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Q&A with offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner

Red Zone productivity is huge emphasis this spring

April 2, 2014 · @MTAthletics

THE OFFENSE HAS CONTINUED TO MAKE STRIDES THE PAST TWO YEARS, SO WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE OUT OF THE UNIT IN 2014?
I want to take the next step in being more consistent and explosive each game. I think we have seen it in the past but other times it was just non-existent. We are a young bunch so we have to take it slow with them, but I feel good with the way they compete. I like our talent level.

OTHER THAN SCORING MORE POINTS, WHAT IS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU LOOK AT ON A STAT SHEET AFTER A GAME AND WHY?
The first thing is our percentage in the red zone then our third down conversions. Last year we were really good on third down and not very strong in the red zone. We moved the ball but just did not punch it in consistently. We have made it a point of emphasis this spring to be better in the red zone. I also like to look at how many plays of zero yards that we had because that will play a huge role in all of the above.

WHY WERE THE RAIDERS SO EFFECTIVE ON THIRD DOWN A YEAR AGO, RANKING 25TH NATIONALLY?
I think our ability to run the football was the biggest reason and I have to credit our offensive line coaches for the job they did. We study third downs a lot. We did a good job last year of scheming more on third down which is something we need to do a better job of this year when we get in the red zone.

HAS THERE BEEN AN EMPHASIS THIS SPRING ON GETTING BETTER IN THE RED ZONE?
Yes, Coach Stockstill has made it very clear that we have to be more effective in the red zone and we are spending a lot of time on that this spring. One thing different you might see from us is having the quarterback run the football more which will add another hat in the run game and also design some better passing plays.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE GUYS ON OFFENSE THAT HAVE CAUGHT YOUR EYE THIS SPRING AND WHY?
Lucas Hamilton is a guy who is getting better every day and is highly competitive. He is only a freshman but he is further along than we thought he would be. He adds a dimension in the passing game from the tight end spot that will help us. He is not a hammer like Jacob Corbaley was but he has made great strides and we are excited about his future. Ed Batties and Terry Pettis have shown some things at wide receiver but Demetrius Frazier has really caught our attention. He moved over from defense last year and we always knew he had the ability but he is really showing it this spring. Up front Adam Stickel is off to a productive spring and Kamani Thomas is opening a lot of eyes as well.

YOU HAVE THE LUXURY OF HAVING FOUR REALLY GOOD AND PROVEN RUNNING BACKS, HOW WILL YOU UTILIZE ALL OF THEM THIS FALL?
They all have to be on the field and we can't forget about Kamani Thomas who has really come on this spring. He is carrying the ball 30-40 times a day and is only getting better. We have to find a way to get them all the ball because they are dangerous and can score in a variety of ways. We may not have a 1,000-yard rusher but we will have guys with 7-8 carries who are fresh the entire game. We will find a way to get them all involved because they are a special group.

AN OFFENSE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE BIG BOYS UP FRONT. HOW IS THAT GROUP PROGRESSING?
They are a young and inexperienced group but are talented and physical. You can see improvement from them every day, especially the young guys like David Adams, Josh Chester, and Conner Trent. Adam Stickel played a little last year but he is having a really good spring. Darius Johnson is our most experienced guy out there because Isaiah Anderson is out this spring.

YOU LOST TWO QUALITY RECEIVERS IN TAVARRES JEFFERSON AND KYLE GRISWOULD BUT YOU HAVE SOME TALENTED NEWCOMERS READY TO CONTRIBUTE. TELL US ABOUT THE RECEIVERS AND THE DEPTH YOU APPEAR TO HAVE.
I think this is the most depth we have had since I joined the staff. Ed Batties is a guy who can really stretch the field and Terry Pettis is a big body target who gets better every practice. Christian Collis is just Mr. Consistency and can play anywhere for you and Marcus Henry is the leader of the entire group. Devin Clarke is another guy we expect a lot out of and is playing well. A guy you will see a lot of this fall is Shannon Smith but they will all play. It's an exciting group.

AS WE HEAD INTO THE FIRST SCRIMMAGE OF THE SPRING, UPDATE US ON THE THREE-WAY BATTLE AT QUARTERBACK.
Every day is different. You come out and one guy looks really good then the next practice it's someone else. Right now it's an even race which is why you come out here and compete every day. I can see them all getting more comfortable with each rep they take. It's a tremendous battle because we have three really good ones but it will sort its self out and someone will separate themselves and we will go from there.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IN SATURDAY'S SCRIMMAGE?
From a receiver's standpoint are we making plays when the ball is in the air? From the quarterbacks, are they making the right decisions and from an offensive line perspective are we playing physical. We may not score a point but those are the things I will be looking for on Saturday. We are going to put them in tough situations and see how they respond because we are trying to find our identity.

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