for us. So he’s in the two deep right now for us. Just really smart. He’s a Joe Schmidt with really good size, just really smart football player and has done a really nice job for us with him. Obviously, Jaylen can’t play the entire game, so got some young guys in there.
Q. What about Jarrett Grace at the Mike? Do you have any idea about his availability for Rice?
COACH KELLY: He was running today, going through bags, and I’d say looking at him today he’s still a couple weeks away there is still a little bit of a limp there and you can see it, but he’s making fast progress. But he’d be in, obviously, at the Mike position as well.
Q. When we talked with you the first time you said probably not going to be a linebacker for very long, but we’ve seen him take reps in three technique. What kind of camp has he had?
COACH KELLY: Excellent. He’s in our two deep. What does he do.
Q. What does he do in the two deep as a freshman?
COACH KELLY: Explosive, explosive off the ball, has got toughness, plays physical, plays like a big boy. Doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s got maturity and we’ll see action.
Q. Elijah Shumate has always been a guy that’s picking up the defense, how is he there? And Nicky Baratti just coming back from where he was in spring?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Nicky’s solid. He’s definitely going to be a two deep player for us, a solid player for us. Shumate is starting to feel a little more comfortable in some of the things we’re asking him to do. We’re cautious with Elijah. We like him as more of a box safety where we can keep him closer to the ball. But he’s doing some good things for us. We want to go slowly there, but he’s doing some good things for us. We know his athleticism and what he can do. He’s a good tackler. So we’re making progress there, there is no question.
Q. Practicing in the stadium, you planned on doing that a few more times, and why is that important to you that you do get in there?
COACH KELLY: We’re going to practice there, we hope, four times and one time during game week. You have to get that surface knocked down a little bit. It’s really a little soft right now because of the infield needs to kind of work itself in. Probably a bad analogy, but new carpeting, it’s really fluffy. You’ve just got to kind of work it in a little bit. It’s kind of your foot imprint is pretty noticeable, so we just need to get on there and work it in.
But our kids love it. It’s good. The track is outstanding, the field is outstanding, and we want to get comfortable in that stadium too and its surroundings. So we’ll get in there and try to get in there four times.
Q. In the spring you were not concerned about the pass rush. You seemed to feel like you were investing in the right places and you’d see it in August. Are you seeing it? If so, who is a question in that area?
COACH KELLY: We’re not going to have one guy, as I said, that has 14 sacks. We’re not going to have one singular player. But we’re going to have a number of different personnel groupings that are going to allow us to find pressures. Now those pressures are not always going to come from the edge. We’re going to be a big speed to power group. We don’t have speed rush — we don’t have Dwight Freeney coming off the edge. We don’t have that speed edge guy. But we’ve got some guys that can go speed to power and knock a tackle back and maybe get a looper coming inside to get a sack.
So you’re going to see them from a number of different players. It could be an inside player. It could be a safety, a linebacker. You’ll see it from a lot of different players that will be able to get to the quarterback. But our third down packages now you’ll see from Johnny Williams to Anthony Rabasa, to Trumbetti, I mean, you’ll see a lot of different guys that are going to be rushing the quarterback, and all of them have a skillset that Brian will utilize with Coach Elston to utilize their strengths to get to the quarterback.
Q. Coach, you mentioned Trumbetti, and can you mention how being here in early spring has helped him?
COACH KELLY: He’s really separated himself, and I sometimes forget that he’s a freshman because he’s almost separated himself from this freshman class. He’s a starter for us right now. He’s the other starting defensive end for us, so he’ll start as a true freshman for us. He’s just that kind of player. We think that he’s got a huge upside for us in so many areas that sometimes, like I said, I don’t talk about him enough, but a great motor, physical, smart, does all the things that we ask him to do. But, again, you’ve got to keep in mind, we’re talking about first and second down players.
We’ve got third down players. We’ve got nickel players, dime players, 30 front players. It’s going to drive you crazy. So to really peg them as starters or non starters, you’re going to play so many different groups of players defensively you’re going to need a scorecard.
Q. Is that going to happen on the back end more or more of the front?
COACH KELLY: That’s more of a front seven. Your back end, we’re really working — our two young corners have two really good days in Cole and Butler. Cody Riggs is in our business program, our accelerated business program, so he had an exam the other day. Cody right now is the starting corner along with KeiVarae, but with his absence, we were able to see a little bit more of Butler and Cole, and they did a terrific job. So we really feel like we’re sitting in pretty good shape.
Josh Atkinson has had a really good camp as well. Nick Watkins has done well. We feel like there is some depth there, so those will be the two corners and we’ve got pretty good depth, and the safeties we talked about, Max Redfield has had a very good camp, and then Collinsworth, Austin Collinsworth. He’s steady. He’s a great communicator back there, and those will be the fixtures.
Q. Defensively how close are you guys to having as much as you’re going to go in the season installed? Not specifically for Rice, but sort of base package. How close are you to having everything in?
