Q: Working with the quarterbacks, how is that going this spring? I know you’ve worked with that position a lot before. It’s kind of your comfort zone. How’s that going so far this spring?
A: It’s been a good spring. It’s kind of fun to get back to the position. We’ve got really good kids to work with. Just the stuff that we do dynamically is fun as far as the quarterback position. Putting a lot of things on their shoulders from getting ya in a good play and out of a bad play.
Q: What have you seen out of Andrew Maxwell this year, being the second year going into a starter, at least at the beginning of spring?
A: Well, I think going into your second year as a player, there’s much more comfort. It’s not his second year here either, so he’s been in the offense. Some verbage is different. So there’s just getting acclimated to some of those things. But you see the calmness, the sense of urgency that you need as a quarterback and really truly managing the offense.
Q: Do you sense a sense of confidence with Connor from what he did in that bowl game going into this year?
A: Absolutely. Any time you get game, real reps, looking at a bowl game and in a pressure situation, he did very well and so you see him have really a different demeanor through spring. And I think that’s just the evolution of a quarterback. As you go through, and each year you gain confidence in yourself, it starts to show on the field.
Q: What have you seen out of Tyler so far? This really is still his freshman year, his first year in school.
A: It is. And again, he hasn’t been here that long. So there’s, at times, verbiage or signals or just reaction time of when you wanna see things happen. But he’s got some really good stuff in him so it’s neat to see what he’s done so far. But really, the longer you’re in it, when you get to point of freeing out your mind to play football, it’s what you need.
Q: Is this still Andrew’s job to lose basically? Coach said it was pretty much status quo earlier today. Is it still status quo?
A: Status quo as far as what? What did he say? No, you know, I think the neat thing is its competition. And we’re throwing all of them in with the 1’s and the 2’s and so we’re mixing them around. Because I do think too we’ve got some youth, even in the receiver corp, that you gotta throw with all of them. I think it’s been a very good competition. It’s open minded that way that we will play the best guy. Obviously, he’s the guy that brings the most experience.
Q: You’re practicing basically broken plays, how to keep plays alive. But it’s almost by design. Is that a wrinkle or is that something you’ve done in the past?
A: No, that’s a little different than what we’ve done. I think the thing is that just is evident in football, is just it always has been. Guys at the quarterback position that can extend the play, or maybe create a little bit, just to make things happen when things break down. You can draw it on the board all you want and say the steps you’re gonna take and hope that it works out that way. But the reality is you don’t play football that much at the quarterback position where there’s people in front you. Your eye levels gotta be downfield and you’re not seeing the people in front of you. You gotta see what’s happening here and you gotta feel what’s here. And so we’re trying to create it as much as we can. Maybe some of you guys have written maybe about the live stuff, but what we’re doing is playing football. Guys aren’t taking cheap shots at the QB’s, but there’s the sense of urgency that there isn’t when you just do Skelly.
Q: Brad, when you look at a guy like Andrew, who’s basically 3 years without playing football, has been in the program a long time. Is this something that going live would have benefited him earlier in his career? Because some of those other guys are shorter time removed from playing real live football.
A: I mean the more you can do, yes. So if you did that for five years, absolutely. Just the more real reps you can get at quarterback the better. And so we’re just trying to create it. Whether it’s pieced together drills where it’s not all 22 guys, but you’re just trying to get the guys acclimated to the true location of where you’re at on the field, what’s happening, how fast things happen.
Q: Do you see from him this spring though that you kinda exhale maybe because the pressure of the season is not on your shoulders?
A: Well yeah, and I think it’s a guy that has another year of experience. There’s a calmness, an eagerness in a guy that’s willing to compete and a guy that does a great job as far as leadership. Again, he’s going into his fifth year too so he’s a very mature individual at the position. So it’s been neat to see his confidence and how he’s played this fall, this spring so far.
Q: Brad, Mark’s talked about problems with the quarterback center exchange. It’s not just one guy, it seems to be all of them. Why is that? Why do you think that is?
A: We’ve got two guys that have never snapped before. So I think you get newness at the center position. Also you’ve got a freshman quarterback in there too that he didn’t take that many snaps and he really had had a lot of shotgun snaps previously in his high school experience. So those are things that we just gotta continue to work on. The unforced errors can’t happen.
Q: So how’s coaching quarterbacks?
A: Oh, it’s been good. It’s a comfort zone deal. But it’s fun to be back in it, in that position and just being around that group. It’s a very fun group to be around. The football’s a little bit more extended from some things you talk about. But it’s been great so far.
Q: …questions about all the competition that are gonna come between now and the start of the season. It’s gonna be the big storyline.
A: It’s whatever is created each year I guess, based on depth competition. But the thing you need to understand I guess is we love competition. And I think these guys too. And here’s the deal…we wanna win too. So we’re gonna try to create an environment that it can be as similar as it can here, as to Spartan Stadium on a Saturday. And so that’s what we gotta try to create. But we gotta prepare more than one quarterback too. We’ve been very blessed, very fortunate…really, we haven’t had a ton of depth at the position. So it’s been great really have three guys that do some special things.
Q: Is there any separation for Andrew?
A: Yeah I would say, with experience. Just what he’s doing in understanding offense, verbiage…there’s some tweaks that I think have made it simpler. But he’s got the experience in a sense. But he’s done well.
Q: Coach, Connor says that Dave Warner may be a little bit more of a screamer, you’re more of let’s just teach and plod along as we go. How do you describe the differences?
A: Oh, I think we’re similar in how we communicate to the quarterback and how we teach. Because that’s the fun part is just the offensive, maybe more evolved into the pass game in conversations and that. But the thing is just like I said, even in this 2 minute, in our situations today, we had some situations where you have to have calmness about you but you have to be tuned into what’s going on every play. Whether it’s at the end where you’re trying to spike it, 10 seconds or 8 seconds to kick a field goal, should we have taken a shot on 3rd down and really being aware. Are you aware of the situation every single play and Skelly?
Q: What Mark said is you used to scream more than anyone.
A: I did? No, I never did. Maybe I did. Part of it is, there’s times, and you gotta coach kids. And that’s the thing you learn from. You’ve been very fortunate being around Coach Dantonio, and whether it be Nick Saban or George Perles, the guys that have been through here, (??), you think of all the different people you’ve worked with. So I think you grab things from each person, even my dad as a coach. You gotta coach who you are. The thing is can we communicate? That’s what I always say – it doesn’t matter what I know. It doesn’t matter. Its like, how does that transfer out here? So that’s what we’re trying to do here every day; just grow as players, grow in our knowledge of football.
Q: Did Andrew have to work through anything from what happened at the bowl or was that just something you chalk up to experience and move on?
A: There’s value in adversity. Not at the time. Not at the time at all. But I think that’s tough as a quarterback, when that situation arises. But I think you grow as a person and as a quarterback, and that’ll help ya. The hard part is it’s just such a long layoff until he can perform, until spring football, till you get time to play football again.
Q: Is there really competition that follows you around? For a couple years it was like whose gonna get all the carries, a quarterback, a running back?
A: It’s just too many guys. I don’t know. Hopefully at least these guys are staying for their senior year, right? This group. But it’s good and I think it’s been fun. You know, when you create depth with recruiting, within positioning, you look at the aligning, how many guys have started in a football game. I think that’s where you feel like you give yourself a chance that way.
Q: The whole thing with the broken plays and all that… Obviously you need to work on that, but was it something that you didn’t work on before and is new this year? Or just maybe you’re putting more emphasis on it?
A: It’s like in the spring, what are we gonna do? Is it big plays, is it red zone, is it…that was just something that we talked about. I don’t know if you do it as much as coaches. You come out and do your 7 on 7 and your team drills. Just to create… We’re just trying to be mindful I think, of some things that when we saw it happen with Connor against TCU, and with Andrew against Wisconsin at the end of the game at the last drive, those type of things make the difference in the game. And maybe it’s because of a new quarterback and new receivers. Maybe it’s just more glaring for us as coaches. Hey, we need to get back to the basics and teach football.
Q: Andrew said it brings the spontaneity to him rather than having to think, should I throw it out of bounds, should I run… There’s a spontaneity there where a switch kind of flicks when it’s time to run. Is that the goal?
A: It’s just having a clock in your head as a quarterback, knowing that what we just called or run through systematically, it’s been too long and it’s not there anymore. So you need to extend the play a little bit or understand where is the last guy? Where’s my last check down? Where are people? Now that I’m on the move, it’s not just the quarterback. Now receivers need to be in phase, the tight ends need to be in phase. Again, we talked about eye level and can I see everything that right now is behind you, but feel what’s in front of you? And I think that’s the biggest thing as a quarterback. If you really look at the guys that are successful, they’ve got great eye level, they know how to compete, they know when to leave the pocket, and when to hang in there. And so those are the things you just develop but I think it comes through reps.
Q: Is it fair to say that there has been more of a concerted effort this spring to make it feel more like a competition in terms of the things you’re doing with pads on (???) Is it more of a competitive environment than last year?
