Coaches Bollman and Burton Reflect on Michigan State Football’s Spring
Burton: The ability for us to execute early was good. We had an interception early, but the kids came out and played hard early. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. They had the ability to come back and play, and that’s what we expect from our players. The green team made a great effort in the second half. You gotta continue to play hard, and that’s the big deal…they gave us the ball back and we took it down the field in the end. But overall, some good spots in there for our quarterbacks…some bad spots too. Defensively we had the chance to stop them in a sudden change and they scored on us a few times. But overall we know where we’re at, we know where we need to go. So we’re still a work in progress, that’s for sure.
Bollman: Congratulations to the white team on winning. It was typical of most football games…when the team that makes the fewest mistakes usually comes out on top. The very first play of the game we threw a big pick down there and gave them a chance to score. We fought back though. I’m proud of the way we fought back and kept hanging in the game. But as many times in a normal football game, when you have some opportunity…in spite of the way we were fighting back, we had some opportunity…to get in the red zone and put some points on the board. We ended up having to attempt some field goals. I think not executing in the red zone was bottom line, in spite of the mistakes, was probably the biggest downfall we had. But thankfully no one was seriously banged up. Overall it was certainly a very good scrimmage.
Q: It looked like Damion maybe took a blindside hit and came back in a no contact jersey. Was that just precautionary?
Bollman: Yes. Yeah, I think it was. There’s certain situations where it was good for him to get the experience to get some snaps in there, but we just decided we didn’t want to run him anymore after that.
Q: What are your thoughts about how Damion played?
Bollman: He certainly is a threat running the ball, as you can see. He scored that very first touchdown. He’s a movement kind of guy. And for his age, he needs to continue working on his passing game, which he’s doing and steadily improving.
Q: After coming out of this spring, how good is this team?
Bollman: We all know and have talked plenty about last season. We all know the challenges of trying to continue those kinds of standards. I think that these guys understand that. I thnk they’re working very hard at that. I think it’s hard to put an exact figure on that. I know that we feel really good about our guys. I think they’ll have a great summer and will come back ready to get rolling, you know. But football’s a strange game. There’s a lot of great things that happened to us last year. We’ve made people aware of that; the guys on the team know that. We have to continue to fight to stay at that level, or even improve, depending on the position. But we’re working at it.
Q: Your defensive linemen were all over, whether it was pressure, sacks or penalties. What’s your initial impression of guys like Cooper, LT, Shilique and Rush and what they were able to do today?
Burton: I think they came out playing fast and hard. Maybe a little edgy…we had some offside penalties. Our guys tried to harness that in. We knew we were gonna be in a position where we were gonna wanna pass rush a lot. I think they had some competitiveness going on both sides with who had what. But I think we did some good things and I think they showed some edge to them as far as some moves they made. I think in the future we gotta continue to harness that and understand moving on the ball, number one, can cost you in the game. But you wanna turn them loose as much as you can. There’s some plusses in there, that’s for sure, and some things we can learn from also. But I think we had 5, 6 sacks overall as a group and that can be a plus. So we need to carry over to next fall.
Q: What’s Cooper going to bring to you in the fall?
Burton: His strength right now, as you can tell, is his quickness off the ball, his pass rush, his third down ability. I think that’s where he’ll have the chance to get on the field. I’m still dangling right now…so he’s got some more work to do, that’s for sure.
Q: Where has he made the most improvement throughout the course of the spring?
Burton: His ability to play against the run; the use of his hands in run blocking schemes. We know he has the ability to rush the passer, but we wanna see him get off the blocks in run situations. He’s shown that but he’s gotta get consistent with it.
Q: Can you talk about your tight ends, Josiah, and then also that catch by Jamal?
Bollman: It looked like Josiah had a great day. He caught some nice balls. He’s an improving player in our minds. He got a lot of snaps last year and did a lot of good things. He’s had a good spring, as has Jamal. Jamal was certainly…didn’t have quite the experience, but he’s gaining and improving a lot as a blocker. That’s still an important part for us as a tight end. Those guys are gonna be pretty good receivers. And that’s an improvement for us overall on the offense. I feel good…you don’t ever notice how they’re gonna block but…I’m telling you the blocking’s better.
Q: Did you know going in that running the ball might be a problem?
Bollman: Not surprising in games like this when the lines can be a little mix and match. You have some guys working together that really haven’t worked together at all. But it’s part of the competitiveness, part of the fun of this when you split things up. It’s fine. And as I mentioned the other day, it gives some situations where you’re talking to those guys on the bench…who’s helping who, who’s helping become a leader. There’s some roles that guys might not normally get put into that they are. It’s a good situation. It’s always good for those younger guys to get in there and get their feet wet in some live situations.
Q: Can you talk about the double pass…when was that put in?
Bollman: That particular play was put in, let’s see…I’ll be real honest with you — I’ll give you a straighter answer than normal. That play was put in…when was our last practice? Thursday? It was put in in a meeting on Thursday and ran once on Thursday. So I thought they did a pretty good job with one practice play.
Q: Do you guys do that often where you just drop something on them…
Bollman: No. No. No. No. Spring game.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the defense up the middle, specifically the tackles and middle linebacker?
Burton: To start off with the defensive tackles inside…Joel Heath flashed today, did some good things, getting off the ball, moving him inside. We wanted to know if he could handle the double teams and things like that. He was very active. The other defensive tackle on my side, Brandon Clemons, did some good things. I think he was very strong at the point of attack. We gotta continue improving the pass rush. On the other side, Knox. Heath got in the game and played a lot. He hadn’t played as much as we wanted him to this spring. But the middle linebacker position, I think we had some things we wanted to see out of TJ and Reschke. Those guys showed the ability to make some plays, but I think they’re still a work in progress though. So two guys battling for that job right now, and a third guy. But I think overall it was good, but there’s always room for improvement. I think that’s where we are right now. We’re jut average. I think we can get a lot better experience-wise. And that’s the true teacher so we gotta keep them on the field.
Q: Coach Burton, can you tell us the strengths of Coach Bollman? And Coach Bollman, can you tell us the strengths of Coach Burton?
Burton: Experience is the true teacher here. Even as a young coach I was hearing about Jim Bollman from UVA to Ohio State to the NFL. I think being around a lot of great players that he has recruited, including Plaxico Burress here, his ability to recruit. But the key thing is I think is X’s and O’s are strong. He reminds me of an old ball coach named Tom Landry. He has the ability to understand everything that’s going in the play and then being able to execute. So it’s great experience for me to be around a young man like this, that’s for sure.
Bollman: If you’re around Ron very much, it’s like being with Mr. Enthusiasm. Okay? Every day I know he’s gonna get me flying sky high. He comes in every morning and works out and gets things going. He has great enthusiasm which rubs off on his players, believe me. He’s pretty experienced, more than he’s alluding to. He’s been around the block too. He knows how to coach this game. He does a great job with his guys technique-wise, get them to play hard. He works very hard and is certainly a great guy to be with.