Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Holds Spring Practice Press Conference


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Coach Mike Shula

Opening Statement

"It’s good to see everybody again. Everyone is looking forward to Tuesday. Things are happening real fast. We’re going through the process of our winter workouts right now and we feel real good about the things that are happening. With spring ball coming around the corner so soon and we’ve talked about our goals for this off-season and our goals for spring practice, obviously they are going to be very similar to every year. The number one thing for us is just going to be finding out about players and about guys that were redshirted last year; guys that are going to have to fill in for starters that are graduating. If you look at our football team, what we lost the most was upfront on our offensive line where we have to replace three starters. That will be a big focus for us as well as finding some depth at that position. We’re losing two tight ends, Clint Johnston, we’re in the process of filing some paper work for a medical hardship. With (Johnston) and David Cavan not returning that will be a big position for us. The Running back spot, which we’ll look at, and we’ll talk here in a second about injuries, but that will be a key position to look at in the spring as well as the fall when we have our young guys coming in. Again that might not be determined until we see these young guys in the fall as far as where they are on the depth chart. We have to get healthy. We’re still beat up. We have to get some guys healthy, but overall in the spring and the off-season, I think we have to establish that mind set that we want to establish each and every year as far as the off-season conditioning program and where we want to do things and all the details of doing things right all the time. This, to me, is where we get a lot of that accomplished over the course of the winter work-outs and that carries thru to spring practice. Once we get through with spring ball then we’ll get to pick up with our off-season conditioning. Those are pretty much our goals.

"We talked a little bit about our depth chart and areas that we’re going to be looking hard at: the tight end position, the offensive line area and the running back area. Let me talk a little bit more as far as our depth. There are a few people that won’t be returning besides Clint Johnston. Travis West, we were also looking at a medical hardship for Travis West. He won’t be with us this spring. Damien Jones has left the football team, he won’t be back. Chris Turner has decided to move on with his life’s work so he will not be with us. A.J. Milwee, I don’t if you guys know that, but he is not enrolled in school. He has transferred. Will Roach has decided to move on and will not be with us football wise. As far as injuries, of course the key one that everyone is talking about is Brodie (Croyle). We were hoping he would be 100 percent for the first practice, but we’re going to make sure we’re doing the smart thing. He’s going to practice but we’re going to keep him out of any contact. We’ve just got to make sure that we do a real good job of getting him a lot of reps, as many as he possibly can and do it in a way where he’s not going to have a chance to re-injure his knee. He’s not at 100 percent obviously, but he’ll be able to participate in 7-on-7 drills. Hopefully he’ll get as many reps as possible in our team drills. We just have to limit his reps, especially early in practice, to where he isn’t over-working his leg. But for the most part, hopefully he’ll be doing more than he did at this time last year, but we’re going to be smart about it if he can’t.

"Couple other notes. Ken Darby; he’ll miss the first couple weeks, at least, of practice with his stress fracture. In a couple weeks, we’ll see where he is at. We’re not going to force the issue with him at all, even if he can’t go throughout the course of spring practice. Our goal for him is to get him ready for the season. Tim Castille; the only way he’ll participate in spring ball at all will be in individual work. His rehab is going very well but he probably won’t be 100 percent until May or June. In the mean-time he jogging right now and doing some movement things that you’ll see him out there with the injured guys. Marc Guillon will be limited with his back injury. A couple other guys have had minor off-season surgery that will keep them out for the first part of spring practice: B.J. Stabler had his knee scoped so he’ll miss at least the first week, but hopefully after that he’ll be in full pads by the second week. Jeremy Clark just had surgery yesterday on his knee where he had it scoped. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to make it back for spring practice as far as 100 percent, but this is something that we felt we had to get done now and not postpone until after spring ball. We have to get him ready as fast as we can.

"Paul Hogan has left and has taken a job at the University of Clemson. Taking over for him will be Gabe Giardina."

Not that people keep up or keep track with that type of thing, but when you read that long list of injured guys and people coming off surgeries, especially in the offensive backfield, how disconcerting is it maybe that a lot of the personnel that you expect to be 100 percent in the fall are not going to be going through spring drills?