A: Yeah, maybe because of the situation where Andrew was here and he was the oldest and was ready for it. So you got some of the younger guys that have come along, another guy that has played the game, Connor. You compete really every year you do, but I think it’s good to give the other guys shots with the 1’s too. And that’s what we’ve thought too. But we did the same thing at running backs, and Coach D wants guys to not be somewhat… We made a big story about who, Le’veon Bell. You’re working hard; you made a statement last year. That blows up and he was working hard. I don’t know if that was for him or what it was, but you’re trying to create the mindset of don’t be comfortable. Because there’s always somebody coming, whether it’s in your own team. But you have to be at your best to win at this league. You really do.
Q: How much more difficult is it to evaluate the quarterbacks when you don’t have a center? Does it make it any different with all the different guys?
A: I mean, it can. You get in with moving parts, different backs, different tight ends and receivers. But I think you need to learn to play with all the other speeds and different players anyway. So you just gotta get adjusted to people that are around you.
Q: Coach, what did you want to bring to coaching this position? Obviously we saw what you did with the running backs, but what element or what different level or strata are you bringing that maybe Dave didn’t? What do you see yourself bringing here? Not to outdo or compete, but just what do you bring that’s a little different maybe?
A: I didn’t really think of it in terms of that. You just gotta be you. You gotta coach the position the way you’ve done it, the people that you’ve learned from. My whole thing is communicating what we’re trying to do offensively and that they understand the intent of the play and here’s where you need to go with the football. Again, like I said earlier, it’s not what I know or us as coaches know. But now what can we give you for information, what little things on defensive technique, or front? What takes the play away from you. What play do you need to get in on or get out of. So those are the things I think you’re trying to impress upon players.
Q: We saw very little and I know we can’t on period 10 draw a conclusion about all spring, but your running game got a little bit of a push. Your offensive line looked, I don’t know if effective may be too strong of a word, but are you pleased with the progress that you’re seeing with your front in the beginning of the foundation of this running game?
A: I’d love it if you’d use effective.
Q: Narduzzi wouldn’t let us. Narduzzi wasn’t gonna give us any… You know Pat. He’s pretty competitive.
A: Yeah, he is. I think the thing too is that you look at just that group. How they’ve been coached. How many guys have started? You look offensively and that’s kind of the group that’s got the most experience. There’s leaders and also players in Travis and Fou last year. That’s hard. I think that’s what people don’t understand because that’s such a hidden position. You don’t even know who’s starting in the O line. Guys are very unaware of that. As a group they’re very physical, they’ve done a great job. They worked extremely hard and now systematically stuff’s been coached and I think there’s a comfort level from guys that have been at it for awhile.
Q: What have you noticed from Tyler O’Connor this spring and the transgressions he’s made.
A: You know I think he’s a guy that there’s still a lot of football to be learned. There’s a comfort from now really when you enter your first spring, and there’s a comfort of I think people being around the players. But also just offensively there’s still kind of the little bumps, the signals and verbage and those things that there’s a comfort level with every day and you see every day that he continues to grow. And that’s what your hope is as a young quarterback. What is your capacity for change as you look at yourself as a player and especially as a quarterback?
Q: Is Connor Cook somewhere in between? When we talked about Maxwell and we talked about O’Connor as the young mobile guy. What about Cook? What does he bring to the table? They all seem to have slightly different strengths.
A: They’re all a little bit different in unique ways. Connor is a guy that has a very strong arm. He does a great job with his feet. He can create…he can make some throws off balance, which is stuff you’ve gotta be able to do. The reality is you throw with your feet, but you’re not always set. Your feet aren’t always set. But he does a nice job. He’s done a great job of just kind of commanding the offense. You see the comfort, and from him playing last year, there’s so much value in that. And it’s us looking back, to play two quarterbacks is huge. You always wanna have another guy prepared.
Q: Brad, can you talk a little bit about the dynamic with Andrew Maxwell? I don’t know what you see from him in terms of reasserting leadership after he got pulled from a game. Just what his demeanor has been approaching this spring and how… If it’s different at all in terms of that’s a life experience that not many people go through.
A: It is. That was last year. I just think that when you have adversity in your life that it’s not easy at the time. You’re gonna grow from it, from some capacity. And some of you guys that have gotten to know Andrew know he’s a very strong person. A guy that’s very mature. So he was able to handle it. I don’t know if a lot of guys would have. He took it more as kind of having an edge to compete, he’s tuned in when he comes out here and he’s ready to go. He’s embraced it but he’s ready and willing to compete and understand…