Skip to main content

Transcripts: OTA Media Availability (5/23)


Opening Statement: "[It's] good to see you guys today. I'll tell you what, it's exciting being back up here. We've had three really good days of OTAs with our veteran guys and our young guys, and we're really just getting back into the swing of this thing. We're figuring out some new things, obviously, with the kickoff and kickoff return, and then we're trying to really just evaluate our players – the rookies and our veteran guys. I use this time for a lot of skills and drills to set the foundation for when we move further down the line [and] can do a couple more things. Questions?"

Do you have to do more reps to kind of get used to it than you normally do in a practice, just to get used to it because it's a new play? (*Jeff Zrebiec)* "Yes, I think the way the play is set up, honestly, when they designed it, they've taken out a lot of the running from the 35-yard line. So, it honestly allows you to get more reps, and then you get an idea of kind of what the play looks like. I mean, you're really asking the guys to run anywhere from 20 to 25 yards before they actually make contact with a returner. So, those are some things that we're still figuring out, and you guys know us. We're going to practice fast, and the more reps we can get of the play, the more understanding we get of how we're going to build this thing and kind of how we're going to put it together."

Is it kind of a game changer? Do you, in a way, start from scratch in devising how you want to play it? (Ryan Mink*)* "It really is. You know, it's something new to our league. And I've talked to the players about this – we're going to build this thing together, because we don't really know what it's going to look like. We've seen video from the XFL, and we understand what that looks like. But, we actually have to get out here, and we have to practice it ourselves to kind of see what those angles look like and see what we can run and what we can't run. So, as we go through it this offseason, we're going to be putting stuff in. We're going to be taking stuff out. Then, when it's all said and done, and it's put together, I do believe it's going to be an exciting play, and hopefully we're on the exciting end of it having a lot of success."

Do you see the similarities to it being like a run play in a lot of ways? (*Jonas Shaffer)* "I do. I could see that. It is a lot of close quarters, combat-type things. But, I think all in all, the play is set up – it's still going to be a physical play. It's still going to be a guy whipping the guy's butt across from him and getting to the football. So, I do see that being able – like are we hitting more downhill? Honestly, we don't know yet, but we're going to practice a lot of different things this offseason and into training camp."

It sounds like you're still experimenting, but based on the film you've seen, is there sort of a standard school of thought for how this play should operate? Or is it still kind of in an experimental stage where nobody really has a best practice? (Kyle Goon*)* "I think it's still kind of an experiment because you really don't know what you're getting until you get out there and you actually put the guys in those situations, right? Yesterday was the first time we were able to get 11 on 11 just because of the way the rules are set up. So, we can work on the drills in football school and the kickoff coverage drills, but until you can get 11 guys out there, against 11 on 11, and really see and feel the play and being out there [and] you ask the players, 'How do you feel? How does that feel? If we want you to do this, can you do that?' And, they're like 'Ah, coach...' Then we keep working those things. "

When they proposed the new kickoff rules, I know HC John Harbaugh asked a ton of questions. What were the conversations like during that time between you two, and how much has he been jumping in now that you are workshopping stuff? (*Giana Han)* "I think the conversations once we realized this thing was going to happen, and I think as the year went on last year, it was more, 'We need to make this play exciting again.' There are ways, just looking at how this play is going to evolve, there are ways that make the play exciting and get the ball in your returners' hands and let those guys work. But, our conversations were, 'We just have to adjust, and we have to adapt to whatever the standards are and whatever the rules are going to be. Because, I know our guys feel pretty good about, 'Man, we get to cover kicks. We get to return the ball again.' Those are some things that were lost over the last couple of years."

Do you feel like it might be more conducive to cover kicks for linebackers or smaller DBs? Is it a different body type that you have to emphasize now on kickoff coverage? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think that the guys that, originally, you wouldn't necessarily put out there because of the long speed running, that stuff's kind of dead now. It's a little bit closer. So, again, we're asking guys to ... really, when you think about it, it's almost like a defensive and offensive play. They're within five yards from each other. So, I could see us using a lot of our bigger outside linebackers on this phase because they're good with hand-to-hand combat. They're physical players. So, again, we're going to experiment with all these different things as we move forward this offseason."

