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August 15, 2011

Mon. practice report: O'Brien talks individuals

Head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media for about five minutes following Monday's practice. He discussed the development of several individuals, including R.J. Mattes, Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and Markus Kuhn. A full transcript of O'Brien's question and answer session is below.

Talk about R.J. Mattes and his development. Is he becoming a vocal leader along the offensive line?

I don't know if he's taken a vocal leadership role quite yet but he's the most experienced guy up there, having started as a freshman. He's learning a new position, moving to left tackle, so there's a lot of nuances that he's still working to get down and he's working hard to make that work for him. The more comfortable he feels, the more he'll have the ability to take a more vocal leadership role.

What kind of things are you emphasizing with your running backs?

Same things as always, hold onto the ball and pass protect. Those are the two things they have to do well and those are the two things that are critical to our success right now.

How reassuring is it as a coach to have experienced safeties back there like Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop? You asked a lot of them two years ago.

Yeah, I mean they were baptized under fire certainly. Their experience level is so much greater right now then its ever been. Learning on the run, going through spring practice, we saw them develop last year and continue to develop. I think they got better in spring practice, they're certainly playing a lot faster in this preseason practice right now. Expect them to be better and if they're better, we'll be better on defense.

They're playing off their instincts and not thinking as much now?

Right, the recognition factor is not there. Worrying about getting lined up, what the call is and what they're supposed to do - they understand all of that now. Now, they can just go play and go to the football and go as fast as they can get there. It's enabled them to make more plays, which now gives them more confidence in what they're doing.

You don't have as much experience at defensive end after losing a few guys. How's that looking so far?

We're rotating a lot of guys in there - [McKay] Frandsen, [Darryl] Cato-Bishop, [Sylvester] Crawford, [Art] Norman. Those are all guys that, right now, are kind of in the mix, we are trying to find out who the best four guys, three guys, two guys are going to be. We'll start with two then work our way up. We're trying to find out among those guys how it's going to be the best situation going forward.

How different is the third scrimmage than the first and second?

It's totally different than the first two, it's not even close to the first two. It's all situational - it's all going to be end of the game situations. The offense is going to be ahead or they're going to be behind. Conversely, the defense is going to be behind or ahead. It changes the whole complexion on the scrimmage, you have to play. There's a lot of two minute situations, a lot of run out the clock situations so we spend the whole time on those situations, which is basically working on the quarterback's master's degree, to see if he can figure out what he's supposed to be doing in these situations. Those are the ones that are really important for him.

How's the precision of the offensive line?

It's better now. It was good, [Duran] Christophe went down and it got bad. It's starting to get better. You only get better when you get cohesion. I think they took a little bit of beating the last scrimmage but they won't get the same opportunity to run the ball - we ran the ball better last scrimmage. They're going to have to run those balls Saturday against a stacked defense, trying to get the ball back with a lot of people so we'll see how they do then.

At Boston College, you had a reputation for building those big offensive guys. Is it harder to get those linemen down here or did it take longer than most people realize to build those lines up there?

I think it took a while. I say all the time, people always remember the last five years, not the first five years that I was there. It takes a while. I think the biggest thing right now is, over the past couple years, we lost [Denzelle] Good, Sam Jones and we lost [Torian] Box this year. You keep losing guys like that and that sets you back, it's tough to replace those kind of guys when you go forward. Hence, when we got here, we had to start signing [Junior College] guys and things like that to fill in. We're still getting the development going but I think we're on track. Certainly, there are some guys up front right now that have a chance to make an NFL football team if they continue to work at it.

On the other side of the ball, Markus Kuhn is a guy who came in sight unseen, trying to find a place to play. Talk about his development.

I think he's developed as much as anybody in the past year. I think the redshirt year, when we chose to redshirt him, really helped. We couldn't afford to do it earlier - we went to B.C. my first year with him and a walk-on starting at tackle, that's how bad it was. He didn't have the time to develop the way he should have and learn the game the way he should have and I think that year redshirting helped him a lot. Last year in his backup role, he started to get better. He was in the 20, 25 plays per game mode, now he's going to move up into the 50 plays per game mode. I think he's really progressed a lot.


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