STEVE ADDAZIO: You don’t want to let the team down. You don’t want to let each other down, and I’m here to tell you, I’ve never seen it greater than it is right now, which is a tribute to the people that have come before them, but this is a class of seniors that has lived in that world of a great culture and understands the value of it.
We’re returning some very talented players on both sides of the ball. We’re probably the most athletic that we’ve been. We have great team speed. We have outstanding athletic ability and top end. Some areas have more experience than others, but I think we’ve recruited very, very well, and I’m very excited about the guys that will appear to be some new names and new faces that our fans have not seen.
We couldn’t be more ecstatic about having Virginia Tech for our opener. The amount of urgency that that creates with our team is fantastic. We’re playing an elite team in our conference on opening day here in Chestnut Hill at Alumni Stadium. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. So there’s a sense of urgency about our preseason camp realizing how much of a short time it is before we get started here against Virginia Tech.
It’s going to be a fun year. It’s going to be exciting. And like you, really, really looking forward to opening day. We’re in the grind of it right now. We’ve been in practice here for four days, and things are going well. We’re starting to build that real structure of the 2019 team.
So I’m happy to answer any questions for you. Feel free to ask.
Q. How do you plan on structuring the team for the first scrimmage on Saturday?
STEVE ADDAZIO: It will be ones versus ones, twos versus twos. So the one offense versus the one defense.
And we’ll have a lot of periods on the day, which we call move it, which is essentially scrimmage to you. Move the chains. If you don’t move them, come off the field, the two offense will out, et cetera. So they can stimulate having to get a first down to stay on the field or come off the field.
There will be some situational things wove in, but it’s going to be a move it period, and I would suspect we’re going to strive for somewhere between 70 and 75 snaps for the ones because, as you get closer to game time, you’re less likely to want to put them in that situation, but yet they have to feel what that is. If we plan on running 90 snaps in a game, if that’s our goal, we need to at least get to 70 or 75 to feel that.
Q. Coach, what are your defined goals as far as win totals and full expectations?
STEVE ADDAZIO: A lot of you guys that have been here have heard me say this before. First and foremost, more this year than ever, obviously, when you think about the quality of who we’re playing on opening day, win the opener. You’ve got to have your goals set. Win the opener. That’s the most important thing in front of us, and that’s what we have to get done. So that’s goal number one.
Goal number two is get Bowl eligible because that’s the next goal there is in college football. And then goal number three is to have an opportunity to compete for a championship, okay?
So that’s where we are. You line up your goals, and you attack them. Right now we spend all of our time talking about winning the opener.
Q. But as far as seven, eight, nine, whatever, there’s no —
STEVE ADDAZIO: Never discussed that, no. Never have I anywhere I’ve ever been had I been involved with discussing, hey — you’re certainly not going to go out and discuss, hey, let’s rally and go out and win five. Let’s go get ‘em and go win eight. So, Coach, you don’t care about rest of them? That conversation doesn’t go anywhere.
I think winning the opener, everybody can sink their teeth into that. Getting Bowl eligible, everybody can sink their teeth into that. And then having an opportunity to compete for a conference championship or a division championship, everybody can sink their teeth into that. And I just think that’s an appropriate way for your program to aspire and to move towards.
And the rest of that, we all know how hard this conference is in the side we’re on, so we can figure out what that means moving towards winning a championship. So once you get Bowl eligible at six, the rest of it kind of speaks for itself, if you want to contend for a championship, where that’s going to be.
Q. Coach, you mentioned the team athleticism and team speed and all of that. How has that kind of helped you develop or maybe get a little more complex with just how you approach the team, some of the things that fundamentally maybe get a little more complex?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, like last year, I’ll give you an example. We were the third most explosive team in the conference last year. We had the most explosives. That was a direct result of athleticism. You know, speed and athleticism on offense. On defense, last year we have three guys from our back end currently in NFL camps, and we had five or six over the last five years. So that speaks to athleticism.
So I think what it does for you is it increases your explosive capability. We talk about in our program guys that can score touchdowns. Like there’s a lot of good backs out there, but they’re not all home run hitters, meaning if they get a step on somebody, can they go 80, 90 yards for a touchdown, or are they great five, six, seven-yard runners, but if they get a step, they can’t bring it home?
