March 22, 2010
Head Coach Mike Locksley:
I'll start of by saying that our team is really excited about the upcoming season and it's already started. This is what I would call Phase 2 of our program. Phase 1, which is our winter conditioning program, is probably the most mentally challenging and the toughest of the phases to come in to our program.
As I told the team here right before we broke for spring break, just to see the difference from last year's Phase 1 to this year's Phase 1 was remarkable and our guys really got a good feel for what we ask for our players to do in our program. I've seen great determination and drive by our team.
One of the things we did when we came back after Christmas break as a staff and as a team - we got together and challenged each other to fully make the commitment to this program, for everybody to be all in to our program and improve in the three areas we always talk about: academically, athletically, and socially.
There's been some remarkable things done by our team since season's end. From an academic standpoint, we're working hard and getting ourselves into position to have one of the best academic semesters we've ever had from a football standpoint.
Athletically, what coach Troy (Hatton) has been able to get accomplished and when you look at our team when we start practice tomorrow to see the differences of the bodies from day one until now. We've charted with each lifting phase we've had we've charted our players and to see guys size go down, strength go up, body fat decrease means that the program down in the weight room is working. We're bigger stronger faster than we've ever been.
The purpose of spring ball for us is, first and foremost, to try to identify playmakers. It's really important for us to come out of spring knowing which guys we can count on to make plays for us, what guys can do and how guys have improved. This helps us as we get into the preseason camp to develop schemes that allow our players to do what they do best.
The second part of it is for us to fundamentally improve our players individually. I think you get better as a team when you improve fundamentally, when you see the way we set up spring practice.
Typically during the season we get about 20-25 minutes of individual period with the position coaches. In the spring you'll see about 40-45 minutes of individual time, which really allows our players to collectively get better from a fundamental standpoint. I think that's the catalyst to any great team, that's when each player gets a little bit better at doing the things they need to do individually to win. We win as a team. So you'll see a big emphasis on the fundamentals this spring with our team and the way we coach them up.
We have three objectives going into this spring. We've talked about it with our players. One of the things you do at the end of the season is you look at everything that you've done. You evaluate offensively what you did well and what you didn't. Defensively, (we do) the same thing and special teams (we do) the same thing.
The first thing we have to do starts with the run game. We've got to be able to run the ball and stop the run on both sides of the ball. I think our running back position is one of the strengths of our team and I think familiarity in our system will allow us to take that step to be the team we need to be and reach the goals we set for ourselves - which starts with winning championships and the second part of it is going to bowl games. We really feel as a staff and as a team we've got to be able to run the ball and stop the run.
When your able to run the ball, that allows you to be physical and that's something that when we watch the tape last year, we probably weren't as physical a team as I'm used to having out there or seeing out there and that's what being able to run the ball allows us to do is to become more physical.
The second area, which probably should be the first, is that turnover margin. When you look at how we finished statistically, turnover margin is always one of the main categories. When you look at winning teams they don't beat themselves and offensively we have to do a better job of taking care of the football. On the defensive end we have to create more turnovers, we've got to find a way to get more picks, strip the ball out, get more fumbles and do those things for us to take the next step.
Lastly, (we're going to work on) our third down efficiency on both sides of the ball.
So when you look at the three areas of improvement that you'll see a big emphasis and we've set our practice schedules up to really find a way to get better and those three areas: running the ball/stopping the run, turnover efficiency as a team, and then also third down efficiency. If we can come out of spring feeling good about our plans and seeing the development of those three areas, I think that we'll be able to accomplish some of the things we want to accomplish as we take the next step in our program.
A lot of times you're asked, what's the strength of your program? Well I think the number one strength for us is familiarity. When you look at the fact that we came in as a staff, didn't really know our players, had to go through spring ball to get to know them, the only way you become more familiar is time and I can tell you right now I know every player, what buttons to push to motivate them, what things they do well and what things they don't do well. That allows you as a coach to develop schemes and find ways to motivate each player individually. I think that familiarity of our team understanding the philosophies of our offense, defense, and kicking game.
Junior Linebacker Carmen Messina:
Coach (Locksley) came in and said what they wanted on and off the field, academically and in the weight room and just coming in and watching film. They said that's the way they want things to be and everyone has bought in, because Lobo football is so important to us and we really want to strive to become a better team.
With this coaching staff, they really care about us on a personal level and they really want to see us strive even after our football career is over. That's very important for every recruit and every player to know, that football is not your whole life. For some of us, after college, that's it. These coaches really strive on being able to be responsible on and off the field.
I definitely have to step up. Especially (after) what I did the previous season, to step up and show the young guys how things are run on the defense and how we want things to be done. I'm stepping up and becoming more of a vocal leader.
Junior Quarterback Brad Gruner:
With Donovan (Porterie) gone, it's just like last year at the start of spring - everybody's going to get a fair chance to play and I think everyone's excited. We've all been putting in a lot of time trying to learn more about the offense. I mean, there's always something to learn, so I think it's just going to be open competition.
I think everyone's excited to get started. There's a lot to learn from last year that can really help us improve this year.
There's a lot to learn from different coaching styles, since I've been here I've had three different coaches. You get to learn a lot - they all bring something else to the table.