Is the list kind of committed for that spot for guys with return experience for that spot, or could there be some surprise guys who have that open-field ability that maybe we wouldn't normally associate with that spot? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think we'll see the same guys that return in this league. Obviously, it's going to be first and foremost – I talk about it all the time, ball security and great decisions. But I do think it's going to be – some teams are going to only have, at the end of the day, we're only going to get what we can get personnel-wise throughout the league. So, whoever that player is and how we feel about him returning the ball, I think our schemes will match that returner's skill set, just like we've done in the past."

Probably no WR Zay Flowers, probably no RB Derrick Henry? (Jonas Shaffer*)* "I can almost guarantee it. Those guys will not be back there."

Along those lines, you guys did bring in WR Deonte Harty this offseason. We haven't seen him this week, but what did you like about him and what do you think you can bring, especially knowing you're replacing Devin Duvernay back there? (*Luke Jones)* "I think this guy – he's electric. He's been a Pro Bowl player. He's been an All-Pro player, and when he was sitting there and his name came up, it's just, 'Oh, man. We lost our guy. We need a guy to fill these shoes, a guy with some experience.' You like to have a guy with some experience so [that] you're not really relying on young guys, especially in the punt return game. Then, it just allows us to do a little bit more back there. I'm excited about him. I know the coaches are. The players are. When I talk to the guys, some of the veteran guys, 'Hey, we've got Harty coming in.' Those guys ask 'Is that the guy from the Saints, the guy who used to be on the Saints? I say, 'Yeah, man, that's the little returner from the Saints.' So, he's a well-known and respected returner in this league, and we love him."

Obviously, these new rules have given you a lot of work to do, but in some ways does it feel like 'Man, my job has more value.' I'm actually scheming how to get yards, not just to kneel down and how something should be played. (*Kyle Goon)* "That's funny. I mean, it's a play we get to coach. We spend a lot of time out here on Wednesdays working kickoff returns, and I'm screaming. Then you get in the game, and then the fair catch rule is in, or the ball is kicked in the end zone, and it's not being returned. So, you come back in the meeting and you're grading seven plays – four punts and three punt returns, and you're just like,' Man, I really want to coach this phase.' So, it does give us a little bit more life, and I think our players want more football. Our players, I said this last year – our players live for covering kicks. I think we'll cover kicks, and we'll return kicks, and we'll be pretty good at it. But I am fired up. I told these guys as I was walking up, if you don't adapt, you die. So, I love my job. I love coaching special teams, so I want to make sure we keep this going."

John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta have both talked about wanting to see S Sanoussi Kane fly around on special teams. What have you seen from him so far? (*Kyle Phoenix)* "[He's] just a young guy right now, just trying to figure out our process, right? We do a lot. We demand a lot. The standard is high, and he's working his way, just like a lot of these young guys. These drafted players [and] undrafted players, they're just trying to find their role. Then, they sit down with us and we kind of help them identify 'OK, here's where you're going to play. Here's what we need to see from you, and let's get this done.' But I love his mindset. He is a guy that's very attentive in meetings. That's the one thing I can tell you about this whole rookie class – these guys are active in meetings. They communicate, and when they come on the field, you see those things displayed. So, I'm excited for him."

Did you have any conversations with K Justin Tucker after the new kickoff rule, and what was kind of his reaction? (*Giana Han)* "We're still going through that process with Justin, and then as we get into the kickoff part of it, which we'll start again next week, we'll just keep talking and trying to do a bunch of different things [and] see what benefits him. He's a skilled kicker, right? So, I think kickers with skill will be able to place the ball in certain spots and maybe give you an advantage. We're going to be working on those things."


Were you at the Preakness last weekend? Was it your first time? (Jonas Shaffer) "I was [there], yes. I went last year. I've been a lot of times and donated, but I haven't been there. [I'm] certainly willing to donate. This year, luckily, [I] didn't donate, so I felt a lot better. I don't know what it is about winning. Something about winning makes everything feel better."

