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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 3, 2016
Q. I asked Jim this question, see if you have a different perspective for the same one. A lot of quarterbacks who are coached by their fathers, who have fathers for coaches, were coached by them and usually the fathers were offensive coaches. Does Luke have any kind of different perspective on this game by having a father who is a coach but who is from a defensive background?
COACH NUSSMEIER: I don't know that. I would say this: I think any time a young man gets the opportunity to grow up around the game like Luke has, and to be around the phenomenal coaches and players he has, obviously you get that gym rat mentality and they are always around ball and they see how guys act, how had he conduct themselves, how they prepare, and I think that's an advantage.
I think when you watch the way Luke conducts himself on a day-to-day basis, those things over time have rubbed off on him and he's taken that to heart.
Q. Your voice is almost gone, and you haven't even started practice.
COACH NUSSMEIER: We just did our goals and our expectations. That was a good meeting. But it seems to be this way year round now. Maybe I'm getting old.
Q. What is the biggest growth you've seen in Luke? You've known him a lot of years. What's the biggest areas of growth to give you confidence that he's going to be able to handle a job that he's really never done before? He has very limited experience at the college level.
COACH NUSSMEIER: You know, you talk about growth, and I think growth comes in a bunch of different areas. You talk about the balance of any student athlete and you talk about the academic side, the athletic side and the social side, and I think when you look at Luke, he's so well adjusted across the board, and I think you have to be to have success at this level.
Q. Also last year, how limited were you guys just by the struggles of the offensive line, the quarterback change and struggles there; just how limited was the playbook?
COACH NUSSMEIER: We struggled in a lot, when you look at it, let's be honest about it.
But you also looked out there, and what you saw was at times, you saw five true freshmen and you saw guys competing, maybe in situations that weren't ideal. They never backed down. They fought, they competed and that's how you develop a championship-calibre team.
You watch guys, certain players in situations, where maybe it's not advantageous situations, how do they react: Do they back down or do they turn and make it about somebody else and not be accountable for their actions. And really excited; this group has worked extremely hard. To see the growth they have made over the last year, really, really excited about where they are as we go into camp.
Obviously we have to get better at a lot of things. That's maybe a lot of the excitement is to watch how much growth we're going to have, not only where we came from the end of last year through spring but where we'll be from the start of camp to the end of camp.
Q. At this time last year, did you have any kind of inkling or premonition that potentially it could be a long year for the offense, even if you did find a quarterback? And how does that compare to this year where at least you have players that are going through the system for the second time?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Well, like I said, really excited after having a year and watching these players grow. And then the influx of new players; when you add five few wide receivers to our depth, obviously at a position we didn't have great depth last year.
The line situation, where you look out there, I don't know how many teams started a Bowl game with three true freshmen, starting on the offensive front, you see those guys, the growth of they have made in a year.
The ability that we can now actually practice in two different squads because we have depth and we have numbers at some positions; really excited about that. And really excited to see the individual growth of these players and we have some new players that we haven't had a chance to work with yet, really excited to see what recruiting did for us.
Q. As a follow to that, what are your expectations for the season for the offense, even if you can't specify it in numbers?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Well, we want to be a situationally good offense. We want to be able to win the special situations, things that we preach on a day-to-day basis.
You look at things that really hurt us last year: Lost yardage plays. Obviously the sacks are an alarming stat that stands out to you now. When you have sacks, everybody points at the offensive line right off the bat. Well, it's not necessarily that. The receiver has to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. Quarterback has to get the ball out of his hands. There's a lot of things that play into it.
We have to become a better red zone team. Obviously we had challenges there. Got to become a better third down team. Those special situations are the areas we've really got to grow in as a group.
Q. Brandon Powell is your most-proven playmaker at receiver outside of Callaway that you can have back. Two things, how important is it that he is back and healthy and two, how beneficial is it that he's got some competition now with Dre Massey?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Well, it's like this when you look at Brandon: A guy that started the season phenomenally; and then to have the injury really slowed him towards the end of the season. So to watch him progress back, to watch how hard he's worked, really excited to get him back out there.
