Michigan State QB Coach Brad Salem Goes In Depth on Spartans QB Situation
Q: …as far as locking on the play and being able to go out there?
A: Yeah. Really that was the first taste of fall camp where we really had an opportunity to see him because of what had happened to him earlier. You saw flashes. It was very instinctive…you see him move, you see him run. He can move the ball very well downfield. So it’s there. You’re just like, Okay we need to see this again. But then he had some setbacks, but… So you see it, but then you see a freshman also maybe the next play. You’re hoping for 100% consistency and success. It’s not there yet but day-to-day. We gotta keep providing opportunity and that‘s what we’re trying to do here this week really.
Q: How are the struggles you’re seeing in games compare to what you’re seeing in practices? Is it similar? Is there more success in practice than there is in games or vice-versa?
A: I think it could be both with the guys. Some guys you see a little bit more in practice and maybe you see a negative thing here or there. But it’s sorta reflective of what you see in practice, little things with each guy. We’re just hoping for who is consistent, who can get us in the end zone. And that’s part of it…that’s the dynamic too. Struggles getting in the end zone, so then just as coaches we’re trying to find an answer. Okay, what’s our answer? Who else then? Those are the things. But we gotta keep going back to who we are. And we just need to identify, who’s that person.
Q: If you make this decision, does that signal a commitment to him then? Once you take the redshirt off of him, later in the season he can’t play.
A: That’s why that’s such a big decision. That’s why I don’t think…with Damion, is that what you’re saying?
Q: That can’t be made in one hour, in one day, today. So it is a big deal. If you make the decision to play, this is for a duration. You don’t wanna play one game and then, Oops he wasn’t ready. That’s not a good situation. We’re just being very conscious of Damion as a person, what’s best for him and for our team.
Q: When it comes to O’Connor, do you feel he was given a fair assessment?
A: Part of it is the assessment is every day. It is every rep. So it’s been assessed since last spring. So I think we need to be able to get him in a game, get game-ready reps. We talked last night, Tyler and I, and it’s just a consistency within the offense. Little detail things that affect him a little bit. But still, he has the ability to move in the pocket, a presence. That one drive he was down the field and punched that end with an opportunity, which was the same hash, the same play in practice on Wednesday. So you hope that from it we learn from it, score, put ourselves in a position for a touchdown.
Q: How hard is it to work themselves out of some of the issues they’ve had? It’s hard for them to do that when they’re coming in and out, I guess.
A: We know that, we’ve talked about that, all of us. All four of us have talked, we talked to each one individually, and so did Coach Dantonio, and they understand. They’re trying…when they’re giving reps I said, You just need to make the most of your opportunity. We haven’t given a guy the chance really to fight through the hills and valleys, and we understand that. When the time comes to choose a guy, we’re gonna do that. So who is the best fit for what we’re tyring to do? Who can give us success and get us in the end zone?
Q: How much of it is personality, leadership, as opposed to throwing the ball and such?
A: Part of that is a factor too. It is. I think it is all encompassing. This is really a position that you dictate the confidence, the spirit of the huddle and how you carry yourself, how you vocalize yourself. Experience…you’ve got more ideas, you’ve got more experience as an older guy in. Connor’s played, Tyler a little bit – now he’s gaining some value over other freshmen. So you’ve got some different dynamics there. But I definitely think that’s a factor, being a quarterback in any huddle.
Q: How does that affect the huddle going forward, when you have 3 or 4 guys going in and out throughout a game?
A: What’s interesting is just the way our players are. There’s just a dynamic here that’s unique. Our guys are very team-oriented, reflects our head coach. So it’s gotta have some affect. But it’s interesting how every time a guy walks in the huddle, I’m on the sidelines starting that first play, and they’re all fired up. Hey, let’s go! The centers, guards and receivers… They’re backing whoever and trying to support him and to have success with.
Q: Coach talked today that the objective is to get to a solid #1. What is the urgency in that? Is the clock ticking faster and faster for you guys?