We have more than one home run hitter in the backfield. We have receivers that have dynamic speed, that can run by a secondary, even the best of secondaries, and be able to hit a home run. We have a quarterback that would be considered extremely athletic quarterback by any standard in Power Five football, who has a very, very strong arm. We have tight ends that are unbelievably versatile that, in the pass game, are extremely effective route runners and are weapons in the throw game.
And in the back end, we have great speed in the back end. I mean, give you an example. Our two corners right now, projected two corners — Brandon Sebastian, who was the starter last year, and Tate Haynes, both are sub-4.5 40 guys, both are 6 feet. They’re big. By corner standard, that’s a big corner. 6 foot guys at 190, 195 pounds that can run sub-4.5, by any standard, by any program, those are long athletic guys with top end speed. So that’s where I made the comment that we’re athletic and our team speed is good.
Q. As a follow-up to that, how much of that comes from the class that came before them, and how much are they helping the class that’s coming up behind them?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, I think culturally those classes before set the foundation for your culture. There’s an expectation of what it is to be a BC man. That’s what we like to talk about, a BC man. We recruited BC men. We want to develop BC men. A BC man for us is faith, character, toughness, and passion. That’s how we define that. That is the culture of our program. So the older guys have established that for the younger guys.
Last year’s class did an unbelievable job of really, really pushing that rock over the top, right? Every class had a role, but last year pushed it over the top. This year’s class wears that like a badge of honor, and that trickles down. So the freshmen that are coming in are coming into that environment completely, whereas last year’s seniors wasn’t necessarily exactly where you want it to be when they were a freshman, but now they’ve been a part of bringing that over the top.
So I think that culture is a huge part of your program, and I think that this senior class will pass that, have already started to pass that down to the younger guys.
Listen, the continuity here at Boston College — I’m going into my seventh year. The con0tinuity in the program has really helped us in recruiting. We have evidence, take last year’s team — four drafted, ten free agents, one first rounder, 14th pick of the first round of the NFL Draft — speaks to the fact that with continuity, you can continue to recruit well, and you can continue to build your program. When you don’t have that, there’s gaps in your recruiting.
So the beautiful story here is that we’ve been able to keep recruiting and developing, and that’s critically important, and while doing that, be able to bring BC men in here and represent the university in first class fashion, and that goes back to your question about this senior class, moving that forward to these younger guys. What’s the standard to be a BC man? We’re not compromising that. No, you’re not going to behave that way. No, you’re not going to act that way. No, that effort’s not good enough, you know, blah, blah, blah, right?
Q. Steve, last year you found some added depth in the backfield, kind of forced when A.J. goes down. How much will you maybe kind of monitor his workload a little bit knowing that one ankle can change things?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I think we will monitor it, and I think we’ll want to — there are going to be games where he’s going to just — you know, if he’s healthy, he’s going to carry a huge load. That’s what great tailbacks do, but we will be conscious and pick and choose, and, of course, you need that depth, as you just documented.
We’ve got David Bailey behind A.J., who’s another 200-pound back. He’s not a freshman anymore. He’s a totally different guy right now. He’s in phenomenal shape and understands exactly offensively, schematically what we’re doing. So look for him to be another big back that has great ability.
Then, of course, Travis Levy and Ben Glines have played tailback and won games for us. Travis Levy went on the road and was an integral part of beating Virginia Tech and really kind of took that game over. Both those guys are playing dual roles as receivers/tailbacks, and they’re outstanding. I mean, they have great speed, great vision. So you have these two big bangers, one of which has got freak speed, and then you’ve got these other two guys that are extremely athletic with great ball skills coming out of the backfield.
So we have built a good bank of veteran — they’ve all played, not one of them hasn’t played of that group. So that’s exciting, and you need them all. You just need them all. You never know — along with everything else you talk about with being unbelievably optimistic and feeling great about your season, you need an element of fortune, everyone does, and part of that good fortune is staying healthy. But when you don’t, you’ve got to be able to handle that.
Some positions we’re deeper than others. Some we can handle better if we get a rash of injuries, and some maybe we couldn’t.
Q. What were A.J.’s take-aways from last year? What, when you see him in the off-season, what maybe leads you to believe that he can take it up to another level this season?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, it certainly can take it up to another level. He’s become a better student of the game, a more complete student of the game. He understands that he wants — and he spent a lot more time in the pass game, both receiving the ball out of the backfield and in protection game.