He brings a totally different element to the offense, and a guy that has played running back, but you put him in the slot and he can create matchups. And his ability, when he gets the ball in space, he's very difficult to put your hands on.
Q. What do Goolsby and Lewis bring to that tight end position, as far as a different position from what McGee offered?
COACH NUSSMEIER: I think both those guys run extremely well. They are very good athlete. They may not be the 260-pound hammerhead tight ends, but they have really good length and they run really good routes and they understand how to set up routes. Excited about both those guys. C'yontai obviously got injured, so he missed time last year.
DeAndre, I think he's going to take his game to a whole 'nother level than where he finished the season last year.
Q. How close are the two and effective can they be running this offense?
COACH NUSSMEIER: I think they are both very close. I think they can both be extremely effective. Very excited about the competition that's going to be created and not just at quarterback, across the board.
Like I said, we finally got some depth at some positions where we can really kind of roll the ball out and watch some people compete where -- I don't think you ever get better when you've got players that know really the player behind them can't challenge them for their spot.
You want to have somebody who may be when you start practice with a depth chart, because you have to put people in groups. And you say, well, somebody is with the ones and somebody is with the twos. Well, if the two is pushing to be the one and the three is pushing to beat the two, you're getting your team to where you want to be. I think we are starting to get that across the board at a couple different positions. It's going to make us a better team.
Q. How much has C.J. Worton grown?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Really, really good off-season, and C.J., I think as much as anything, has really started to get it. He's really maturing as a young man. Understanding how to take the things that he learns in the classroom when it comes to the game and apply it to the field, and how to physically put himself in the best shape by what he does in the weight room and conditioning and those type of things.
He's a phenomenal athlete and I think he's just starting to scratch the surface. He's got a big, big upside and really excited to see what kind of camp he'll have.
Q. How would you characterize Luke's leg-up or advantage in the competition to this point, and when do you want a definitive plan at quarterback?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Well, we'll make the decision when we're ready to make the decision, and when we think the timing's right. I don't think you can sit here today and say it's this day or that day.
Like I said, I really like the depth that we are developing in that room and I think it's close competition across the board. Really excited to see all four guys play, not just Luke and Austin. Obviously as we came out of spring, we talked about Luke had a slight edge, and we're going to let them compete and see where we end up.
Q. At running back, you had a true workhorse; do you see more balance in the running backs?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Ideally in this league, you'd like to have a couple guys that you can count on and interchangeable parts, so to say. Obviously Kelvin did a great job for us last season.
Really excited about that group and the depth. I think Mark Herndon was a guy last year really trying to find his way back to health and not really able to contribute at the level he's able to this season. Really excited about -- he did a great job on special teams. But the offensive element that he developed through spring and the things that he was capable of doing. Obviously adding Mark from the JuCo ranks and the two Jordans and Lamical Perine coming in. Like I said, we're developing some depth there to have competition.
Q. A lot of times offensive coordinators are referred to as offensive geniuses or masterminds. Does it take a certain amount of creativity to be an offensive coordinator?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Well, I don't know. I was pretty bad in art class, so when you talk about being creative (Laughter).
I would say this: I've always believed, and I was fortunate enough to play some, the game's about winning. Offense and defenses are pieces to the bigger picture, which is the team.
And so whatever you have to do on offense to win, is what you want to be. And sometimes that means obviously you want to score as many points and you want to have the statistical numbers and all that. But at the end of the day, sometimes you've got to play to the strength of your team.
But when you talk about the guru status and all that thing, ultimately it's about putting the players in the best chance to have success. The players play the game. Coaches coach. So how do you put the players in the best position they can to be successful.
Q. Will you tap into Spurrier's guru mentality?
COACH NUSSMEIER: How would you not? I mean, you got the stats here every day we see as we come into work. Just having watched Coach from a distance over time and what he's been able to accomplish offensively and sit down and have the conversations that we've had and things. You talk about a great resource within the building, and to not use it to me would be foolish.
