Scot Loeffler met with the media Monday afternoon and brought us up to date on Dwayne Lawson, the offensive line, and the search for his third wide receiver.
Decisions have usually been made by this point in fall camp about how much playing time freshmen are going to get, and how they work into the team’s plans. When it comes to hyped freshman QB Dwayne Lawson, his role in the 2015 season isn’t figured out yet, and the work continues.
“These next two weeks are critical for him,” Loeffler said of Lawson. “I thought in the first scrimmage, he played better than he did in the second scrimmage. Learning the system and becoming consistent, and being able to gain everyone’s trust I think is a huge deal. Very talented, but these next two weeks are important for him.”
Lawson played without a yellow jersey in Saturday’s scrimmage and took some hits, because Loeffler wanted to teach him a few things. “He’s carrying the ball awfully low, very typical of an incoming new player. He put the ball on the ground [Saturday], but that was a positive, because he needed to see how they tackle the football and how you have to carry it high and tight. So it was good for him. I think all young quarterbacks need to get a great understanding of how the game is different from high school football. So he got to experience that.”
Wyatt Teller and His Fellow Linemen
Some buzz has been created by Wyatt Teller running with the second-team offense some recently, including in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He’s our number one,” Loeffler said, putting that to rest. “Wyatt’s a really good football player. He’s a guy that football is important to him, and any time you have people pushing another guy that’s talented, that’s great, and that’s what we want. I want Dwayne Lawson, and Durkin and Motley to push Michael Brewer, and we want those young linemen to push Wyatt Teller. I think when that’s occurring, it’s good for all involved.”
Speaking of young linemen, Loeffler continues to rave about true freshman tackle Yosuah Nijman (#69, 6-8, 273), who played extensively with the number one offense Saturday.
“I think he’s going to be a really good football player,” Loeffler said, a thought he has voiced before. “Tall, long, explosive, runs really well, needs to gain weight. Young player with a huge upside. I’m really excited about him.”
On Saturday, Nijman played a lot of left tackle, and several big runs were broken on that side of the line. Was it Nijman’s blocking, or the performance of the entire unit on that side?
“I think it was a combination,” Loeffler said. “Obviously, it takes eleven guys to make a football play happen. If one guy doesn’t do his job, normally you have failure, particularly on offense. I think those explosion runs to his side were a combination of him doing his job, and the other ten hats doing their job.”
Loeffler isn’t settled on the question of how much Nijman will play this year. “I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ve got an important two weeks ahead of us, and he’s a super-talented guy and we’ll see what happens.”
The search for a backup center to Eric Gallo continues. Tyrell Smith (Fr., #79, 6-3, 288) and Kyle Chung (r-So, #61, 6-4, 293) both got time at the position Saturday, and Chung looked better. Smith struggled with some shotgun snaps.
Loeffler insists that the backup center job hasn’t been settled, but he may have tipped his hand. When asked about Tyrell Smith, Loeffler responded: “Kyle Chung, obviously, having him healthy, because he’s been around a little longer than Smith, obviously, that’s going to help us. Experience is really important, and Kyle’s got a little more experience than Smith right now.”
The Latest on the Wide Receivers
Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford sat out the scrimmage Saturday, and their backups received extensive work, including with the number one offense. Walk-on C.J. Carroll stood out, though Charley Meyer did score a long touchdown on a blown coverage.
Loeffler won’t name a #3 wideout behind Phillips and Ford. “We’re still working on that,” he said.
Loeffler was more effusive when it came to the topic of Ford, Phillips, and their growing chemistry with Michael Brewer.
“We were in a situation last year where Aaron Moorehead was just trying to get those guys going in the right direction. The details they’ve learned over the last year, in my opinion, are invaluable. Whenever you’re running out there for the first time and you’re 18 years old, it’s totally different. So being a year older, and being smarter, and being bigger, and understanding what we’re trying to accomplish is why those two guys, Cam and Isaiah, are playing well.
“At times last year with those young wide receivers … they threw for a month together last summer, before going into training camp. That’s it. These guys have been training all year long and getting more familiar. Those guys really did a great job working on their own. The thing you sense that’s different is, there’s a chemistry with these guys right now that is really, really good. Are we perfect right now? No. Can we always execute better? You’re darn right. But when you start having that ‘it’ factor, you normally have got a chance. You sense chemistry, you sense them caring about each other, you sense urgency to play well.”
In particular, perimeter blocking has been a focus. “Blocking has been a huge emphasis. We have lost so many hidden yards because of poor perimeter blocking. We’re making a huge emphasis with running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, to block the perimeter. J.C.’s long run down our sideline on Saturday, we missed a perimeter block, and that was a touchdown. The difference in these 14-yard, 15-yard gains, if you get one guy blocked on the perimeter, it has a chance to go for a score. So it’s been a huge emphasis.”
On Sam Rogers: “He’s incredible. He knows the offense as well as anyone. He knows the reasons why inside and out.”
On Bucky Hodges: “That tight end/hybrid role, in my opinion, besides the quarterback, is the most difficult spot in the offense. It’s multiple job responsibilities, and that’s what causes problems for the defense, is that those guys are lining up everywhere. But you still have to have great technique, and be good in all your job responsibilities, because it’s a multiple-purpose, multiple-job description position.”
Isaiah Ford and basketball: “Isaiah’s whole decision with basketball was completely him. When we recruited him, we gave him the opportunity to go play, and right now, what he wants to do is focus on football. And that’s where he’s at.”
Shai McKenzie‘s progress: “Coming off that knee injury, he’s gonna be fine. Is it going to happen overnight? No. There are some things he’s doing really well, and there are some things you can tell that knee’s still bothering him a little bit. He’s making headway. He’s way ahead of schedule, which is great.”
On C.J. Carroll: “I like him a lot. He’s got great quickness. We call him Edelman [a reference to 5-10 Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots]. He’s a really good football player, we really like him a lot.”