"That’s one area that a little disturbing, but we also know that Ken Darby was a proven guy for us and as much as we’d like for him to be a part of this thing in spring ball, we have to get him ready for fall practice. Same thing for Tim Castille, he’s a guy that’s proven and he knows that we know he’s a guy that’s going to be a productive player for us and a guy that we can count on to win games for us. So again, it gives other guys opportunities. What we have to do is be careful with the guys that are in there now, guys like Aaron Johns, to see that he’s not over worked. Guys like Le’Ron McLain, now he’s going to get a lot of work, but they’ll also be some other things that we’ll look at personnel wise on the field to off-set the fact that we don’t have a lot of backs. We’ll look at some three-wide sets, four-wide sets. We’ll look at some two-tight ends and one back, two receivers sets with those two tight-ends with those guys that are in the mix: Trent Davidson, Nick Walker, Greg McLain. Defensively, we’re a little beat up on the defensive line, but again it’s just going to give us more opportunities there. We’ll look at things and see if we need to restructure things practice wise. Probably the biggest thing it will affect will be our A-Day game, where again we just don’t have a lot of depth.

"J.B. Closner is our center. We’re going to put Antoine Caldwell over there competing on the left side with those other guys at the left guard position. Chris Capps will be the guy to start with working with our first team as our left tackle.

"It’s a little bit like last year, to finish. Last year we a lot of our wide receivers that we thought we wouldn’t find out about until they came in in the fall. I think the running back position is going to be very similar to that and I think our defensive line position will be similar as far as having guys come in in the fall that have a real good chance of getting on the field."

With the injury situation did you consider having spring practice later and what are the advantages of having it now instead of waiting until some of these guys might be a little healthier?

"Well, there are pluses and minuses to both. With some of these injuries that we have, there’s only a certain amount of time you can wait, unless you’re ready to go in April, which none of us wanted to go in April. So they would be limited all the up until that point. Yeah, there was talk about it, but we set our schedules early here because there are a lot of people depending on our schedule. It was something that we knew we liked last year so we decided to go ahead and do it again this year. We’ll evaluate it at the end of this year with all things considered. One of the pluses is getting all done in four straight weeks before spring break. I know a lot of people are very motivated to get that done. It would be too hard for us to get it done after spring break, just because that would last too far into April."

On this depth chart, John Parker Wilson is listed as number two over Marc Guillon. How much of that is due to his health?

"Basically Marc is still limited and that’s why we listed that way. We knew that Marc was not going to get a lot of reps."

Can you talk about John Parker and what you need to see out of him this spring and how important is this spring to him?

"Well, its real important. It’s kind of what this whole thing is about. The grey shirt thing, for him to come in and get the reps in December and to get all this extra work and now it looks like with Brodie and Marc being limited to some degree that he’s going to get a lot of work, so it is going to be very valuable. Of course at that position you need as much scrimmage and game type experience as you can get. It’s going to be crucial for him to do well and progress. That’s another position too that we feel that we have some guys coming in this fall that can help and compete at that position  and we’ll find out what they’re about with Jimmy Barnes and Jimmy Johns."

How much of importance is it to get a pass-catching weapon at tight end to give you some more versatility on offense and do you have a tight end who has the capability to give you those type of things?

"I think it is really important. That is probably the biggest misunderstanding about our offense that we’re not an offense that wants to throw it to our tight ends. We need to find a pass receiving tight end. Clint Johnston was having good two or three games and then we had some injuries, whether it was him or Brodie going down. David was still hurting and getting back from his injury. We’re going to look hard and Trent Davidson is a guy that has played hard for us. He’s more of a blocking TE. Nick Walker is a guy that we want to give a lot of reps to this off-season. He’s a guy that thought real hard about last year. In fact, I can remember having him right there with me on the sidelines and getting ready to put him and deciding not to. We ended up redshirting him. He’s a guy that we think can run pretty good and now we’ll find out. He’s still learning the system and has spent a lot of time on the scout team so there is going to be a learning curve there. But he’s going to get a lot of work at that position. As well with what I said earlier about the lack of depth at full-back, we can use him in there with-two tight ends."