His success, and especially at the quarterback position, you're always -- I think if you're trying to grow as a coach, you're always reaching out to other people within your profession, or people that you respect and asking opinions. And hey, how do you do this; or hey, would you look at what we're doing here and tell me if you might have a suggestion you think we could do better. Really excited to have that resource in the building.
Q. Last year Coach talked about Ahmad Fulwood and wasn't sure he would go after the ball the way he would like to see him go after the ball. Today again he talked about his need to be more aggressive. In your estimation, is that what's keeping him from having the kind of career a lot of people expected out of him? It just seems that we're still waiting for Ahmad Fulwood to kick in.
COACH NUSSMEIER: There's that expectation thing again, you know.
Ahmad works extremely hard. Ahmad has great size. You talk about physicality and that's one of the areas of his game. When he plays physical and he plays aggressive, you see him do some really, really good things and we're trying to find that on a down to down basis.
But he's a guy that does everything exactly the way we ask him and really hope that he'll take that next step and we'll have that big breakout season that we've been looking for.
Q. You touched on the running backs a little bit already. What stood out from the two Jordans last year and what are you expecting from them to hopefully take another step forward?
COACH NUSSMEIER: What's the first thing, true freshman, that always stands out to you. I think the one thing about Jordan Cronkrite that stood out to me was his ability to do things in the formation and the passing game. You saw the phenomenal play he made at South Carolina. He's a really good athlete and has really good feel when you start doing some of the receiving things, as well as being a good tailback.
And then Jordan Scarlett, his physicality, his ability to run the football downhill. I think you saw a little glimpse of that in that big run against Vanderbilt, against Georgia; you got to see some things like that from him.
Really excited, those guys here, too, obviously the curve was really steep for them. So the curve has slowed down from a learning standpoint. Really curious now to watch their natural skill level start to take over and really implement some of the things we asked them to work on in the off-season.
Q. Given all the unknowns on offense and Coach Mac even addressed that there's a lot of unknowns here, what is kind of the bed rook of your confidence that this team is going to take a nice leap this year?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Confidence in the character of our kids and the leadership of Coach Mac. Believing what we're doing. Believing how our kids have approached it. We've got the right makeup. We've got the right attitude. We've got to go out and do it now.
Q. There was some high praise in a recent article about you guys formationally and keeping teams off-guard and stuff. Do you feel like maybe it wasn't as it looked at times; that guys were getting open but just weren't getting the ball and there were some good things that you guys can build on that the lay men didn't see?
COACH NUSSMEIER: Once again it goes back to putting the players in the best possible position to have success, and if that means we have got to do some shifting and some motion, those type of things, that we'll do. Obviously we're not a team that's built on speed of play, and that's a big emphasis right now, speed of play and number of snaps. That has not been who we have been.
Now we are going to change and do some things differently that we haven't done. Obviously if you're not evolving, you're not getting better. So we are going to do some things a little bit differently.
I think our quarterback room, their grasping of the things we are trying to accomplish and their knowledge is going to allow us to do maybe some different things with them that maybe we didn't do a year ago.
But really excited about the different types of players we have at different positions allow you to do some of those things and hopefully that allows to you do some different things to keep people off-balance defensively.
Q. Could you just talk a little about how in this case Washington has evolved at his position, and as a follow-up to that, other guys in the secondary talk about his aptitude for understanding and putting them in good positions. Would you also address that part of it, as well?
COACH COLLINS: Nick had a really good off-season for us. Had a really good spring practice for us. He was in the rotation last year at safety. Was a big-time special teams player for us. I was actually watching the SEC Network this summer, when the special teams or offense are on the field, I don't get to watch them, I'm over on the sidelines coaching the defense up. And Nick scored a touchdown in the Georgia game. That's pretty cool.
But yeah, his progression has been great. He knows the defense inside and out. He knows all the positions, makes all the calls for us, gets corners lined up, nickels lined up if they need it. I just think he's going to have a great season for us.
