August 21, 2008

Coach Quotes and Practice Notes - 08/21/2008

As far as general info, there isn't much to report on since Head Coach Tyrone Willingham cancelled yesterday's practice and today's practice was not open to the media. Willingham stated that there have been no additions or subtractions to the team, and that they have not exceeded the alloted 105 positions on the roster.

Tyrone Willingham Quotes:

Willingham discussed the reason for canceling yesterday's afternoon practice.

"There were a variety of issues that caused us to cancel practice yesterday. It was just a good thing to do. But as you know from our conversation yesterday, it was set to be a rest day for our players, that's why we were going to do the mock game. The mock game was not for the players, it was for the coaches. Elimination of that just gave them additional rest in another form, that's all."

When asked who has surprised him or who he's excited about, Willingham discussed the following:

"I'm really excited obviously with Juan's [Garcia] recovery - I'm really pleased with that, I think that's exciting. I don't call it a surprise, but it's great what he's doing. I'm really pleased with the leadership that Casey Bulyca has added to that up front group. I think that's been kind of special for me that he's given the team so much of himself. I think our freshman running backs have done a great job of asserting themselves in the mix. I think the freshman wide receivers - I wouldn't call them a surprise, but they've shown that it won't be long before they have some real impact on this football team. Defensively, I think the freshman defensive linemen are making a statement that they're kind of what we thought they would be. They still have a lot of growth to go, but that's been again not surprising, but exciting. The linebackers have been very solid, and in the secondary, I think we've seen some real competition."

Willingham discussed sophomore quarterback Jake Locker's progression from last season.

"I can comfortably say I knew where the improvement would take place before it took place. I think if you can remember some of our conversations from before, his progression won't be because he's thrown more balls, it will be because he's added knowledge to what's taken place in the game. That first year is very difficult on anyone to really know, what I call the game slowing down, and that's simply because you know and anticipate what's going on and what's happening. His knowledge is so much greater, so therefore it heightens his ability to anticipate what's going to happen. Anticipation, I believe, improves your ability to be accurate with your throws. Now you've still got to have the other guy catch it. You can put it right on him, and if it's not caught, than it's an incompletion. But I think his awareness, his knowledge will be the area that he'll grow at, which will cause him to eliminate people asking the question 'how do you improve his passing?'."

When asked how many freshman wide receivers he would take to the season opener against Oregon, Willingham responded:

"It would be too early to do that, but I think it's reasonable for us to say, even right now, that all of the freshman have a chance to be included in that number. Obviously Vince Taylor a little less than some of the others, because his report date will influence that, but they've done a pretty good job."

Willingham discussed what he wants to see out of sophomore running back Brandon Johnson, and how Johnson's nagging injuries have hampered his ability to provide that.

"The first thing is, Brandon needs to get well, that's the first thing that you need to see. You need to get him completely well so he can play and perform. Then going back to last year, as a freshman - the first thing you say about freshman running backs, is you know it's not their ability to run the ball that will distinguish them, it's their ability to incorporate themselves into the pass game - both pass protection, pass routes, etc. He needs to continue that, continue that growth because that's where they grow the most at in my opinion. That's what we need to see, that continued growth in that area. Going back with him, he's missed some [time] from the spring with an injury and now missed some [time] from the fall, so that combination hasn't allowed him to expose himself or give us the kind of information that we need in those areas."

Willingham had this to say when asked if freshman defensive lineman Senio Kelemete is behind the other true freshman after not being able to participate through a good portion of fall practices to do an academic situation.

"There's no question, but he's shown that he's going to be ok."

Willingham discussed the guard rotation.

"I think you hit it right on the nose, it is indeed a nice problem to have. No, we haven't set up a rotation yet or finalized who will even start in that area. There's still some nagging things that are bothering us right there. You have both Bulyca and Jordan White-Frisbee miss a day or two. The rock in there, [Ryan] Tolar has been pretty solid all the time. It's a good situation to be in - one that we can afford to wait on in terms of how this thing will play out. But you feel comfortable knowing that you have three, maybe four guys in there that can do very well."

Willingham had this quick response when asked if the kicking game is beginning to sort itself out in terms of identifying a starting place kicker:

"No, not yet."

Willingham was asked if he has had players in the past that have imitated him.

"Every year. The best has probably been Troy Walters many years ago. I would say he was probably the best one. I think Vonzell [McDowell] is making a run for it, I think he's making a run at it. [He] might be good."

Willingham was then asked what Walters did so well to be considered the best in his eyes.

"I'm not sure what he said, but he had all of it down. It was pretty good."

Willingham was finally asked if he gets a kick out of his players imitating him.
"It works. As long as they're having fun, I'm good."

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