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April 25, 2012

Jim Grobe

JIM GROBE:  I think spring went well for us.  We got a lot of work done.  A lot of younger kids got reps.  We gave everybody a good dose of football this spring to give them a chance to compete, and we've got a pretty good idea going into the fall who we have to count on.  I think like most coaches will tell you, if you stay healthy in the spring, you're happy.  We're a pretty healthy football team right now, and looking forward to getting back in August.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, you've talked about hoping to shore up the running game and get that a little stronger.  Can you talk about that?  Is that tough to do with a pretty young offensive line, and also can you fill me in on how Harris is physically after spring?
JIM GROBE:  Yeah, I think we're going to have the running backs out to get the job done.  I think the key is going to be whether we can get them blocked up front or not.  I think we've got two our three kids right now on the offensive line that we feel really good about, that we don't have any questions about, and we've got to come up with two or three kids that can be starters for us and win for us.  And I think they're there.  That's the only group that I wish we had a few more practices for this spring.
But I think we're going to develop those guys.  I like the athleticism of our offensive line.  I think Josh Harris stayed healthy all through winter workouts and actually ran a little bit of track there at the end of spring ball.  His hamstring seems fine.  I think one of the things that's helping Josh is a good competition with Orville Reynolds and Deandre Martin and Tyler Jackson.  We've got some kids that had good springs at running back.  Competition always makes you better.

Q.  Are you starting to get back now to the point where you've got some upperclassmen and you've got some experience now kind of made up from like the last two years, and if so, how much further along are you this year because you've got some experience at some key positions than you were the last couple of seasons?
JIM GROBE:  I think we're better, I don't think there's any question.  Certainly it starts at quarterback.  Any time you've got a veteran quarterback coming back, of course Tanner Price is a young guy, but he's got two full seasons of starting under his belt, and he seemed even better this spring, a lot better on his controlled underneath type stuff that he struggled a little bit with last year, but he had a great spring.  So it starts with that, and then defensively I think we have got a chance to be pretty good because we've got really good foot speed, and it reminds you of some of the defenses we had a few years ago that could all run to the football.
I think we are deeper.  I think that's the key for us.  I think the couple of years that we struggled had been when we didn't have enough depth and a couple of injuries just took us from being a competitive team to not competitive, especially a couple years ago when we had so many injuries.
But we're a little bit deeper right now, and I think we've got a chance to be a good football team.  We just play so many good teams that we're going to hope to be in the fourth quarter with a chance and see if we can't get the ball to bounce the right way.

Q.  With so few returning starters on offense, how important was this to have a productive spring for everybody, and how important is August going to be for you to kind of continue to get that unit gelled?
JIM GROBE:  That's a great point.  August will be very important to us.  We didn't‑‑ as I mentioned, I would have loved to have given our offensive linemen a few more practices this spring.  The defense pretty much had the upper hand.  But I like the other positions.  I think we've got really good talent at the wide receiver position, at the running back position, obviously with Tanner back at quarterback.  I liked what some of the tight ends and fullbacks did this spring.  I think the real key for us is getting to solidify that front with five good offensive linemen, and I think we're there.  I think we just need more work.  So August is going to be very important.
I think our skill guys, especially our receivers, need to become more consistent, but I think a key for us in August will be continuing to improve that offensive line.  We made great strides this spring.

Q.  About the receiving situation, I know you've got Campanaro back.  How do you replace Chris Givens, and did you see anything from young guys that gives you some confidence that you'll have enough guys to go out there and catch the ball?
JIM GROBE:  Yeah, I think so.  I think Terence Davis is going to be a senior, and he had knee surgery a couple years ago, and this is the first time he's just really looked comfortable for us.  I think he's a kid that can help us, Matt James and Brandon Terry are, too, 6'5" receivers that can run and catch the football, very athletic.  And then Sherman Ragland, the freshman that we red shirted last year, had some special ability.  I think we've got the talent there.
The thing that happened this spring is that all of those receivers, other than Campanaro, who's very consistent, but all the other receivers made some big plays this spring but didn't make some plays that were kind of routine plays.  So I think the key for that group is to be more consistent.
We've certainly got enough talent for Tanner to throw the football to.

Q.  On the other side of the ball are you now committed to the 3‑4 as a permanent defense as opposed to just kind of something that filled a gap for you for a year?
FRANK BEAMER:  Yeah, that's what we want to do.  That's what we've wanted to do.  We've been a little bit thin at some positions, but we're a 3‑4 team, and we'll have some different packages.  But I thought last year one of the things that hurt us defensively is we really kind of went back and forth between three‑ and four‑man fronts, and on the board that looks good, being multiple and all those kind of things.  But we just didn't play real good fundamental football last year defensively.  Played really, really hard, and I think being settled into one package and maybe not having as much flexibility but having the kids play a little faster will help us.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about the pass rush that was obviously a problem last year, and losing both ends.  What do you project for improving in that area?
FRANK BEAMER:  Well, I think we're going to be better just from the scheme.  I think being in the 3‑4, the outside linebackers have got to be more of a factor in pass rush.  I don't think Joey Herman had a sack last year.  Maybe one in the Bowl game, I can't remember.
But with those outside linebackers, they've got to be really productive.  I think Zack Thompson is a pretty special player, defensive end.  Obviously Nikita Whitlock is very talented at the nose guard position.  I think Kris Redding really came on this spring.  We've got a couple young guys in there, guys like Desmond Floyd that I think can be good players for us, but I think we're going to be able to pressure the quarterback more.  I think the key for us is can we pressure the quarterback without having to dial up a bunch of blitzes.
So I think with our outside linebackers giving us a little bit more pressure, which I think they did this spring, got a little bit of production inside, I think we'll be better at putting pressure on the quarterback.

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