Then he also understands, like any young kind of stardom player, how to handle the emotional highs and lows, whether it be because of an injury or whether it just be notoriety, but how you handle all those things. I think, as you get older and mature, you become better at handling the peaks and the valleys.
So I think with his work ethic, with his time he’s put in as a student of the game, with his maturity, both of age and experience now, of having to deal with the highs and the lows and how to be able to really stay focused and not let external things have a place with you, I think that’s the maturation that you hope you’re going to have with a higher level, star level player that is going to receive so much attention.
Then just dealing with injury. Young guys, sometimes it’s not easy to deal with injury, you know. It seems like every year, with the advance of the Internet and everything else, everyone is so attuned — you used to hear, oh, I’ve got an ankle sprain. Now you have a high ankle sprain that has a medial component and some other stuff that I can’t even regurgitate, right? And they know it. They can recite that. So there’s hyper focus, and you have to learn how to handle that.
When Pete Cronin played, they don’t have any face masks (Laughter). They didn’t even acknowledge that they have an injury. I don’t know if that’s because — I don’t even want to go down that path, you know, but we’re in a new world today. So if Pete played today, he probably would miss a lot of games.
Q. What is it about Mike and your decision to bring him on as offensive coordinator, just his personality, what led to that decision?
STEVE ADDAZIO: We interviewed and spoke with a fair amount of candidates, and I just loved Mike, first of all — I don’t know if this is any particular order. First of all, I love the fact that he’s a Bergen Catholic guy from New Jersey, which is one of our most important recruiting areas. In that are, when you want to recruit in the Northeast, it’s hard to be a stranger in a strange land. So I love that.
I love the fact that he wanted to be at a Catholic Jesuit institution. That was really important to him, and I love that because that speaks to understanding what it is to be at BC at a higher level.
I love that fact that he had had — he had started at the bottom levels of coaching and worked his way up, all through the college ranks, through the elite college level, and then through to the NFL, and he had coached the quarterbacks in the NFL. I wanted to make sure that — we had a great quarterback teacher in Scott Loeffler, and I wanted to make sure we maintained a high level of quarterback instruction.
Also, I wanted to find somebody that believed in kind of what we believe in, philosophically from an X and O standpoint. A lot of our game is pro based. Mike had come from a background a little bit like me, where he had been involved with spread offenses and had that component, but also had the pro component with it, and his heavy point of emphasis is the quarterbacks and the throw game. I really felt like one of the things we need to improve on this year in order to take the next step is our third down, and I thought he brings great value.
Then, of course, who he is as a man, who he stands for as a husband and as a father and the way he related to our players, the way that he handles our staff, the way that he and I interact. I just knew that we were aligned and we were on the same page.
So I gave you a pretty long answer. I’m pretty detailed because I feel that good about it.
Q. It seems like again the tight ends are a pretty deep, talented group even though you lost Tommy. How has Mike sort of been able to help involve those tight ends into what he’s bringing in? Has it changed that much?
STEVE ADDAZIO: No. So we had — my/our vision was we wanted to be a 12 personnel team that would never have to substitute and we could play in tempo, and part of that vision means you have to be able to go out and recruit and maintain a pretty high level of tight end play and depth in your tight end room.
We’ve put a lot of time over the last couple of years in the involvement of the tight end, not just in the run game, but in the throw game, and the beautiful thing is that Mike — that’s where Mike is too. So he’s excited about the utilization of that position.
So we’re enhancing that as we go, to be honest with you. We’re continuing to enhance that. We lost a really good one in Tommy, who right now looks like he’s starting in the NFL as of right now, but we have outstanding ones that are here. These guys are all pro caliber level players. They can run. They can catch. They can block. They can do a lot of things.
So we have a fair number, and we need a fair number because, when you’re playing two on every snap, you probably need to have six at least that you feel can play in a game.
Q. Vrabel was a guy you mentioned you’re really excited about. What in his game has changed or maybe improved that you’re excited about?
STEVE ADDAZIO: First of all, he loves ball. This is a guy that loves ball. He comes from a dad that loves ball, and he loves ball. He’s so classic us, you know what I mean? Here is an under recruited guy who had a great passion for football, right? He’s got unbelievable feet, athleticism. Here’s a guy that’s a 310-pound guy, 312-pound guy who moves on that field unbelievable, and fun to coach. He’ll be our starting left tackle and has a chance to be starting there for the next four years.
