By: Justin Cook, Publisher RedWolfReport.com
Blake Anderson-Chris Humes-Xavier Woodson-Cameron Birse
Overall, last Friday’s practice was not a good practice according to Coach Anderson. It’s one that he hoped was going to go well going into live scrimmage, but with spring break around the corner the players had other things on their minds. Coach Anderson said it was not a good practice. They had their minds on spring break and there was a lot of undisciplined and selfish behavior. Anderson said that it’s not what we are going to be doing. What was the result of the players not doing what they were supposed to? How about 75 up downs? That’s what the players ended up getting due to their lack of focus, effort, and decision to be involved in extra-curricular activities between plays.
As the practice ended the parting message to the players was to be safe, make smart decisions, and don’t make bad decisions on the road. He wanted them to get back safely and said they would meet back up next Sunday night at 6 p.m. He says he’ll be holding his breath to make sure they make it back ok. It’s obvious that even after a bad practice Coach Anderson cares for these men as a part of his own family and only wants what is best for them.
So what was the problem today? They had 4 or 5 stupid decisions according to Anderson that had nothing to do with football. They were not getting great effort from the players and they had a bunch of busts throughout the day. The result was the up downs, 75 to be exact, and Anderson said he can blow the whistle a lot longer than their legs can handle.
So what about the actual practice, how did it go? Anderson said they turned some guys loose today during the blitz period. He wasn’t sure about the communication between some of the guys playing new positions. He specifically mentioned Daniel Keith as the guard and Devin Mondie as the center. He said it just wasn’t there between those two and wasn’t happening the way they wanted it to. He did mention that they’ve only had a couple of days doing it, so fans should expect that it would improve.
Anderson also said that Stevens is working at guard, but that they are going to start seeing different combinations each day on the line. If you listen to Anderson and watch practices you can tell they are trying to get the best 5 offensive lineman on the field regardless of position. First, Anderson said he wants to solidify the center position, then the guards, and may even see some movement with the tackles. They plan on taking it one practice at a time to see where they’re at. As of now, most of the time the center will be Devin with Berg filling in behind him. Anderson says they have to work on the line to become more hip to him with each other and not let such a large gap occur during plays.
Currently, Anderson feels they look more physical and look like they possess more mass on the line. They look athletic and when they move they have been pleased with the work they are doing so far. As far as the new JUCO center Brandon Berg, Anderson says he’s athletic, loves to play and has some toughness to him. He says that right now it’s mainly mental and that Devin is ahead of him since Devin knows the system better since he’s been here longer. He does say that Berg is a quality player and he’ll be in the mix and that he knows it’ll start clicking for him.
So we see some thoughts on the o line, now what about the guys their protecting? The number 2 quarterback that will be pushing for the number 1 spot by fall camp, Cameron Birse is who I want to talk about. Birse is the guy that when he walked on campus everyone though there is the quarterback for the next 4 years. He has a cannon arm and one of the most impressive highlight tapes people had seen. So why is he not the starter? Birse fell out of favor the first spring after the new staff arrived and after dropping to the third qb spot lost the ability at getting quality reps and no one heard anything about him last year. Now, Hogan is gone and Birse has reworked his body and mind to prepare him for a shot to take this team over.
Anderson said the quarterbacks are still Fredi, Cam, and Tabary at this time with Tabary been a close 3. Right now there is good competition with Cam and Tabary. They’ll be getting some live work and they hope to have some separation between those two, but both have improved and Cam has come a long way according to Anderson from where he was a year ago when the staff arrived. Tabary is also starting to make sense of the offense and the competition is becoming very good. For those wondering, yes the competition is a good thing because Fredi needs to be pushed and have a sense of urgency to help him improve and get better as a quarterback, especially in the area of passing.
So what has Cam done so different this year to gain the trust of the coaches and teammates? First, he’s taking on leadership roles on the field and in the weight room. Anderson said after practice that Cam is eating better, he’s trimming down, and he’s doing a good job in the weight room. He’s running better, and he’s able to escape now. Cam was always the guy who wanted to be a pocket passing kind of a guy according to Anderson, but he’s learned that if he trims down and gets lean that he can be more mobile. He also now knows the system better according to Coach Anderson and doesn’t have to think so much and he can just go play now.
As the practice ended Anderson said they better be able to think of the practice as being positive or they didn’t learn anything. He said that when the team had conditioning at the end that it was the first time they did anything together all day. The team did the 75 up downs due to their behavior during practice, but coach said it took 62 to realize that he wasn’t going to stop blowing the whistle until they decided to do it together. It has to be a learning experience according to Anderson or they got real problems. The team went from not calling out the numbers of the up downs and during their own thing to ending it by working at it together, calling it out, and trying to finish out as a team.
When the team arrives back from Spring Break Anderson says they have to move forward, they have to grow up, and said leadership has to start developing. The focus level needs to come back and they have to get with the intensity.
The team will also start with new install upon arriving. They’ll be in shells on Monday and scrimmage on Friday for a couple of hours. They’ll be scrimmaging the next three Friday’s in fact with the next two being a scrimmage followed by the third Friday which will be the spring game.