In Year Two, can you talk a little bit about some of the scheme changes you want to make and how you want this offense to evolve? (Ryan Mink) "We want to streamline, [and] we want to make it better for all of our players – Lamar [Jackson] especially – and we want to streamline it in a way that we become a more consistent offense. And everybody is striving for that. I thought there were a lot of really great things we did last year, but we can strive to be more consistent [and] certainly start faster. We have to work to start faster. That's inevitable, but [in] Year Two, we should be able to do that."

This is the first time you've spoken since the AFC Championship. When you look back at that game, do you have any regrets about the way it went offensively? (Ken Weinman) "You know, obviously. I try not to look back. I appreciate that, but it is what it is. We didn't play well enough [and] didn't coach well enough. [We] didn't execute at a high level, and that starts with me. That's the way it goes. Certainly, we could have run the ball better, could have executed better [and] not turn the ball over, but that's what you do. The only way you look back is to learn and get better. What didn't we do well? What was the plan we initially went in with? Was it execution or did we not stick with the plan? That's part of it, just like it was the week before [and] just like it was the week before that. It just happened to be that [game], and we're disappointed, but it's on to 2024."

Sorry to linger on this a moment, but I think head coach John Harbaugh said at the time that a lot of folks look at the rush attempts in the second half and that was somewhat dictated by the terms of game. Is that what you see looking back on it? (Kyle Goon) "Somewhat. If you said ... Well, the rushing attempts were by the [running] backs. It wasn't just complete. Zay Flowers had a couple, and Lamar [Jackson] did, so I'm not trying to justify this [stuff]. I promise you that. I'm not. I'm just saying in general, we needed to run the ball better, and we didn't. That's a fact. We didn't. You can't control the game if you can't run the football and then not execute at a high level when it presents itself. There were moments in the game we did, but not enough. [In the] second half, we needed to run the ball better, but we did give ourselves an opportunity in the second half. Looking at it, that I don't regret, because we did give ourselves a chance in the second half. We got down in the red zone. We did move [the ball], but we have to run the ball better, we have to attack them the way we had planned to attack them, and I have to do a better job. That's the way it is. That's what I'm paid to do, and that is do it against the best when it counts. That's it."

How does RB Derrick Henry shift the equation for you? Is there something to look more at in your offense? (Kyle Goon) "I don't see it that way. I just see another good football player. Gus [Edwards] had a tremendous year for us in terms of yards [and] touchdowns, and we expect the same from Derrick [Henry]. He's a tremendous football player. He's been great. He's been here the whole offseason, and [it] doesn't really change anything per se, because to me, he's a really versatile player, not only running the ball but getting the ball in space and throwing him the ball and getting him out on the perimeter and see if some of your defensive backs can tackle him. That's why we're doing this now. That's why we're here now, to work through that and see what we have, because no one here has worked with him, so now, we're just seeing what that is and giving him those opportunities."

I know you were saying you don't have to change a lot because of RB Derrick Henry. In terms of formation wise, do you expect to be mor*e ... There's a lot of talk of him being in more under center formations.* Do you expect that? (Cordell Woodland) "We'll see. We were under center some this year, and we were in gun some. I expect to be the same, [using] both depending on where we go from here. Do I think that's what [the Tennessee Titans] did? Yes, but we're not them, if that makes sense. With having Lamar [Jackson], is that always advantageous to us to be under center? Probably not. Is there something to that? Yes, so we'll try to do the best we can to balance the two, because you're right. There are a lot of good looks at him playing at the dot, under center."

Executive vice president and general Manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh have said they are excited about WR Devontez Walker. What are your early impressions of him? (Giana Han) "[Devontez Walker is a] quick learner. Let's start with that. That's impressive, to show up and be able to play multiple spots. And it's not just knowing your assignment, but I think he's done a great job of executing a technique – does that make sense – because there are nuances to routes. It's not just a drawing. There are other nuances with coverage and adjustments. That was something I wasn't expecting, so that was what I'm excited about. Obviously, his speed shows up and his length, so that's been exciting. I will just continue to work with him, and that's what you do with your young players. This is a great time to develop, and that's what you love about this time of year, because after a couple weeks of the preseason, it's go time. It's who are we [and] who plays, but at this point, how do we develop them – our skills – and then how do we drill it to get the most out of our players and create the best version of them."