He’s got a high, high level season. It’s been a lot of fun to be around him and to coach him, be a part of watching his development. He’s a young guy, so he’s got a lot more development to go. He, along with several other guys, like Alec Lindstrom and those guys, are why we’re so optimistic about our offensive line. We feel like we have a chance to be better than we were a year ago.
We lost a couple of really good players. One guy we just duly documented and another guy, Aaron Monteiro, who’s doing really well in Jacksonville, but we’re going to be seven or eight deep up front, and we’re super talented. I’ll make this statement right now that you’ll see down the road we’ll have five or six of those guys will be NFL players. So we’re going to be good up front, and we can handle some injuries. You certainly can’t handle too many. But we have some depth. So I’m excited about that as well.
It all starts up front, and he’s a big piece of that as is — as are the rest of them. So that front seven is pretty good if you look at it through a front seven glass, the two tight ends and the five offensive linemen. Benny Petrula and John Phillips. John Phillips is a guy that’s really come a long way in our program. He’s a heck of a player. He’s the next guy coming out of here. He’s the senior that’s going to be leaving after this season, and he’ll go on and play at the next level. He’s really having a great offseason, a great camp, and he’s a heck of a player.
There’s a good culture. Chris and Aaron were a huge part of really driving — and John Baker, of really driving that culture in that offensive line room, and you’d better have a good one there because that’s really important. That’s 5 of the 11 positions on that side of the ball at one time.
Guys, thank you very much.
Q. Mike, last year they were kind of incorporating A.J. into the passing game, and then he got hurt and kind of went away. Do you envision using him in screens, wheelhouse, outlook passes, stuff like that?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: Absolutely. I think the philosophy is always, the more ways you can get your play makers the ball, find ways to do it. A.J. is obviously one of the play makers. The more different ways we can get him the ball and get him involved, the better. I think that helps when it comes to balance and tendencies and predictability. It’s key to have him do as many things as possible.
Q. Coach Addazio talked about your journey a little bit of starting at the ground level of coaching and getting NFL experience and now coming to BC. Can you talk a little bit about what maybe drew you to BC, and for you, your journey as a coach from starting and going to the NFL and then coming here?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: Sure. Growing up, I realized at a pretty early age that my playing career was going to be limited. I know that’s hard to believe. So I knew that, if I was going to stay involved in the game, it would have to be through coaching. So I knew back in high school I was always going to be what I thought a teacher and a coach. And that was in high school and college, that was my plan.
Moving forward later on in college, I got the itch to coach college football. It didn’t work out immediately, so I started in the classroom as a teacher and a coach, teaching math at dell Barton school in New Jersey. One of the most valuable experiences in my coaching career has been those two years at dell Barton, where if you can learn and figure out how to command a room of young high school kids in the subject matter math and then coaching football with kids who have a passion for the game is really not that difficult.
But it did help prepare me to be a teacher, and let’s face it, that’s what coaching is. It’s teaching. So from there, you get very, very lucky along the way with opportunities and things that come up. I’ve been blessed, truly blessed to have people look out for me in my coaching career, from Terry Shea to Lovie Smith, obviously, Coach Koetter, Lloyd Carr has helped me out tremendously, Butch Jones, obviously, I had connections with him in my time.
So in a lot of ways, I’ve been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and know the right people. From there, coming to Boston College, that’s a great opportunity for me to come home, having gone to school here in the State of Massachusetts, growing up in New Jersey. This is the closest in my coaching career that I’ve really been to my family in New Jersey.
Again, I was excited about the opportunity, the caliber student-athlete that Boston College is recruiting — and student-athlete being two operative words in that phrase. So when this opportunity arose and it started to materialize, it was a no brainer for me.
Q. How often do you hear Dick Farley in your ear?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: All the time. Again, you’re a product as a coach — Coach Lewis — again, we had staff enhancements prior to training camp where we presented to the rest of the staff about whatever subject we wanted, and Coach Lewis, as he was presenting to the staff, pointed out that he’s a product of all the coaches that he’s worked with and played for, and that’s true. I don’t think there’s many original thoughts in coaching, whether it be a technique or a scheme or whatever it is, we’re a product of the guys we’ve played and coached with.
Coach Farley, my head coach at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, a Hall of Fame NCAA coach, is a very big influence in my life.
Q. Steve talked a little bit about how you like to use their tight ends and their 12 personnel. You don’t really see that in college football a lot anymore. How much did that attract you to here, and what do you like about the tight end group in general?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: It was, again, a major factor. As the opportunity here began to materialize and the conversations between Coach Addazio and I proceeded, it became evident that this was the right place for me for many reasons.
Schematically, I had been a coordinator for eight years at the college level, and we ran an up tempo, no huddle spread scheme, operating from the gun, using four wide receiver sets, spreading the field out laterally, and that was my background.
Then when I went to Tampa and joined Coach Koetter — he was the offensive coordinator — I learned a ton about how to utilize tight ends better in an offensive scheme. Obviously, we had had some good ones in my past with Travis Kelce in Cincinnati, and at Cincinnati in general, we had three tight ends that ended up playing in the NFL, and we utilized them in separate ways, in interesting ways. But when I went to Tampa, and we had guys like Cameron Brate from Harvard and O.J. Howard and various other guys, and I thought Coach Koetter did a great job of using those guys.
I always thought in the back of my mind, in my four years in Tampa, that if I had the opportunity to coordinate again at the college level, I would use an up-tempo scheme, but I would be much more multiple in formations and personnel. So, again, when Coach Addazio and I started talking and he told me about the depth they had at the tight end position, prior to me coming here, and they utilize them, I said that was exactly what I wanted to do, and it became an easy decision.
Q. Anthony Brown at quarterback, where are you hoping to take him and maybe take his game to the next level?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: Anthony obviously has a lot of experience under his belt, and experience is the best developer of talent. So I think that alone is going to help him make a jump. He’s a hard worker that pays attention to detail. The things we’ve emphasized this spring and this summer in training camp is becoming a more accurate passer. We emphasize explosives in our offense, and they did a good job of that here at Boston College last season, and we’ll continue to emphasize it moving forward.
And I think more precise ball location can only help in the area of explosives, and the phrase we use is, hey, turn those receivers into ball carriers so that they can catch and advance, and that’s one area that, as I evaluated last year’s video, Anthony, I believe, had completed a higher percentage of passes than he had ever done before in his career, but I thought he could have done a better job of the pinpoint accuracy that allows guys to catch and advance, and that’s been a focal area moving forward.
Q. Tyler Vrabel, I understand, plays a different position than his dad, but do you see his dad in him?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: I don’t know his dad too well, other than to say he was a tremendous football player. Tyler obviously has the toughness in his background, has good football IQ, and he’s been around a lot. He understands the ins and outs of what it means to prepare like a pro and to play like a pro. So there’s definitely aspects of his dad in Tyler’s game.
Q. Are there challenges as a coach when he comes from a coaching dad, or is it just, you know, he’s off. We’re taking care of him. There’s going to be no interference from his dad?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: Again, I haven’t sensed that at all. I think in general, to generalize, in recruiting, we love recruiting coaches’ sons. I don’t care if it’s a high school coach’s son, a college coach’s son, an NFL coach’s son, and then obviously a player’s son adds an element to that. Because, again, they understand a little bit more of the game. They’ve been raised in the culture of the game, and there’s usually a discipline and a drive in those players that’s necessary to have success at the college level.
Q. Coach, you mentioned helping Anthony get a little bit better with his accuracy, turning the receivers into ball carriers. Is that something that you just do based off of film work, or are there different drills or different exercises?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: I think an emphasis on that. You can always improve with mechanics and technique, and again that’s just stuff that as he’s growing as a quarterback and the more reps he gets and the more experience he gets, that will improve. It’s just a point of emphasis is we’re watching video, we’re out on the field, it’s hey, all right, that was a complete pass and maybe a first down conversion on third down, but we could have — we lost yards by not turning him into a ball carrier. So it’s constant reminders.
Q. Do you see in A.J. Dillon some extra fire this year based on how last year turned out? I understand it wasn’t his fault. Sometimes football is a dangerous game. Does it seem like he wants to make it right and have the season that —
MIKE BAJAKIAN: I can’t speak on that because I wasn’t here last year. I can only speak on what he’s been like since my time here. His approach has been very attentive, very focused, working hard. Again, I can’t compare it to last year because I wasn’t here, but I think he understands. I do think there’s a hunger there to succeed, and that’s evident in work ethic.