COACH KELLY: We’re pretty close. We’re pretty close. We’ve got a lot of stuff. We’re pretty close.
Q. Was it sort of a throw everything at them early on?
COACH KELLY: No, no, we’ve been methodical in our preparation in terms of how we made it in. We just have a lot of different packages. We’re trying to roll so many personnel in, so we’ve got a different look every snap. We’re in 3 down a lot now. We’re seeing a lot of 3 down where early in camp we saw a lot of 4 down. It’s a lot of work up front. You’re changing your protections to fan from man. You’re checking out plays that we’re running, and the kids are getting used to a certain kind of comfort level, and now we’re in three down. So it was a lot of work. We do a lot defensively.
Q. Have you gotten to the point now halfway through where you’re able to work on the return cover sheets?
COACH KELLY: We have done a lot of work on the break down and individual pieces of it. We have done less unit work than any time that I’ve been a head coach, and more specific work on the fundamentals, and identifying those guys that we want on those teams through drill work, through competitive drill work. So we’re making really good progress in identifying those guys that we want on those teams. Then we’ll do a little bit of a skeleton of that group.
So the focus work has been for these first two weeks to really develop the technique of that group and then those players that we want instead of just picking them out of a hat. Seeing real competition, drill work competition and then identifying those guys through the competition and putting them on those teams, and then this next week will be a lot more of the unit work.
Q. Bob Elliott once mentioned last year that when you guys get deeper at corner and safety and those positions the special teams coverage and return will crystallize. Is that the key?
COACH KELLY: We think so. Now when you’ve got guys like Cole Luke and Devin Butler, for example that are really good corners that are not starting and they could be your gunners, you’re putting some really good football players on the field.
Q. Do you recall in your career when you’ve had to rely on so many freshmen on defensive front seven? Does that leave a sense of unease or do you just feel that’s how the game has evolved?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think in years past I probably would be, but then my eyes tell me something different when I watch them. They’ve got an edge to them. Nyles Morgan, and Jonathan Bonner, and Johnny Williams, Trumbetti, Kolin Hill. I just watch these guys play. Isaac Rochell is a beast. I mean, these guys are physical football players and they’ve got an edge to them. Cage is a load.
All of these guys I’m watching them every day, I’m going against them every day and I’m like, you know, I know when you have holes. I’ve been around long enough. I know when you look at it and go, oh, that’s not very good.
Now they’re young. We may cut a gap loose. We may be in the wrong gap, but it’s not because we’re not rip and roaring up the field. It will be fun, but they’ll cause a few moments of Coach VanGorder throwing his hat on the ground, I’m sure of that. But the thing is it’s a physical group. It’s a physical group.
COACH KELLY: They’re more third down pass rushers. They’re situational players. A lot of these guys — we’re not talking about guys that are going to be on the field for 70 plays. We’re talking about 15 plays. If they can give us 12 to 15 really good plays, fresh coming off the edge in third down situations, go get the quarterback kind of deal, these guys can do that.
Q. Last year you immediately had James who could play all four special teams. Anyone special this year?
COACH KELLY: Probably Tranquill would be the guy that I would pick right now.
Q. Is he staying at safety?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he’s staying at safety. I mean, he’s more of a downhill guy, but he’s staying at safety right now, yeah.
Q. What have you seen from (Inaudible)as he made the adjustment from receiver this spring?
COACH KELLY: Tough and smart. Tough first and smart and he’s a very, very, very good athlete. Now if we’re lining up against Stanford and you want to pound it and you’ve got three tackles on the field, then we’re going to get bigger, and Ben Councell’s going to be on the field. We’ll match personnel, but he’s smart and he’s tough.
Q. Does having Golson plugged into the starting role change the way you can approach practice?
COACH KELLY: Doesn’t change anything.
Q. Has Nyles Morgan made some progress since we last talked?
COACH KELLY: What did I say last time?
Q. He was a little overwhelmed last time.
COACH KELLY: Oh, he’s totally overwhelmed. Totally overwhelmed, but it doesn’t matter because he runs all over the place. He runs and makes plays. He’s an athletic kid, and he gets in more scuffles than any player than I’ve coached in a long time. He’s a tough, hard nosed kid and he runs all over the place. He’s just fun to watch.
But, no, does he know everything, the ins and outs of our defense? Absolutely not. He’s trying, but he is way over his head. But he is so athletic, and so instinctive that he runs sideline to sideline and he makes plays.
Q. And he can help you think this year?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah, he’s playing. He’s playing.
Q. Talking about the freshmen in general, is this defense easier for some of the guys to grab than what Bob was coaching last year?
COACH KELLY: You know what? They can go, you know. There is a lot more going on. There is a lot more pieces to this, but Brian lets them run and lets them go, so that’s why a lot of these young guys can just — in the places that he’s putting them and the fronts that he’s calling with Nyles Morgan, he’s not asking him to two gap anybody. He’s saying, listen, we’re going to cover everybody. Just go run, go make a play, and some of the freshmen are getting similar kind of front calls where they can just pin their ears back and go.