At the end of the season, John Harbaugh talked about you all going back to the drawing board to continue to advance this offense. How much of this offseason was put into trying to get the most out of Isaiah Likely or Mark Andrews? (Cordell Woodland) "Well, everything was going back to the drawing board to say who we want to be moving forward offensively. That is what you do every year, but even more importantly after your first year, because there are always things you look back [on] and go, 'We put that in. Now, that we looked at it, hey, let's go this direction. Let's do this. Let's move in these certain directions we want to go,' but certainly, with the way Isaiah Likely came on and having Mark [Andrews], Pat Ricard [and] the wideouts we have, we do have tremendous skills. So, how do we utilize each player and their elite skills set? What is that? How can we utilize that? So, that has been a big part of the offseason with those guys and how do we get them – when and how – on the field that allows us to be very consistent on offense and score touchdowns. That's it really."

Do you feel like you guys, as a whole, need to do a better job of getting WR Rashod Bateman more involved? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Oh, for sure. Last year was interesting in the fact that we had Odell [Beckham Jr.], and at the beginning, 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman] has missed offseason [workouts], then he missed some of fall camp. So, 'Is he going to be healthy? So, put Odell at X.' And then, [in] the beginning there Bateman gets kind of banged up a little bit, and so does Odell. So, here you are, [it's the] beginning of the year, but you're already in the season. We certainly could have done a better job of moving them around, for sure, but as the year went on, Rashod really came on, and I've seen tremendous growth. But again, [it's] growth just because he didn't have an offseason last year, in my mind; I didn't see that. But I expect a tremendous year [from] him, and we certainly could have found a way to get him the ball more. But that's a good thing, because last year, we did have Mark [Andrews], then we had 'Zay' [Isaiah] Likely, then we've got Zay Flowers, and then you've got Odell, and after a while, you're winning games, so you're running the ball. So, why does Gus Edwards have all those touchdowns? What about the rushing yards? We were winning games, and that's part of it. So, when that happens, and you have a lot of skill players, it's going to come that way. Like, 'Why didn't he get more touches? Well, because he touched it. Why didn't he? Well, Justice [Hill] did.' So, that's a good problem to have – it really is. Or Lamar [Jackson] took off and ran; all those things that we're lucky to have. And we continue to have great skill players."

You guys rotate in T Daniel Faalele and G Ben Cleveland last year. There were some injuries last season, and some guys have since left. What do you kind of feel like is the biggest gap that you'll need to cover from the guys you lost on the offensive line? (Kyle Goon) "Well, you're right; we did rotate [in] those guys [Daniel Faalele and Ben Cleveland], which was invaluable experience, because you have game tape – not just preseason tape – but against front-line starters of how they played, and it's easy to show them on tape where they need to improve [and] where that is. It's not [the] third quarter of the first preseason game; it's against the best in the world. And so, you do have some tape to go back and look, and again, we're in the development business; that's why you draft players, [and] that's why they keep coming up and developing. When you look at the left guard situation here, we [ended] up with [Ben] Powers in 2019 – who was here – and developed, and he went on, and then you get John Simpson, and you develop him, and then you feel good enough that they went on to make money somewhere else, because you developed them. So, we're in the development business, right now, with Ben [Cleveland], and you've got some of the young guys that we drafted a year ago, like 'Big Sal' [Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] and [Andrew] Vorhees, and you've got Daniel [Faalele]. All those guys are getting invaluable reps now, and obviously, once we put the pads on, for them, [that's] where it will really be critical. We put the pads on, we get a chance to play in the preseason, and then you can assess, 'Hey, as they keep developing, what are their strengths? [What] do we need to continue to work on?' And they're doing a great job now, and I expect them to play at a really high level – I really do."

