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Aug. 13, 2009
What are your biggest concerns going into pre season?
Well, I'm concerned with everything. If you said the biggest ones, obviously I think the offensive line. We've got to find a couple kids that can play. The wideout situation and offensive line I think, is better than you project it would be at this time. I think we have some people who have played that we can play with. I think we need another defensive back, maybe two. But, there's a lot of things that are going to come up that we've been fortunate with. We're going into this pre season without a lot of injuries. The (Pete) Massaro kid is probably the only kid that really can't go the whole pre season, although we have one or two kids that may not get any work until the middle of September.
You mentioned the wide receiver situation. You lost the big three. Brett Brackett and Graham Zug have some experience. How much are you going to count on Chaz Powell to fill that (Derrick) Williams kind of role?
Yeah, I think you got Zug, Brackett and Powell. We've got a kid by the name of (Derek) Moye who played some last year. We have some kids that played. So I don't feel maybe as urgent as I do to find a couple offensive linemen. Really, we don't have anybody outside of the three kids coming back that played much on it. So, I don't know how we're going to be with the wideouts. You never know until those kids have to go in there, carry the load, make the catch, and make the play. Obviously some of them, only have experience with one quarterback. They have to get used to each other in a hurry. They have to stay healthy. If they can't practice, they can't get any better.
Earlier this summer you had said that A.J. Wallace might be in a little trouble because of classes. Have you decided what you're going to do with him? Will he miss any games?
Yeah, I told A.J. I might not play him in a game or two because he cut classes. If he cuts any more classes, he won't play. I think you have to send a message. No sense sending a message if somebody is not a player. He's obviously one of our better players. I think he'll be all right. Now, when I'll play him will depend on what I hear back from our academic advisors, and find out whether he's going to class and he's doing what he's supposed to do academically. If he does, then we'll think about when we want to play him.
Say something about having Sean Lee back on the field with this team. Not just his leadership, but how he is in the huddle, how it (being back) effects the team overall.
There again, we haven't done anything. Yesterday was the first day we put shoulder pads on. The first two days you're only allowed to go with helmets. We use shoulder pads the third and fourth day. So there's been no hitting. They aren't real. Not the kind of football that I think Sean has to get into. Again, he hasn't done anything in a long time. So I think he's going to probably feel his way a little bit.
But I think once he gets comfortable and once he's sure he's okay, I think he obviously will be a big, big factor in helping us to be good because he knows how to play and he's got real strong leadership qualities. So he's somebody we're hoping will be a hundred percent back to where he was before he got hurt.
You have a high number of big time players returning on this team. Do you remember another season where you've had that type of talent return, yet have so many holes to fill at key positions?
Well, I don't know. I'm not sure I know where you're coming from with, what did you call them? Big play what?
High caliber? We've got to play with 22. No, I don't think we've got more. You lose guys like (Deon) Butler, Derrick Williams, guys like that... I think we have some young players who have a chance to be the quality that I think you're suggesting, but I don't know yet. I mean, we've got a bunch of kids out there just learning right now. And, as I said, it's hard to evaluate some of those kids because the quarterbacking, outside of Daryll (Clark), but he can't take every shot, we've got to get the other kids ready. So there's a little bit of incohesiveness in what we're doing right now, which you would expect, a bunch of kids coming in there with three days of practice. Hopefully we'll be better today. It's going to be a day by day progress. I don't think we have quite the kind of personnel you're suggesting.
How do things look at the left tackle spot? Dennis Landolt or De'Ontae Pannell?
We moved Landolt to the left side. With a right handed quarterback, it's probably a little tougher than the right tackle. And he and Stefen Wisniewski both have played some football. Pannell has played some football. We've moved Pannell to the right tackle. But other than that it's up for grabs.
Chaz hasn't had the kind of success Derrick had. Chaz has great potential, but he's too inconsistent right now for us to be getting on a bandwagon with him. He has to start paying attention to detail, little things. He's careless with some things. He doesn't concentrate sometimes going after the football. So I wouldn't put that thought on his head talking about Derrick Williams. Derrick Williams came in here as a very, very confident, very poised kid who could have played quarterback, could have played running back, could have played wideout. Chaz is in the right spot. I think eventually, if he makes up his mind, he's going to go at it and pay attention, as I said earlier, to the little things. He'll get better every day and he could end up being pretty darn good.