You know, with Maye coming back, that was huge for the program, him working towards getting his degree. And Marcell Harris, Chauncey Gardner, coming in here early at the safety position, there's really good competition, but I think they complement each other well. They are a bunch of unselfish players that want to see the best guy on the field and rotate through.
Q. Have you ever seen Nick do the Rubik's Cube?
COACH COLLINS: Yes, I have, actually. It's impressive. It's impressive.
Q. Caleb Brantley, how much has he matured in the last year and can he be one of the best defensive tackles in the country?
COACH COLLINS: Defensive staff and I think the coaching staff as a whole feel Caleb could be as dominant a defensive lineman as there is in the country.
The big thing from last year, he was a naturally gifted player. Played three technique, played some nose for us, and has such tremendous takeoff, violent explosion into the backfield. Sometimes he's so athletic, he would get out of gaps at times last year. You watched him throughout the spring working with coach rump, really improved his technique, his hand placement, his gap integrity. All those things that you ask of a guy that's in his position, been in the program this long.
So we are so excited about him. He's a confident individual; and combine his confidence, his raw, natural athletic ability and then the technique and discipline that he's really worked on in the off-season and throughout the spring, I think that's a dangerous combination for him.
Q. Last year you arrived, you said you wanted to keep things kind of going as they were. This year, what kind of stamp do you personally kind of want to put on this defense and going forward?
COACH COLLINS: Well, I think the big thing, the recognition as a whole, coaching staff, from Coach Mac to the defensive staff, recognizing the kind of players that we had, the things that they had done well in previous years, kind of taking that information, using it, and producing what many considered to be an elite defense.
As the year went on, we learned more and more about the guys and through the off-season experimented with some things obviously I won't divulge here. I think the progression of the defense has been really positive.
Gain the kids respect early, gain their trust and built on that as we have gone through last season and the spring and the off-season.
Q. Part of that is recruiting, obviously.
COACH COLLINS: Right.
Q. How much pressure have you felt as a recruiter to maintain the defensive status and how do you sell this defense of yours?
COACH COLLINS: I think the big thing is, there's a standard for how defense is played here. There's a standard for how the defensive coaches coach at the University of Florida, and we uphold that every single day. The kids that we bring in, that we brought in with this signing class, will add to that.
Obviously we lost, you know, five guys that got drafted in the NFL, along with Brian Poole, who I think started at nickel yesterday for the Falcons in camp. So you've got six NFL players off of last year's defense.
The challenge for us is those young guys, throughout this off-season, throughout the preseason, to step up and contribute. Which ones of those, we don't know. I think throughout the spring, we found some guys that will really contribute, defense, special teams; but just finding who these new guys are for us will step up and play.
Q. I think the key word that you've hit is "confidence." I was talking with Caleb earlier; he thinks this defensive line could be the best in the country. Your feelings on that and how close do you think they are to that?
COACH COLLINS: The big thing for us, each position group that you look at on our defense, there are some guys, one or two at each position, that could be in the conversation for, "as good of a player their position" in the country, SEC, nationally.
But the big thing for us is those guys developing the leadership ability to get some of the other guys to come with them so they can contribute; so the defensive line, obviously Cox, Brantley, Joey Ivie played a lot of good football for us.
Cece Jefferson came on as a true freshman last year. Expecting big things out of him. And the linebacker position, Jarrad Davis, obviously he had a great year. Fortunate that he decided to come back for his senior year, comeback to get his degree. And obviously Marcus Maye coming back and Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson.
We have got some guys. The key is going to fill those other guys in place, so you have 24 SEC players that can contribute and roll throughout a game in this league and as we all know, the tempo keeps increasing from offenses across the country, offenses across the league.
So the times of having 11 strong are long gone. You need to have 18, 22, 24 guys that you can roll through and play at a high level.
Q. Jalen Tabor has gotten a lot of hype this off-season, and deservedly so, but it's almost kind of overshadowed; Quincy Wilson almost made him a forgotten guy. But for you guys to not have a drop-off at cornerback with Vernon gone, he's as important as Jalen is. What kind of player is he in your eyes and how key is he to that position?