The hope is for when the team gets back to scrimmaging that they cut out all the extra-curricular stuff because Anderson says it’s hard to overlook that, but that they did have good days building up to the last day during the scrimmage that wasn’t good, but that from now on they’ll have to focus and not let other stuff distract them. It hasn’t been all bad, but he didn’t like the way they finished before spring break, so you know Anderson will be looking forward to getting the guys back in shape and look forward to a better scrimmage next Friday.
How did Chris Humes feel practice went? Chris says they went real hard and had a physical and aggressive practice until the end. Chris says that coming back from injury he wanted to work on his tackling. He wants to improve on his fundamentals, back-peddle, reading quarterbacks eyes, and wants to become a true ball hawk. He wants to work on hitting the strike zone of opposing offenses. He wants to work on where you hit someone so that he doesn’t hit helmet to helmet. Humes was turning into that ball hawking safety until an injury at Tennessee forced him out for the remainder of the year. He’s picking back up where he left off this year. During practice he was playing zone coverage and read the quarterbacks eyes and got the pick. He also feels excited about not having to learn a new coordinators system with so much install and feels good to not have to learn a new system and focus on building what he’s already learned.
After Practice Xavier Woodson also said that he felt the spring had gone pretty good so far. He’s learning the mic position to be the mic linebacker to replace the departed Q Lee. He says he’s learning as he goes, and feels it’s going good. He feels that it is motivation following Q Lee and realizes he’s not always going to have someone there to hold your hand. He’s played it before, and Q Lee is still giving him pointers here and there, and he’s focused on adjusting to the positon during practices. On how practice ended with the up downs, Woodson said that Coach Anderson definitely got their attention and made them wake up. It’s good to compete and be aggressive says Woodson, but don’t let it take away from the practice.
The focus level coming in with spring break around the corner wasn’t all there with some of the guys according to Woodson. Some guys had the break on their minds, but for others it was the first live day of pads and they just wanted the chip off of their shoulder.
Before the spring ends for Woodson he’s hoping to gain some weight and learn the whole defense and be a complete defensive player with his body physically and is IQ. Woodson, like Humes, also had an interception during the practice. He said he read the quarterbacks eyes and adjusted on the fly. With so many guys that can interchange he feels it’s going to be good for the defense. Having guys like Q Heath back, JUCO players, and Khari Lain out there will help, but he has to teach them, but they’re coming along well. Woodson was noticeably excited about the new meat in the middle. Woodson said that it helps a lot for them to clog the hold up for the run to give the linebackers extra time, allows them to read plays faster, and to know you have someone who can stop the run gives you confidence and a boost. He loves seeing those guys work and says it makes his job easier.
Cameron Birse felt after practice they have had a good spring so far, but feels there is room for improvement. He said that as of right now they’re working with his units on installs and reviews. Thursday was an install day for the quarterbacks and Friday was the review day. He’s looking for ways for him to improve on the task at hand, managing blitzes and throwing perimeter screens. Leadership is a big thing he’s working on right now for himself, and wants to lead the guys and be a voice on the team. He says everyone has room to improve, and today was a good showing of that. Birse says they have to have a much better practice come next Monday when the team returns.
Birse, as stated earlier, has retooled his body. He said he had to when Hogan stepped down and the competition for the two spot opened up. With this offense and having to be mobile and do things with your legs, he got with Coach Shadeed and change the way he was eating and then let the best strength and conditioning coach in the country do his thing.
For Spring Camp, Birse said he wanted to make sure he takes care of the ball and know the right place to go with the ball. In the past, with competitions, Birse said he was force balls and try and make too many big plays with his arm, and now he is taking what the defense gives him. Today for example, the safeties were playing deep so he had to take the check down, so he has to just remember to take what the defense gives you and work on his leadership. The team needs that, and we are trying to look for leaders which is why at the 6 a.m. workouts he steps up and leads and hopes to get better every single day.
With this offense Birse says it is 100% about making the right decision. He points to Brandon Weeden who has been a quarterback in this offense and how he can’t move at all, but then you take Fredi and he can run a 4.4 and can move so whether you move or not it comes down to making decisions. He says it doesn’t matter who is in the game, if they make good decisions, he trust Bell and with the guys around the quarterback they’ll move the ball. We have plenty of guys on the outside according to Birse. He mentioned Trosin, JD, and the entire WR core that can play and mentions the fact that they have 2 different offensive lines that can player with a core of running backs. Birse says it doesn’t matter if the QB is James, Fredi, or himself, that they will move the ball.
Play of the Day:
Cameron at QB and Tres Houston at wide receiver made the play of the day. It was a play that Cameron had to read the safety then go through his checks. He got the ball behind the defense and said when you have guys like Tres you just put it up and he’ll come down with it every single time. It kind of reminds me of what Johnny Manziel did with Mike Evans at Texas A&M and I’d say that worked pretty well for the Aggies.
Thanks to Joel Cox for providing audio from the post-practice comments by Anderson, Humes, Birse, and Woodson and continue following us @Redwolfreport and @JC_RWRC on Twitter or on Facebook.