With one week to go in Spring Practice are there a group of players who are solidifying positions for the start of fall camp?
We will definitely have a preliminary depth chart coming out of spring practice, but it is very likely playing time at some positions will still be up for grabs during preseason practice in August. There is also a lot of special teams playing time still up for grabs. What we are finding out now is who can play, who will compete, who is coachable and who will battle through adversity. In August, we will determine how much they will play. Of course, we hope some of these new players will come in and challenge for playing time as well - much like Jahwan Edwards and Willie Snead did last year. Chris Pauling appears to be on that track at safety. He needs to help us on special teams as well. We are young at many spots and have a long way to go as a team, but a large number of guys have improved physically and mentally this spring. My biggest hope is we can play more people in games than we did last year, especially in light of the rigorous out of conference schedule we play this fall.
You have Practice No. 12 scheduled for Saturday morning and will include another scrimmage. How important is it to get reps to all the players at this point in time?
Yes, we will have officials on hand tomorrow morning and plan to do a significant amount of live work. We will cut back on individual and fundamentals in Saturday's session and focus on just letting the guys play. We want to see who can take what they learned from a technique standpoint and apply it in game situations. We try to get every player involved in each practice, although there is not an equal distribution of repetitions in team situations or pass skeleton periods. We are trying to develop all of our players, but we definitely do not believe in socialism, either. It is a free market philosophy in our program and you have to earn what you get. I should hang a picture of Adam Smith in my office. In a typical practice, the first group sees more action than the second group and so on. However, prior to practice, each position coach may change up the individual players that will work with each group. For example, we have been evaluating guard Jalen Schlachter with the first group some. We want to see how he holds up against guys like Nathan Ollie. We have been rotating our tailbacks through as well. We know Jahwan Edwards can play. Let's see how Horactio Banks or Toney Williams performs with the first group. You get the point. Keenan Noel returned from an ankle injury and showed some promise today working with the second group at defensive tackle. Quintin Cooper, Michael Ayers and Ben Ingle are getting better. We will keep evaluating each player and creating internal competition while we work on game situations in team periods of practice.
Today was Practice No. 11, talk a little about the importance of the athletics training staff as the spring winds down and nagging injuries begin to surface.
Shawn Comer and his staff do an excellent job working with our players on a daily basis. On most days, numerous players are here in the Fisher Complex before breakfast to get treatment to start the day off. A lot of folks do not appreciate how much time the support staff and the players put in for peripheral activities like the treatment of injuries. Shawn might get a break in the middle of the day while the players are at class, but it is still a long day when you are in before dawn and leaving well after practice ends. Many of the graduate assistants and student trainers also put in significant time assisting our players with treatments. We also have a team of doctors that make themselves available if there is a more serious issue. It might be an illness or an injury that requires additional diagnosis. We are fortunate to have a major hospital right next to campus in case x-rays or an MRI is needed. Of course, a lot of the work David Feeley does in the weight room helps prevent injuries on the field. That might be the biggest benefit of the Olympic-style weight program - the fact that the additional bulk protects your joints. Dave is helping our guys become more explosive players. The goal is to become the hitter, not the one being hit.