COACH COLLINS: Well, there are times throughout last season, where we arguably had three of the elite DBs in college football, three of the elite corners in college football, with Vernon, Teez -- just read Twitter, make sure we call him Teez, Vernon, Teez and Quincy, in our secondary, playing at a high level.
I think at times Quincy did get overlooked, but he's such a competitive kid. He's a good kid. He every day works on his craft and wants to make a name for himself. I remember we played Ole Miss out here in the swamp, and I think Laquon Treadwell was one of the better receivers in college football, and obviously now going to the NFL. And Quincy was as dominant of a player throughout that game at whatever matchup he might have had. So we are expecting big things from him. Just do what he does. He's a long, rangy, athletic kid. And same thing with Teez. Expecting big things out of them.
Q. You were just asked about the defensive line, but for most defenses that lose a guy like Jonathan Bullard and McCalister, Coach would be scrambling the next year of trying to fill that void. What does it say about your depth and the development of those players that you guys are not expecting much of a drop-off there?
COACH COLLINS: I think the whole theme that Coach Mac has built is just the next man up. The first meeting we had in the off-season, I know we talked about it in the spring, but the first meeting we had as a unit in the off-season: Here is the production we lost. So we are talking about defensive line, Alex McCalister and Jonathan Bullard. Here is the production that is off the table: Sacks, tackles for loss, fumble recoveries. We need to find this production and get it back on this defense, whether it be one guy, two guys, or four or five that replace that production.
That production still needs to be there, and I think the guys have taken that challenge and we did that across the board at every level of the defense and the guys have kind of taken that challenge and want to get ready.
Q. You saw the potential you mentioned of Cece Jefferson. What do you want to see from him this fall as he goes into the next season?
COACH COLLINS: Cece I think had a really good freshman year. At times relied a lot on his athletic ability. But I think the big thing, kind of like with Caleb Brantley, is really focusing on understanding the defense. Not just relying on your natural athletic ability to make plays, but making plays within the framework of the defense.
We've moved him around a bunch. He's played the rush for us. He's played the end. At times played him like we did with Jonathan Bullard, played him on the inside. I think he can be a force, as long as the effort is there, the technique is there, which he has shown so much during the spring.
Q. What do you think of a healthy Anzalone is capable of?
COACH COLLINS: Alex Anzalone, I think going into last preseason or going into the season last year, there was debate or even conversation that he might be one of the best players on our football team. I think through the first two games, he showed that. He was all over the field making plays, making calls. He makes the people around him better. So having a guy like JB, who we know what JB did last year, and adding an Alex Anzalone, high-character kid, intelligent kid, wants to win, cares about his teammates.
There are some things about Alex you guys might not have seen, but during the season, home games, whenever we would be on the sideline during a time-out or between quarters, change of possession, whatever, Alex Anzalone was right there in the middle talking to the guys, encouraging the guys. At times, in the past places I've been, some of the guys might not would have listened to someone who is not.
Playing. But Anzalone has such great respect from his teammates, such great respect from his coaches; they embraced him and listened to him and kind of were urged on with him. Having him back is great.
Q. Losing six NFL-calibre guys, you might expect a drop off, but as you mentioned, there's people in every spot to fill in. How seamless do you think that transition will be overall?
COACH COLLINS: The big thing is we've talked about, we don't want to just start new. We need to build on where we were last year playing at a high level of defense and just bring these guys along and figure out which guys are really going to come in, step up and contribute in a big way for us. I think our guys have really embraced that. They have high standard for how we play defense and it's not just a Jarrad Davis, a Teez; it's all of them.
This is how we play defense at the University of Florida. We have a lot of pride. We have an edge. We have a certain swagger that we play with and we want to bring those guys along and get them in play so they can be a part of that.
Q. You mentioned that depth on the D-Line a couple times but to single one guy out what progression have you seen from Jordan in your time here and what do you expect out of him this year?
COACH COLLINS: Jordan is a guy that knows the defense inside and out. Can basically play any position that we need across the front four. Probably if we need him to play linebacker, he can do that.