Do you have a sense of where Sean Lee will line up in the regular season, in the middle or on the outside?
You know, to be frank with you, I've looked at some Akron pictures. I don't know what the devil to expect from Syracuse, because of a new coach, the whole bit. And I think it depends on what we've got at defense, where we're playing. Sean could play inside or outside. Bowman can play inside or outside. Hull would probably be better inside; maybe not quite as good in space as Bowman or Lee would be. So we've got some flexibility there. We're kind of really just waiting to see how some of the younger kids, Nathan Stupar, Bani Gbadyu, those kids, how some of them come along, where we plug those guys in at backups before we really make a decision on the top three.
Defensive end Jack Crawford, could you talk about his play and his potential? Have you ever coached a kid from London before?
I'm sure I've coached somebody from London. Off the top of my head, I can't tell you. Well, I think what you're suggesting is he's an unusual kid, and he is. He never played football unttil he came over here. He was a basketball player. Some people brought him over. He has a very, very lovely family from the Philadelphia area. He's got a tremendous intensity. He's got really good natural ability, particularly on the defensive end. He's a big, long armed kid. He can run. I think once he gets a little better feel for the game, he'll be pretty darn good, even if he is from London (smiles).
Who are a few of the guys you're going to try out at returning punts and kickoff to replace Derrick?
We'll probably take a look at (Evan) Royster. We'll take a look at one or two of the younger kids. We have (Graham) Zug back there catching punts. And, there again, we have eight or nine guys catching punts every day, trying to figure out which guy is going to be the most consistent. And we're especially taking a look at some of the younger kids that are coming in who are true freshmen. A couple of those kids can run. We're not sure whether they can catch the ball in the clutch. But we know Royster can do it, Zug could do it. I'm missing somebody I'm sure that can do it. The defensive secondary, (A.J.) Wallace could probably do it when he gets around to playing.
Any thoughts on being ranked No. 8 in the coaches' poll?
Is that where we're ranked?
What's it mean (laughter)? Does it guarantee us anything? Oh, I don't pay any attention to that stuff. You know, it's good for the fans. Obviously, hopefully, maybe it will sell some tickets. I don't know. But I don't really pay any attention to it.
You talked about the inexperience at quarterback behind Daryll Clark. How much does that affect how careful you are with Daryll this pre season? How much might that affect what you do on offense this fall?
You guys ask me specific questions about specific positions. But, you know, everything relates to each other. That's the hardest job of coaching, is to put them all together. I've said this many times to different groups. I don't know whether I said it to this group. There was a great book out a couple years ago about leadership and what have you. In the book, one of the chapters was, "What's the difference between chess and checkers?" Well, in checkers, everybody does the same thing. In chess, different people can make different moves, have a different impact on the game.
That's what coaching is all about. You have to get the combination. We can't say we're only going to do this with Clark if we don't have certain people that can do what we think they should do with him to protect him. We're out to win games. We're out to have the best team we can have. That means if we have to use Clark to run the football, we're going to use Clark to run the football. If we have really good wideouts and an offensive line that can do a good job in pass protection, I'd prefer not to run him a lot until the other kids come along.
We're not going to go out there and fall behind against Akron and say, "we don't want to get Clark hurt." I can't isolate it for you that way. I don't know exactly what we're going to do until I find out what kind of team I got. And I won't know that until two weeks from now.
What do you expect from Jerome Hayes and are you taking any precautions with him during practice?
Well, I'd say we're taking not a lot of precaution. What we've done is kind of let him pace himself a little bit. He's done some things really well. Then you notice in some other drills where he's got to put a lot of pressure on that leg, he's a little bit hesitant. But that will get better and better as it goes along. He's a very fine competitor. He's got a lot of pride. I think eventually he's going to be a really good football player. Right now he's just picking his way. When we get into two a days, we'll be careful that we don't get him tired, where he's more susceptible to getting hurt.
Nick Sukay has been healthy for the first time in his Penn State career. How has he positioned himself going into pre season practice?
He had a good spring and he's had a good pre season. There's three or four of those guys inside there that I think are going to be fighting for position. But he's right in the mix. He's right in the mix.