A: Because you guys keep asking us. No…
Q: I’ mean is there a drop dead moment when, We’re going with this guy…this is the guy we’re going with?
A: It’s interesting. Our head coach has a lot of patience. Some people wouldn’t. That’s part of it, and part of it is he understands these kids and he wants to give guys the opportunity. So when is that specific date? We haven’t said. But we now have a game presenting itself here this Saturday where we have the opportunity to see some guys in action. When that day comes, we’ll know. We haven’t defined it. I haven’t heard a specific, At this hour we’re gonna do this.
Q: Is that environment a concern? Are you worried about Terry being overwhelmed by 72,000 people in the Big 10 environment?
A: Yeah. It just is. I mean, you guys have thought of that. It’s just the newness. And then how is it transferred from right here over there to Spartan Stadium. If it transfers, awesome. And maybe it doesn’t. But he’s really even keel, had some great success in high school. So that’s possible.
Q: Were you caught off guard by that scrimmage, the numbers that he put up that day?
A: At the time, because you’ve seen slight flashes in fall camp but he just had limited reps because of his situation. When you saw it it was like, He can put up some impressive numbers. He threw the ball really well deep. It was very instinctive….when to leave the pocket, very calm in the pocket. There was some things that you saw that you were like, Wow. So that’s why you keep kinda going back. You just kinda wanna reproduce that.
Q: How do you approach him? When you see a guy that’s got that natural ability, how do you zero in on what he needs to work on the most?
A: You’re trying to pick one thing at a time. I try to be careful…I cannot say too much after he played that day. It might be, Make sure your toes are at 5 and stuff like that. Cadence or where are your eyes on the first down, on this play where are you going, where’s your free access? Just talking in those terms of communication. But I think it’s constantly coaching. All four of them…you need to stay right behind them and I have to have something to say every play. There’s something to say whether it’s praising someone or trying to correct someone…
Q: What does Cook need to work on?
A: It’s just, really, consistency. From an aspect… The thing with him is you see consistency here throwing the football, then he got opportunities on Saturday… When you have open throws you have to make those. Those are the things that you just wanna see consistency transfer over. Every day you look at the other quarterbacks and it’s just comfort and really understanding concepts. All of the sudden today you throw a new formation. But I always say, This is the same picture for you but a different look for the defense. When we do this it’s a 3 by 1 or empty or 2 by 2. But to them it shouldn’t even change. Because I’m looking here and my eyes go here, here, here…just so you understand progression.
Q: Is that English to him now or is it Sanskrit when you talk to him?
A: What’s in between there? No, I just think that Connor’s come a long way. It’s interesting… When you know it’s moving in the next direction is when they start asking things that you’re thinking they should be asking, a little bit beyond the play. So he’s getting there and that’s encouraging.
…on the move. There’s some things, just consistency, throwing the ball. But I think the comfort’s there much more, because it’s really an opportunity that he’s had. Again I was saying earlier, limited from fall camp and the last couple weeks did some good things. So you see flashes of things here and there and you’re just looking at how consistent can he be.
Q: Are you looking at this as almost a week-long audition in terms of whether or not he’s ready to play as a true freshman?
A: It has to be. We talked earlier with this group…the seriousness of the position. You’re looking at the welfare, in a sense, of a kid. If he’s ready and you’re playing him, then he has to be ready. You don’t wanna be able to burn a whole year playing 1, 2 series. Yeah well, you shouldn’t have done that. You wanna be mindful, and that’s what Coach Dantonio’s been really processing. We’re just trying to be patient with that process with him and really do what’s best for him and for our team.
Q: Do you see FCS teams closing the gap this year?
A: I do. And here I gave one… We were talking as coaches, Why is that? It used to be a location where North Dakota State and schools…they’ve won the national title the last two years. I think one thing, honestly, is early commitments. There’s a lot of seniors out there that have not been… They’re 6’3, 240 as a junior. Not big enough, and all of the sudden they go… I think that’s a factor and obviously they’re getting kids. They see visually and see proof as seniors. But there’s a lot of very good teams out there in FCS. A lot of them.