Q. Coach, how do you build a relationship with the players so early on in the season?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: Well, I’ll be honest, it starts with the culture that’s created by the head coach, Coach Addazio. He is — he makes it apparent — and that’s part of what I love in the brief time that I’ve been here, and what I had heard about him and the rest of the coaching staff — he makes it apparent to the players that he loves them as an individual, not as a football player. It goes far beyond that.
When players understand that you care for them, that’s when growth occurs. So when you take about growing that relationship, it’s a matter of investing time and showing that you have a true appreciation for them as a person, as a student, as a football player beyond just what you’re experiencing in the meeting room or on the football field.
Q. Steve talks about how he sees so much potential in this offensive line. What’s your perspective, based on how much time you’ve spent at the next level, about this group?
MIKE BAJAKIAN: I think they’re outstanding. I know we graduated three offensive linemen last year, and I know in the interview process, Coach Addazio said we’re losing three offensive linemen, but I think we have a chance to be really, really good. I’ll be honest, part of me in the back of my mind thought maybe he was blowing smoke a little bit about, oh, that — maybe he’s trying to recruit me a little bit. Sure enough, we get here, and he’s 100 percent right.
Coach Trautwein and Coach Addazio do a great job, number one, of evaluating high school offensive linemen, and number two, of developing young offensive linemen. We’ve said this in recruiting, and we say it as a staff, if you’re an offensive lineman and you look at Boston College, you can’t underestimate the value of having a head coach with an offensive line background and how he’s going to prepare you to play the position and play the game, and it’s evident.
Those guys, those young offensive linemen are outstanding. Again, I can tell you what I’ve seen on video from last season, but I look at our offensive line, and our offense is one of the strengths of our offense, and around them, we can build a lot schematically and even the mentality that you’re looking for starts with those guys.
Q. Coach just talk about developing some new edge rushers. You lost two really good ones in Jack and Wyatt Ray. Are there some guys in the pipeline that can kind of take that up?
BILL SHERIDAN: You know, just for the guys that are returning, right now the guys that are running in the two deep at the defensive ends is Joe Luchetti, freshman going to be a sophomore here, Richard Yeargin, the grad transfer we got from Clemson, Brandon Barlow, Marcus Valdez. Those are the four guys that right now, if we had to play today, those would be our two-deep right now.
A lot of those guys are still developing. Some have more natural talent than others, just exclusive edge pass rushers. We do have young guys that have come in, some freshmen, they’re four days into camp, but a couple guys that are easy to get excited about based on what they’ve done the first four days. That’s definitely something you need. We have a void there because of the graduation of the guys you just mentioned, but we’re still developing here. Like I said, I think maybe you’ll see some young guys showing up. They have already in the couple days in camp.
Q. I know you lost some good players in the secondary, but Brandon has played a lot. What’s his leadership role been like so far both in the spring and this camp?
BILL SHERIDAN: That’s a good question. You know, he’s — you know, it’s not like he’s a fifth-year senior. He’s still got some playing time ahead of him. I grabbed him the other day. I say this often to a lot of players. The greatest form of leadership is performance. So I don’t think you have to be a guy who’s barking all the time in practice or getting in a guy’s face, or I don’t think you have to do that to be a leader.
His challenge will be to try to play better than he did a year ago. He had a very, very honorable season for us. He started for us. He’s the lone returning starter in the secondary.
Like I say, I told him, you don’t have to do anything else other than your normal personality. Your greatest contribution will be your performance, and if you do, the young guys will see how you practice, how you perform on Saturdays, how those two things tie in together, and that’s the leadership we need from you.
Q. Just in terms of developing these guys, just in terms of the secondary, getting new starters this year, can you talk a little bit about how the culture has helped in that regard. Other guys have graduated, and now there are new guys stepping in and maybe even the next crop for these younger guys to help out with?
BILL SHERIDAN: I’m going to kind of answer that in a two-angled way, and tell me if I’m answering your question or not. First of all, the one nice thing about the way we practice is we run tempo offense, right, if you’ve ever seen us practice. So in normal practices, we run at least 100 plays in practice, you know, more than you would in a conventional game. So we’re able to rep minimum three deep into that, right? So even Johnny the freshman is getting 30-some reps every single day in practice.