I think the thing about Jordan Sherit -- and I'll talk about Bryan Cox at this time, too. Those are two of the arguably hardest-playing defensive players I've ever been around. Their motor, their energy, their pursuit to the ball is as high as anybody in the country. So I think that kind of gives them the edge to play at a high level for us.
Q. Are there any concerns on your part about having a guy like Nick not only starting for you this year, but also playing all four special teams units? Is that really all that unusual? Any concerns about that?
COACH COLLINS: The nice thing for us is having a guy like Marcell Harris, having a guy like Chauncey Gardner come in early and play for us; the thing about Nick, too, and I know you guys have been around him, he's one of the fittest individuals that there is. He doesn't get tired.
He can play at a high level from the first play of practice to the last play of practice, special teams circuits, special teams periods, scaling (ph), whatever it is, Nick is going a hundred miles an hour the entire time. Providing depth at that position will be huge, and just seeing how we mix-and-match things special teams-wise.
But he loves special teams. He's a really good special teams player, and being a big-time safety for us, as well, I think he can handle all that.
Q. Jarrad Davis seems to set the tone and inspire his teammates.
COACH COLLINS: Right.
Q. What stands out to you about his leadership?
COACH COLLINS: First of all, it's his character, his upbringing. I was driving home last night and called his mom, and just kind of raved about him, what a great individual he is, what a hard worker he is.
He is a driven human being to be the absolute best he can be at anything he does. If he's going to be a face of the program and go out for season tickets and carry peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, he's going to do that as hard as he can do it. He's going to put everything he has into it. If he's going to be in the training room, he's going to be all-in while he's in that training room, rehabbing, pre-habbing, whatever the case may be. Film study, conditioning with Coach Kent, whatever the case may be.
But the thing that separates him is his character and his drive, really separates him. Obviously he's a great athlete, great football player. But I think those two things really set him apart.
Q. He was talking at Media Days in Birmingham about the team sticking -- how the team is sticking together, the team unity. How do you promote that especially when so much burden was placed on the defense and you'll have a young offense this year and maybe some have growing pains.
COACH COLLINS: I think Coach Mac does a great job, understanding who this team is, understanding who the leaders are, pulling them aside, this is where we can improve, this is where we can step up. I think every player on our team to a man has such love and belief for Coach McElwain, that here is the direction we are going to go in. It doesn't take much to get those leaders to buy and dive in and set the tone for us.
And I think the culture that's being created by Coach Mac feeds into that and those guys say, Jarrad Davis is doing this, he wants us to do it; let's go. Same thing with Teez or Quincy or Maye or whoever it may be; here is what we are going to do; here is how is we're going to do it. The buy-in factor I think is at an all-time high.
Q. You talked last year about playing above the line, below the line, as far as who is going to get on the field. Have you had that conversation with guys yet, and right now, at cornerback, do you have more than just three guys above the line?
COACH COLLINS: So we talk about it all the time. Probably three or four times during the spring we had that conversation. After spring we had that conversation. As we get into these meetings right now that we'll start having with them, the conversation, we don't really have a two-deep on defense around here. Because a lot of times, if you get labeled as a two, you're going to play like a two. If you get labeled as a one, a lot of times you'll play as a one, but a lot of times there's not that pressure to even take your standard to another level.
For us, every single day, they are fighting for reps. That goes for one, the pre-season all conference guys, former All-Americans, there's pressure to perform every day, because they are fighting for reps. So we've just got to find which guys at corner, which guys at safety, which guys we need to cross-train.
If you guys watched in the spring, we cross-trained all the DBs, we cross-trained all the linebackers, we cross-trained all the D-line to find that best match to play at such a high level.
Q. And do you tell them that that can be fluid; you can be above the line?
COACH COLLINS: It's every day. It can be a Wednesday of game week and it's happened. Your reps get cut the Wednesday of game week, your reps get cut, so all the time, it's a fluid environment from practice. The thing we tell them is practice is everything.
So how do you perform in practice; you're earning reps, or you're cutting away from your reps throughout practice.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports