“You’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to rotate them. It’s a challenge. You know, coach McCullough has a huge challenge, you know, because he’s competitor just like the rest of us. And he wants to put the best guys in there. He wants to put the guys in and he wants to make sure that we have success. We have to roll those guys. And you’ve got (Logan) Diggs who’s not truly full contact yet. So, you saw him in the red. And so, we’ve got to progress him in the right way.
“So, they’ve done a good job so far. I’m sure they’ll be creative. I know Coach Rees, we’ve talked about it, being creative in terms of personnel’s and how we utilize these guys. But you got to get the work done. You know, we can’t have all of our running backs in red and think we’re going to be prepared for the season.
“So, I just don’t believe in being overly cautious. I think we’ve got to be smart. But we can’t overly protect them in terms of we’re not prepared.”
ON PLEASANT SURPRISES AMONG THE ROSTER…
“Jaden Mickey was a freshman and did a really good job in the spring. He’s an energy provider. You know, those confident guys provide energy. Brandon Joseph, same thing. Offensive line, I’ll continue to fall back to those guys, man. Zeke Correll, I mean, because of the spring he had and what he showed, we felt to get the five best offensive linemen on the field would be to move J-Pat to guard. And so, obviously, he showed us a lot of value in the spring. And so, you know, God, I don’t like pointing guys out. But those are just a couple of guys. Yeah, that was just a couple guys.”
ON JAYDEN THOMAS…
“Yeah, we’re going to need him to have a huge role for this offense this year. We’ve challenged him. I challenge him all the time. We’re going to need you. We need you to step up. And he’s a confident kid. He’s getting better and better and better. And that’s all we ask. But he’s going to have to get better fast because we’re going to need a lot out of him. He’s got to be a guy that if the defense is playing man coverage against us, we feel like we can go to him and win. That’s got to be who he is.”
ON HOW ISAIAH FOSKEY CAN IMPROVE…
“A tremendous amount. He can improve in so many different areas. And I’m talking about a guy that’s really, really good. Right? And he’s continued to perfect his pass rush. How do you play against the run? You know, how do you continue to recognize offensive sets and formations? All those different areas can help him enhance. And he wants to. He’s a hungry guy. He came back for a reason. And him and coach Washington, I know they meet often and look at different ways to help him improve as an individual for sure.”
ON AVERY DAVIS FROM A LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE…
“I was in the offensive unit meeting yesterday. And coach Rees was talking about dependable players. And Avery Davis was the first person he brought up. A guy that has played five position since he’s been here, but a guy that the offense can always depend on being in the right spot.
“And, you know, yeah, he’s a returning captain, but he’s going on to his sixth season. And a guy that has been through so many ups and downs, he’s going to be a great resource for the young people, but he’s going to be a dependable playmaker for offense. And so, he’s been a great, great leader, a great senior. Really good for our offense.”
ON PUNT RETURNERS, GI’BRAN PAYNE…
“Today was the first day we did punt return. So, I don’t know who was back there yet. I’ll get with coach Mason and see. I know Brandon Joseph has done it. Matt Salerno has done it. And the biggest thing is you need somebody back there that you can count on. Punt returns, you got to get somebody that is very confident, that is gonna catch the ball in traffic. And if he can make a play and make a first down, that’s an added bonus.
“But the first thing is somebody that makes good decisions and that’s very dependable, and we can depend on him to make good decisions. If Gi’Bran is one of them, that’s great. I’m sure everybody thinks that they’re the punt returner the first day, and it’ll be interesting to see who was back there catching punts.”
ON JADEN MICKEY & BRANDON JOSEPH CATCHING PASSES…
“Anytime we have a returner, that period is any guy on offense should be going to defense. If you’re a special team’s coverage unit guy, and any guy that’s on defense that might have a chance to get their hands on the ball as a returner, they should go to offense.
“And so, it’s really we’re just working on the fundamentals, the ability to get the ball in your hands, get vertical, make one cut, and go. And defensively, the ability to close the space, get yourself in a leverage position to make a good tackle. So, that is a great opportunity for those guys that need to cross-train to cross-train. I don’t think we’re going to use them on offense.”
“Yeah. And so, it’s a great reminder. Those guys have been busting their tails all summer to get in shape. And then, also, you get out there that first practice, the heat, the sweat, the anxiety, the energy, it all just kicks up. And so, that’s why I remind them after practice, it’s your job to make sure you’re available. So, what you have to do from now until tomorrow when we’re back on the field, it’s up to you and it’s up to each individual to make sure they’re ready to go.”
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