A talk with G.A. Mangus at the half-way mark of spring drills
OC pleased with quarterbacks, impressed with TE, RBApril 2, 2008 · MT Media Relations
Despite injuries, how do you feel the offensive line is improving? Pretty good, some of these young guys have stepped up. Walk-ons Billy [Hayne] and Jamie [Wolff] have gotten a chance to play some. Colin [Boss] seems to be getting better with every practice. He's getting a lot of reps and you can see his improvement on a daily basis. We moved some guys to different positions for a variety of reasons. Mark [Thompson] has adjusted from moving from center to tackle. He needs to play a little bit better out there, however. I think that is going to come with time. He needs to get used to being out there again. I call it getting out of the phone booth. It's a completely different deal but he's getting good reps. Overall, the line is doing well considering the circumstances with all the injuries. I'm pleased with the way it's going and the tempo of practice.
How are the quarterbacks progressing? The one issue we don't have offensively is at quarterback. We have two players that can win for us. Competition breeds success and both of them are playing very well. Dwight [Dasher] has some things he needs to do better. Joe [Craddock] had to shake some rust off. They both played pretty well in the scrimmage on Saturday but still need to sharpen their skills. They are doing everything I am asking them to do and get better with every practice.
What are your thoughts on the running back and full back positions? Jacob [Longoria] is doing well at full back. He's down in the back, so we haven't been able to get a lot out of him lately but mentally he knows what is going on. When Jacob has been on the field, he has been running the ball well and doing a solid job of blocking like he did a year ago.. I think we are solid at full back.. Marquise Branton has done some good things this spring as well. He can catch the ball well, but he needs to run harder just like he was known for in high school. Spike McDaniel has done some impressive things. He had a good run on Monday and had another impressive run Saturday in the scrimmage. He's a little guy, but he's not afraid of contact. Phillip [Tanner] and Desmond [Gee] are fine. We have asked a lot out of them from the passing and running game. They have done well executing what we need them to do. Phillip didn't get enough touches in last Saturday's scrimmage. He played the most, but he didn't get the ball enough. These guys are fine, they just need to get better in the little things such as running the routes.
After losing your two senior tight ends, how do you feel the underclassmen are progressing? They are doing great. They have been the bright spot of spring camp. [Gene] Delle Donne has really adjusted to the position. All three players are very athletic, have good hands and can block on the perimeter. We are not asking them to do a lot of interior blocking. They are match-up problems and they are playing hard. You can tell there is some competition going on and that's good to see.
With the limited number of experienced wide receivers, how do you feel about the position? We are playing a bunch of them. Patrick [Honeycutt] and Michael [Cannon] are mentally ahead of the rest of the pack. We are playing some running backs out there. We have moved Andrew Banks to the position because he can make some plays with his athletic ability. He's another impressive walk-on that has done a lot of nice things for us. He just needs to hang on to the ball. Jeremy Perry has been a bright spot as well. He was a quarterback last year, moved to safety and now he is a wide out. He has a great skill-set. The receivers need to go out there and keep playing. Coach Watts is working with them as much as he can and getting them to catch up and get to where Patrick and Michael are.
How are walk-ons contributing to the wide receiver position? Andrew [Banks] and Jeremy [Perry] are the two players that really have contributed. Caleb Dugger has made some plays and Shane [Blissard] had a good scrimmage the other day. Shane just needs to get a his speed better because he has a big body with good hands and runs good routes. Right now, these guys are getting the opportunity to show us what type of skill-set they have. Some of them have really stepped up and helped us this spring.
What position do you feel has improved the most during spring practice? We lost our top two tight ends and all of a sudden you have three people competing for those spots. All three have proved they can play for us. That is pretty good depth for us considering we had five players that could have played a year ago. Some of these young linemen have showed potential. Jake [Padrick] is young and he needs to catch up since he missed all of last year with an injury.
What position needs the most work during the next few months? Our wide receivers need to show consistency. It's not that they can't play as much as it is the inconsistency they are showing. They need to catch the ball. We aren't trying to score a touchdown every play. We also need someone to step up at right guard. Chris Hawkins has been a little inconsistent. Jamal Lewis returns in a few days and that will help us. We need a young guy to step to the forefront and show us something in the last part of spring practice. We are one or two guys off. It takes 11 guys. If one guy messes up, it looks like all 11 messed up.
Which position are you most confident with at the half-way point? Both of our quarterbacks can win for us right now and I feel confident going into the summer with the depth we have at tight end. I'm confident in Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee, but we just don't have the depth at running back like I would prefer. Some of the young guys coming in will have to jump in and be ready to go.
In comparison with the previous spring practices the last two years, how would you rate the overall progression of the offense this season? I think the kids are getting more comfortable with us as a staff. They know what to expect. In that respect, it's much easier. We don't have to get on them as much as we did two years earlier. We still have our moments because we are so young. We are still running the same plays and drills we have done the previous two springs. The older guys are really comfortable with what we are doing. That makes it easy. The problem is we don't have enough old guys. Ask me in a couple of years. We will be older and spring practice will be a lot easier.
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