How has Navorro Bowman responded to what happened in the spring? Are you pleased with the things he's done since then?
Yeah, I think. He and I had a little session. I think he understands where I was coming from, the whole bit. I think that he realized that he's wasting a great opportunity in his life. In all fairness to the kid, he had a lot of bad things happen to him. You lose your father, lose your high school coach, all pretty close to each other.I think that had a little bit of an impact on him. When you're that age, maybe you start feeling a little bit sorry for yourself. You compound the problem because you start cheating yourself out of some opportunities you might have. I think he's been all business. He had a good semester academically. He had a good summer school session. I think he's worked hard. He's tried to be a leader. I think he has been. I don't think we have any problems with him.
Will the experience you have in the front seven help acclimate rebuilding the secondary?
Well, I think the front people are going to have to do some things, like most of linebackers we have. Jared Odrick is an outstanding football player. I think Crawford is going to be a really good football player. We have some depth behind them. So I think, we can put more pressure on those people up front. We can do some things with the linebackers. We can be a little bit more sophisticated in some coverages using the linebackers in there to cover up for the secondary. There are things we can do.
But obviously you hate maybe gimmick isn't the word I want - but you hate to be kind of too cute. You like to be solid at every position. We'll be close. We'll be close in the secondary. We're not that far off.
What is the biggest thing that Kevin Newsome needs to work on as he kind of develops in his first year here?
Kevin Newsome is a kid that when he was in high school, he just ran away from everybody. But he's got a strong arm. Doesn't have a great touch yet. What's happened to Kevin is, we're trying to get him to recognize coverages and things like that so he can find the open guy. We allow the defense against him because we don't want to hold them back, so when the offense goes against our defense, the defense can do some things that are going to really make it hopefully going to make it a little tougher for the quarterback just to go back there and pick out the guy he's going to throw to. So, when Kevin does locate the open guy, he feels pretty good about it, but then he forgets about being accurate. He just lets it go. But I think he's going to be pretty good. Eventually I think he's going to be pretty good. And I'm trying to convince him - we don't want a tailback, we want a quarterback.
Drew Astorino was on the field a lot last year. Can you talk about his development as a player and can he assume a leadership role?
I think Astorino is a good football player. Astorino, whatever he's done..You know, we took Astorino because I saw him on television, I think when they won the state football championship, and he was going to go to an I-AA school. His dad is an assistant wrestling coach up at Edinboro. I got some more tapes and looked at him. He was the kind of kid that made plays in the clutch. We took him.
Good student. That's what kind of football player he is. He knows what is going on. He's smart. He'll help everybody. He'll help everybody. He's a good player. He's a tough kid and a smart kid. Wish he were a 4.4-4.3 guy, but he makes up for the fact that he's not that fast because he anticipates things well. He reads things. He gets a jump on the ball because he's smart.
Do you find it easier at this time of the year to get out of bed knowing you're going to be on the practice field every day?
Oh, yeah. Well, of course, all spring, I didn't miss any practice in the spring. Didn't use the motor cart. The only difference is that right now because we don't have pads on, we're doing a lot of teaching, we're on the practice field longer. We may be out there an hour and a half. Closer to game time, I don't like to be on the game field longer than two hours, that includes kicking and the whole bit, because I think you end up tiring your kids. Then it will be a little easier on me. Right now, when I come off that practice field, my legs are tired. I didn't do as much walking as I should have this summer. But, you know, I'm fine, except I get tired quicker.
What excites you the most about this team and this upcoming season?
What excites me? Nothing excites me yet (laughter). I'll be honest with you. We're lousy. I have nothing to be excited about right now as a team. I'm serious about that. We've got too many things we've got to get accomplished. I mean, we've got a lot of work ahead of us, I mean, to be a good football team. So I'm excited to be alive. That's about it (smiles, laughter).
Could you expand a little more about Landolt and Pannell and why you swapped them? Is there really a blindside tackle anymore with so much (shot)gun?
Well, yeah, I think so. I think blitzes and things. When I'm going back, you drop this way, all right, now if you want to go to a half roll.
But the gun.
We're not in the gun that much. We're in it, and we'll probably be in it maybe more with Kevin. The gun gives you more running opportunities for your quarterback. But when you're dropping back and you have to play the odds, even if it's 50/50, dropback pass from underneath the center, tight end with 50 percent to shotgun, you're still turning your back, coming out this way.
We don't back up. Some people do. I've never been for that because I think you're off balance. You come back this way, if you get a blitz to this side, you're looking at it. Get rid of the ball quicker. If we get hurt with a blitz coming this side, our quarterback fell asleep, or the hot receiver fell asleep. But now, if I'm going back this way, I get the blitz over here, somebody has to yell it out, and we do. We'll have somebody up front. We have the type of blitz we're going to get, we'll call out its name so he knows where the hot receiver will be to help him.
I don't think there's any question that the left tackle has got to be just a little bit better pass protector.
Was it all about experience with Landolt?
Landolt is a better tackle now. Landolt is a pretty good tackle. Pannell is just a kid; was a true freshman last year. He didn't play that much either. Played some. I mean, it would be foolish to put Pannell over there. We had him there last year, but we had him there because we didn't have anybody behind Cadogan.
You have two very talented backs in (Stephfon) Green and (Evan) Royster. Can you talk about what they bring to the table this season and the running game potential in general?
Green can be a really good running back. Green has got explosive speed. You know, we would have the ability to play Green at tailback and Royster as a slot back. Royster is a good receiver. He's an excellent athlete, an all around athlete. I could put Royster over on defensive and he'd be a heck of a defensive back. He was the best lacrosse player in the state of Virginia when came out of high school. That's pretty good lacrosse.
So Green does not have the overall athletic ability that Royster has. Royster has the insight to the game, things like that. He hasn't had the background. Green played in the Bronx, New York, where the coach is a heck of a guy. He might have had one assistant, whereas Royster comes from a program that's a high profile program.
But I think if Green hangs onto the football, we could probably use Royster and Green in there at the same time, but put Royster at slot or put him as a wing or do something with him. But that's down the line. We don't have any plans yet.
Can you talk about your efforts to find a new kicker. Kevin Kelly is gone. Who are the candidates? Is there concern there?
Well, we have a kid by the name of Collin Wagner who is a local kid, a walk on. He was very close to Kevin last year. He may have a little stronger leg. I don't think he's as consistent as Kevin was. But, you know, we'll have to see. But I think he's got a chance.
We brought in a kid from Texas by the name of Anthony Fera, whose family is originally, again Philadelphia people. He has a strong leg, but he's all over the place right now. If we get his footwork down, I think he'll be pretty good.
You talked earlier about needing to find a couple guys on the offensive line. How do you feel about the overall depth there and your possibilities of sustaining any type of injury you might have at the position?
First thing, you've got to get one line, all right? We don't have one line yet, all right? So when you say we're 'worried about depth,' not yet (laughter). Yeah, once we get five guys across the board.
Last year, we were fortunate. Started out with five guys, stayed healthy the whole year. They got better and better and better and better as they went along. If you told me at the beginning of the year (2008) that that was going to be that good an offensive line in the middle of the year, I would have said, "Hey, you're daydreaming. " A couple of those guys weren't great athletes. But, the fact that they played together, repeat, repeat, repeat, all right? They got to be pretty darn good.
We get five guys that did what they did in the sense of staying healthy and having some pride in their offensive line, some leadership on that offensive line, then we'll be okay and we'll start worrying about some depth. But, first things first.
Knowledge Timmons is a guy that has been around for a while. How has he positioned himself in the off season to maybe achieve some significant playing time in the fall?
Well, he's got a lot of potential. I mean, he can run and he's tough and the whole bit. He's just got to get a little bit more poise. He's one of those guys, yap, yap, yap, yap. He ought to keep his mouth shut and concentrate on the next play. When we get him to do that, I think he'll be pretty good.
Devin Fentress and J.B. Walton aren't on the roster anymore. What happened to those guys?
Fentress graduated. In fact, I helped him get an apprenticeship with Nike. He was in Portland up until two or three days ago. I think he's coming back to get a second degree in another major.
And J.B. Walton?
J.B. Walton, he's got I don't know how to say this J.B. Walton is a great kid. He really is a great kid. He's got a learning disability that we can't do a good job with here. We looked all over for a place where he could go where they could help him. That's what he's doing. I would have loved to have kept him. Walton can be a really good football player. But we couldn't do the job for him academically that I think he's entitled to. And we had to bite the bullet there. We sat down with the mom and dad, with J.B. And he tries, and eventually he'll be very successful. So that was a tough one. That was really a tough one. But he's a great kid.
I know you don't like to talk about punting, but can you talk about Jeremy Boone and also how important his punting has been?
What do you mean I don't like to talk about it?
You might not like to punt, but they've been really good at it.
Well, I don't mind punting when there's 30 seconds left to go, all right, and we've got the ball on the 50-yard-line. A guy can put it on the one-yard line, I don't mind that punt (smiles).
Jeremy Boone is a good punter, a good kicker. He's done a good job for us. He's a good competitor. I like Jeremy. You know, he's a heck of a holder on field goals, extra points. He's a good athlete, Jeremy. I think he's done a really good job for us. Hopefully he will this year.
You talked about the offensive line. At the guard spots, they're a little bit unsettled. Who would you like to see step to the front? Is it Lou Eliades and Johnnie Troutman?
Troutman didn't have a very good summer. But, I think Eliades has a good chance. Biggest problem with Eliades, he's not been durable. He's had a neck problem. He's had hamstring pulled and things like that. But he had a good summer and he's got a chance to be one of the guys in there.
I don't have any preference. I think we've just got to work guys until somebody comes to the front. Dick Anderson, Bill Kenney do a great job with the offensive line. They'll drill them till somebody becomes proficient enough that we're competent we can stick 'em in there and play 'em. Hopefully that will be the case, that we'll have a couple guys.
But Eliades certainly is one of the guys that hopefully will help, but he's not there yet.
Where does Brandon Ware fit in the defensive line picture?
Brandon Ware is 20 pounds away from even coming close to being a football player. He's just too heavy; doesn't have any stamina. But he could be really good. He could be really good. Quick, strong, but he's way overweight.
A little off topic here. Kerry Collins ended up having a nice run in the NFL. What do you remember about him? During his career here, would you have seen that he could have been this good of a professional quarterback?
The only thing I really remember of Kerry Collins is he had a super spring, great Blue White game and came back to pre season practice with a broken hand. He said he got it in a volleyball game. I said, "yeah, and I'm Knute Rockne."
He had everything. He had everything. He was smart. He was tough. He had the arm. If he had to run, he could run. He had great leadership qualities. That '94 team was as good an offensive team that ever played college football. We averaged over 500 yards a ballgame in a pretty good league. We could have averaged 600 yards if we had done what some people like to do.
No, Kerry was a terrific guy. Bill Polian, who worked for my brother (George), an assistant coach for my brother at Kings Point, they were on my back about Kerry. He and the big guy, Mike McCormack, who had been at the Browns with a teammate of mine, he called me about three times. I said, "look, will you guys get off my back?" Finally, they called me the fourth time. Bill gets on the phone. He said, "Joe, look, will you talk to the owner about Collins?" I said, "What in God's name does the owner know?" "He just has one question to ask you." So, I think his name was (Jerry) Richardson. He gets on the phone. He said, "Coach, I have one question, I want to ask you about Kerry Collins." I said, "Go ahead, but one question." He said, "Will he still want to play when we give him a $5 million bonus?" I said, "Well, if he's smart, he won't". But he's a heck of a guy.
I still have the press release that said it was a volleyball game.
A lot of people swallowed it.
Since we're talking about guys in the NFL, have you talked to A.Q. Shipley since he was drafted by the Steelers? How do you think he's going to fit in with that team?
I don't talk to the kids when they go in. I ask the other coaches, "what do you hear about this guy, what do you hear about that guy" that kind of stuff. I thought (Gerald) Cadogan should have been drafted. He didn't get drafted. Just asking about him the other day. I don't even know where half of them go because of the fact that there's nothing I can do about it. I don't like to waste time.
But Shipley, you know, if they let Shipley play, he'll play better than they think he can play because, he's not that big, rangy kid. He's kind of squatty. He doesn't have that much speed, but he's tough and he's smart. He'll get the job done.
How he's doing with the Steelers, I don't know, I really don't. And I don't call those guys. I figure they have enough problems. Mom and dad are calling them. Everybody else is calling them. They're in camp. They're trying to feel their way. Let them alone. I try to.