Versus a lot of people doing practice with the tempo that we do, they don’t get that. They might be getting 15 reps a day, or your ones may be getting 30 or 25 reps. But we run so many plays, the young guys have a chance to show in camp am I worthy of a two-deep spot? And obviously, the guys who are fighting for the solidified ones and two spots, it’s all out there in front of them.
Between now and when we get into game week with Virginia Tech, we’ll run over 1,000 plays on offense and defense in camp.
The other thing, kind of like what you were saying — and, again, I’m hoping I’m answering your question — is guys like Tate Haynes who’s been here for a while, but this is his first chance to solidify a starting position, right now he’d be running with our ones. He is running with our ones. A guy like Elijah Jones, who came in as a freshman and has a lot of talent.
We have a lot of young freshmen corners coming in. And in the secondary, even more so, as far as veteran guys. Mike Palmer, obviously, Mehdi last year is a go around guy, and he’s never been an every down starter for us. These guys have all played, but guys like Mehdi and Mike Palmer and Nolan Borgersen, they have a chance to be starters, you know what I mean? And they’re at the end, and this is a first shot for them.
So it’s been very, very competitive in the spring. Even a guy like Jahmin Muse, who’s played for us but hasn’t been an every down starter, these guys see a chance that they can be the guy because obviously they’ve been playing behind Will and those guys for the last couple of years. I hope I addressed it.
BILL SHERIDAN: Okay. I thought that’s what you were asking.
Q. When you were in the linebacker room last year, how did Isaiah McDuffie all of a sudden emerge? He was behind Kevin Bletzer, and all of a sudden, he’s just this phenomenal outside linebacker?
BILL SHERIDAN: That’s a good question. First of all, Ricky Brown, our special teams coordinator, he coaches that position, that Sam position. That’s the first and second down nickel position. When we go on third down, Eric Lewis will be coaching that position, but on first and second down, that Isaiah McDuffie position, we call them the Sam, and Ricky Brown coaches them. He did a fantastic job with them.
You know, it’s like a lot of young guys. He has talent, obviously. He’s a very good player. He’s definitely one of our best defensive players, and it’s just a matter of time of him getting on the field and getting reps and getting comfortable with the calls. Sometimes — and our freshmen right now are experiencing it — you get a little paralyzed when the volume of the installation starts mounting up on you, and it’s already — we’re four days into it, and there’s freshmen out there right now that are swimming.
But for Duff, we just needed to get reps and get out there and get familiar with how to play the techniques, and his natural ability took over. Again, Ricky did a good job of giving him an opportunity to do that with Kevin, and he ended up sky rocketing out of the position.
Q. I know he’s been hurt, but — and he’s behind a lot of guys, but in general, what have you seen from Jason Maitre? When he came into the program — I know when he first got here, he was making some plays at practice and stuff like that, but what do you see out of him in the future?
BILL SHERIDAN: That’s a good question. I’m excited. And he’s been practicing. I know you’re saying he had been nicked up, but he’s out there right now, and he has talent. No argument there. He’s got genetic talent. He’s young in all kinds of areas of being young — inexperience on the field. As he matures from the neck up and just volume of playing, he’s going to get better and better because he has talent. He’ll contribute this year for sure.
You kind of lose track of a guy like that when they get out for a while with an injury. They’re out of sight, out of mind kind of, but he’s done a nice job in the first couple days of camp. He has a talent, and I would foresee him contributing this fall. To what extent will be up to him honestly.
Q. I know it’s been only four days of camp, but what are some bright spots for the team so far?
BILL SHERIDAN: Outstanding coaching (Laughter). You should come to practice. The coaching is incredible. No, that’s a good question. Because we’re so familiar with the guys that we have all the time, like the guys we had in the spring, unless one of them is just significantly different from what during the spring — I mean, they have all gotten better. Our guys have trained their tails off in the spring, so we’re a thicker, bigger, stronger looking team just as we walk out on the field.
But, you know, their improvement is not going to be as pronounced as a guy maybe we haven’t seen, like a freshman when they come in. So most of those things have been with the freshmen, which you see them on high school film, you recruit them, and you get them to come here, but now that you have them on the field competing against other ACC players on our offense, there’s guys really at every level, secondary guys.
