IT'S THE FIRST TIME WE'VE TALKED TO YOU SINCE YOU TOOK THE JOB. GOING BACK TO THAT, HOW EXCITED WERE YOU TO COME HERE? WHAT WAS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND GETTING YOU HERE?
They didn't have to say much. I mean, it's a good place. I jumped at the opportunity to get here. Obviously, I have some relationships with some of the guys on this staff, even Coach [Holmon] Wiggins that left. We had our prior relationship. The biggest thing for me now, as many jobs as I've been a part of, is getting around the right people. And that message, from the head coach is important. And how he treats people is important. And I want to be around some good coaches to obviously continue to develop and learn. But also good people.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR IMPRESSIONS AND WHAT HAVE YOU LIKED FROM TRE TURNER AND WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU?
Work ethic. And also, Tre is a guy that has some natural feel for the game, you know? He lets the game come to him. And he's never rattled by any mistakes and he's able to put it past him. And I think that's a benefit for guys like that, they're in positions where they've got to make plays. There's going to be times where you don't make the play. But I love how he works, his competitiveness, I love his knowledge on the field. He's a very intelligent player. He makes your job a lot easier.
HE MAYBE CAUGHT SOME OF US BY SURPRISE WITH HOW PRODUCTIVE HE WAS. BUT NOW THE EXPECTATION IS FOR A BIGGER JUMP. DO YOU TALK TO HIM AT ALL ABOUT "DON'T FEEL PRESSURED BECAUSE OF YEAR 1" OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT?
Yeah, It's just consistency. He has to not worry about going out and trying to do too much. Go out and do your job, the game will come to Tre Turner. He's a very talented player. We'll put him in positions to make sure we're giving him the opportunity to have success. He doesn't need to worry about any of that, he just needs to focus on every game, every play, going out there and executing. And his talent will show up.
I'M SURE THE DEFAULT ANSWER IS "THEY'VE EACH DONE SOMETHING GOOD AND THEY'VE ALL GOT SOMETHING TO LEARN", BUT WITH THE FOUR TRUE FRESHMAN, ARE THERE ANY OF THOSE GUYS THAT HAVE SHOWN A REAL APTITUDE HERE EARLY ON WITH DEALING WITH SOME THINGS THAT COULD GET THEM ON THE FIELD? BLOCKING DOWNFIELD, THE SMALL THINGS. WE'VE HEARD A LOT ABOUT ELIJAH [BOWICK] WITH THE BIG BODY AND SPEED TO GO ALONG WITH IT. I DON'T KNOW IF HE'S THE GUY THAT STANDS OUT OR IF IT'S ONE OF THE OTHER THREE?
Well, Tayvion [Robinson], honestly is a guy. I think it's also because of the role he could bring us on special teams and being a returner. He's in the mix right now for that position. And he's doing a pretty good job as a young guy, learning the technique of catching punts and also tracking the ball and all the things you need to know. I would say special teams is always a way for young guys to get playing time and to get on the field fast. So I would give him probably an advantage in that sense, that he does play some special teams. The other guys are also doing very good jobs on the special teams units, but being a returner and being in the mix for that probably gives him an upper hand.
WHEN YOU HAVE SORT OF AN INTERESTING GROUP, WHERE YOU HAVE A GROUP OF UPPERCLASSMEN AND EXPERIENCED GUYS, AND THEN A REDSHIRT FRESHMAN GROUP, AND A TRUE FRESHMAN GROUP, DOES IT HELP TO MOTIVATE THE YOUNGER GUYS WHEN YOU HAVE OLDER GUYS THAT YOU CAN USE AS EXAMPLES?
Absolutely. You want your older guys to set the standard in your room. And I spoke on that before. The young guys are looking for examples, whether it be bad examples or good examples. We got to make sure that the culture in our room is to set good examples so when their turn comes and those guys are now juniors and seniors, they know the expectations, they know the standards and what we expect out of our position.
ONE MORE ON TRE TURNER. HE TOLD ME THAT WHILE HE WAS HAPPY WITH HIS FIRST YEAR, WHEN HE GOES BACK AND WATCHES VIDEO, HE SEES A LOT OF PLAYS THAT HE LEFT ON THE FIELD. 20-YARD CATCHES THAT COULD'VE BEEN MORE, INCOMPLETITIONS, THINGS LIKE THAT. DO YOU GO THROUGH, WITH A KID THAT YOUNG, DO YOU GO THROUGH LAST YEAR? DO YOU SHOW HIM THOSE?
Absolutely. Not just Tre. I talk to our room a lot about that. I have watched some film from last year, when we study cut ups, when we watch the mistakes made from last season, I talk to them about the hidden yards. There's a lot of hidden yards that we left as a unit on the field. Whether it be a bad release, whether it be the timing of a route, or not running the right steps on a route. So not just Tre, the entire room, we do talk about what we saw on film and how do we correct it moving forward.
OBVIOUSLY A LOT OF TALK ABOUT TRE, AND RIGHTFULLY SO. BUT, DAMON HAZELTON LED THE TEAM IN CATCHES LAST YEAR AND IT SEEMS LIKE HE DOESN'T GET TALKED ABOUT A LOT RECENTLY WITH ALL THE STUFF ON TRE. IS IT EXCITING FOR YOU TO HAVE A PLAYER THAT IS SO DYNAMIC AND OBVIOUSLY WAS GOOD LAST YEAR TO HAVE THAT JUST SITTING THERE AND YOU CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT?
Absolutely. I mean, Damon is a guy that has experience. He's game-ready, he's been in those battles in the game. Just like Tre, Damon has some things to improve on as well. And he's his biggest critic. He's watched the film, he's come to me on occasions. He's said "I know I need to be better at this, better at that", so I think having guys that have played and have played at a high level obviously makes your job a little bit easier as well.
YOU'VE GOT YOUNG TRUE FRESHMAN SUCH AS ROBINSON AND [JADEN] PAYOUTE THAT HAVE NEVER PLAYED THE WIDE RECEIVER POSITION, THEY WERE QUARTERBACKS IN HIGH SCHOOL. DO YOU BRING THOSE GUYS ALONG DIFFERENTLY? DO YOUR EXPECTATIONS CHANGE?
No, not necessarily. I think you have a plan on how you want to coach guys and develop them. I have an individual drill checklist of things that I make sure I hit on, and how many times I've hit on those things throughout camp. So, obviously, when you're dealing with guys like that, and you have a couple of those guys in your room, there are things that you need to cover a little bit more than I probably would. The drills are probably the most important thing, getting comfortable with the position and understanding the ins and outs of playing receiver. But that's probably the best way that I'll handle it.
I THINK, AT LEAST FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE ANYWAY, THERE WAS SORT OF A LOT OF QUESTION MARKS ABOUT HOW GUYS WILL BE DEPLOYED IN TERMS OF PERSONNEL GROUPINGS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. WHICH I'M SURE YOU GUYS HAVE TOO, AS YOU PROGRESS, YOU PROBABLY HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOUR ROLE IS. BUT DO YOU GET A SENSE THAT THIS STAGE, THE SECOND WEEK OF CAMP, THAT THIS POINT, GUYS ARE STARTING TO GET AN IDEA IN YOUR POSITION, OF WHAT THEIR ROLES ARE AND HOW PERSONNEL GROUPINGS WILL BE DEPLOYED? OR IS IT STILL TOO EARLY FOR THAT?
Well, at the running back position, we all know that we have a different skill set. They use us all in different ways. For the most part, we understand what our role is. But at the end of the day, we still competing, we're still trying to get each other better. We're still just going out there and grinding, trying to get better individually and as a unit. That's where we're at with that.
HOW DID THE OFFENSE DO IN THAT FIRST SCRIMMAGE AND WHAT IMPRESSIONS OF THE RUNNING BACKS SPECIFICALLY DID YOU GUYS TAKE OUT OF THE FIRST REAL TASTE OF THINGS?
We did okay. We're not satisfied, obviously. We know we need to go back to the drawing boards, stick to the basics. You know, just come out today and get better. We know what we messed up on at each position. We'll just have to get better from there and keep improving.
SO AS ONE OF THE OLDER RUNNING BACKS, YOU MIGHT BE THE OLDEST ONE IN TERMS OF ELIGIBILITY, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU TAKE ON YOURSELF TO TEACH THE YOUNGER GUYS, ESPECIALLY ALL THESE FRESHMAN RUNNING BACKS COMING IN? IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFIC? OBVIOUSLY, COACH FUENTE LIKES BALL SECURITY. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE BESIDES THAT THAT YOU FOCUS ON AS ONE OF THE LEADERS?
Just, um, obviously ball security is first. But secondly, just have fun. Be you. You're a running back at the end of the day. Once you get the ball, whatever you do, trust your instincts. Do what you do best. For the most part, just watch film, just stay confident, and sometimes you just have to wait your turn.
IN AN OFFENSE WHERE IT SEEMS LIKE FUENTE AND CORNELSEN LIKE TO USE FOUR OR FIVE BACKS IN GAMES SOMETIMES, WHEN YOU HAVE A RUNNING BACK RECRUIT COME ON CAMPUS AND YOU'RE TALKING TO HIM ABOUT HOW THEY'RE DEPLOYED HERE AND WHAT IT'LL LOOK LIKE, WHAT DO YOU TELL THEM ABOUT THEIR LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT? IT'S NOT LIKE YOU'LL HAVE ONE OR TWO GUYS THAT ARE SORT OF 1 AND 1A LIKE A LOT OF OFFENSES DO. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT FOR CARRIES IN A LOT OF WAYS. YOU'LL HAVE TO PLAY YOUR ROLE IN A SPECIFIC PERSONNEL GROUPING. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO AN INCOMING FRESHMAN OR RECRUIT?
The truth. I mean, if you're getting recruited by a school, I would assume you watch film, you watch games. And you talk to the coaches and they'll let you know. For the most part, I just tell them the truth. Once you get the ball, you just going to have to make the best of every carry that you get. Right now, it's kind of exciting. I take pride in it now, when I get in, in practice, I want to be the first to make a play. A big play. The rest of the guys in the room, they're pretty much on the same thing. The vibe in the running back room is tremendous. And I can't complain at all.
JUST WANT TO GET YOUR IMPRESSION ON KESHAWN KING. FUENTE CALLED HIM EXPLOSIVE. JUST WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF HOW HE'S HANDLED SO FAR AND YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF HIM ALONGSIDE YOU.
He's explosive. That's no question. He's an explosive guy. You know, he's still going out there, working, he has his head down, even though he's not overly confident. He's not too cocky. I think he's right where he needs to be at. Every day he goes out there and gets better at something. He has a bright future.
HOW CLOSE DID YOU GET IN THE OFFSEASON TO GETTING OUT OF HERE? I KNOW YOU WERE EXPLORING SOME THINGS, SOME OPTIONS. DECIDED THIS WAS THE RIGHT FIT, WHICH IS FINE. WAS IT JUST KIND OF A "YOU'VE GOT THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO IT, WHY NOT?" TO TAKE A LOOK?
I mean, I'm here now. I'm happy to be here. The coaches are happy to have me back, and I was happy to be back with my teammates. I know they all welcomed me back with open arms. I don't really have too much to say about it besides that I'm happy to be here.