I don’t have a young guy, neither does Ricky, but we have a whole boatload of young defensive linemen and a couple of true freshmen defensive back corners in particular, and we’re excited. We’re like, yes, we did a good job. These are the guys we should be bringing in here. Again, whether they contribute this year or a year from now, they’re good recruits. They’re quality football players, and none of them disappointed, and a lot of them are like maybe this guy will contribute this year.
You know, it’s early in camp, but that’s a good question. We have a good freshman looking class. Those are the guys that stand out because the other guys you do — I know it sounds nuts. You do kind of take them for granted because you’re around them all the time, and you’ve seen them for spring ball, last fall, you know what I mean?
Q. Do you get the sense from Rich Yeargin that he’s kind of embraced this last opportunity that he has to prove himself as a football player?
BILL SHERIDAN: You know, I have. You never know. We met this guy in the interaction of actually trying to get him to come here, but you never know. A guy could come in and be on his own program, too cool for school and all that. But he has been a 100 percent polar opposite. He is a fantastic man. He’s a great team guy, and that’s — you’re hoping for that when you’ve got a guy coming in for his last year of eligibility, but he has been the exact opposite. He has been fantastic.
Q. I know it’s kind of just an interesting scenario where you’re still working with Jim Reid, who was defensive coordinator last year and has been the D coordinator here. Can you just talk a little bit about working with him and taking the coordinator position this year as well for you?
BILL SHERIDAN: There couldn’t be a better guy to handle that whole transition than Jim Reid. The guy is the most team oriented, egoless person I’ve been around. All he wants to do is help kids get better and be better men and better players.
I can’t say in the 30-plus years or 35-plus years I’ve coached that I’ve been around a guy who’s more daily devoutly dedicated to the players and to his job and to me. It’s gone without one glitch. And how we talk to each other across the table in our defensive staff meetings when we’re putting stuff together, it’s the same way it was a year ago. I guess I just get to write the scripts out for practice, and I get to call it on Saturday.
It’s a collective effort, right? Like I say, somebody’s got to call the defenses on Saturday, and I’ll do that, but the relationship really hasn’t changed. Again, you couldn’t have a better guy to make that transition with than Jim. He’s a gem.
Q. I know this is test shades of the season, but what do you think could be improved so far?
BILL SHERIDAN: So far — that’s a good question. I would say, just jumping into my head when I hear you ask that is — and it’s not going to be critical for us because we’re not relying on a bunch of these guys, but the freshmen, like I mentioned, they’re just insulation is starting to mount up a little bit, and they’re moderately dysfunctional right now. They couldn’t line up and play. If we had to play, we could line up and play one or two calls because that’s how they’re executing. It’s just swirling around in their skulls right now.
Because early in camp, there’s a little bit of volume going in, as far as scheme stuff. You would whittle it down during game week, of course, and we make it very doable for all the players, but that will be one thing for the young guys. Until they’re functional, they might look good running around and pass rushing and covering guys man to man and all that stuff, but you start getting into schematic stuff and playing offensive schemes and executing defensive schemes, you have to have some execution on that kind of stuff.
Other than that, it’s all the basic stuff. We can always get better at perimeter run support and always get better at pass rush. You’re not really seeing a finished product out there because we’re not tackling in practice. Everything is stand up, and we’re servicing each other. It’s very physical, but nobody gets tackled to the ground. We’re not sacking the quarterback or any stuff like that. But those would the first things that come to my head when you ask that stuff. Young guys really got to learn — they got to get their playbooks in. And they will. We walk through stuff and rehearse it over and over.
Two weeks from now, they’ll be light years better than they are right now, but right now they’re having a hard time getting lined up sometimes.
Q. If you could take your defensive mind to Tyler Vrabel in practice, it’s very clear the other coaches are excited about where he’s at. Why do you think that is?
BILL SHERIDAN: He’s big. He’s athletic. Good football acumen, competitive guy. I mean, he’s a talent, and he’s a giant human. So all the things that you look for in a good offensive tackle. I know, he’s an infant in his college career, so he’s only going to get better, but he’s got talent, and he’s a large man. He’s a good run blocker and hard to run around in pass protection.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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