Are you looking for a more athletic offensive line? You always want physicality, and you want to run the football, but with more zone, is this the natural progression – where you guys are now from what these guys did a couple years ago? (Luke Jones) "Oh, I don't know. It's so hard to say that, because everybody is looking for the same guys – big, smart, physical, athletic. Like, 'OK,' and then, at that point, when you're drafting, it's like, 'Well, let's just take the best player.' Like, it's football. If we have to run more gap schemes, run gap schemes. [If we have to] run outside zone, inside zone ... Hey, it's like tight end. Like, 'Alright, if we don't have this guy, we have that guy. Let's try to fit the pieces where they may.' Certainly, would you like to have athletic linemen? For sure. But, when you have [guys] like Ben [Cleveland], and you have [guys] like Daniel [Faalele] – you have some bigger guys – well, then, you might have to run more power, [and] we might have to be more gap schemes and then play to whoever our strengths are [and] the players that we have."

When RB Derrick Henry is healthy, he's a guy who gets 300 carries a season. With him being 30 years old, do you think you have to manage his workload, or do you kind of expect him to continue his heavy workload? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, I know this: If [Derrick Henry] carries it 300 times, we're having a hell of a year. I can tell you that. It means we're running it a lot. It means we're up in games. We want him to finish, [and] we want him to be the closer. First and foremost, like every player, we want him to make it through the season. It's a long season – 17 games. You've got a bye week in there, and then you go from there. So, we'll see how that goes. I mean, he's been so durable. But I thought we did a good job last year of rotating the [running] backs. I mean, Gus [Edwards] was powerful, but we split the reps. Now, we had Keaton [Mitchell], who came on, and we had Justice [Hill] and those guys, but I still anticipate the same – of using all of our backs [and] trying to put them in the best position to be successful."

QB Lamar Jackson said that he lost weight to be more agile. Have you seen that agility? (Carita Parks) "Well, I can't comment maybe to where [Lamar Jackson] was a few years ago compared to last year, but I always thought he was agile. I always thought he was fast and hard to bring down. So, does he look great? Yes, he looks great. Has he worked hard? I assume that he worked hard to get that. I'm sure he didn't go on a hunger strike to lose the 20 pounds, so he's probably worked hard at it to get to that point. So, I'm excited for him. He's motivated, [and] he looks great. We're all motivated. It is what it is. [The end of last season] was disappointing, but it's on to 2024, and I'm jacked. I'm fired up for where we're headed. We've had a great offseason, and every day [that] we get to come out here with our guys, man, is awesome."


Having been a player that's walking by, how does it feel being the one speaking? (Giana Han) "It's pretty crazy. It's pretty crazy. Like you said, I used to always, as a player walk through, go to the locker room exiting the practice fields, and now, being up here, talking to you guys more frequently, it's going to be fun."

I know you're focused on Week 1, but was it exciting to see when the homecoming game in Dallas landed on the schedule? (Jonas Shaffer) "It was exciting. It was exciting. Just for [the] opportunity for ... I have a lot of family and friends who [have been] big Baltimore Ravens fans for the last 10, 11 years. So, just the opportunity for those guys to come to the game and get a chance to go back home and see them ... I don't get a chance to see a lot of family a lot, especially during the season. So, yes, I was definitely excited that it is going to happen a little early."

A lot of guys, like S Kyle Hamilton, yesterday talked about how they've developed a relationship with you when you were a position coach*.* How has that helped you, as a defensive coordinator, to make a seamless transition to your new role? (Todd Karpovich) "It definitely helps. The coaching culture that we have here; every coach coaches everybody. Now, obviously, when you're a position coach, you focus on your guys, but we're a family here. So, I've always ... As a linebacker coach, I know the D-line, the safeties, the corners, the offensive guys. We all have a great relationship, [and] we move on one accord. So, that's definitely easier once you have that relationship – they know what type of man you are, what type of coach you are – [and] it's easier for that transition to happen."

You've had so many guys leave and some of these guys stay in the division. Coaches have gone to teams that you guys may have on your schedule. How much do you feel like you have to change, and how much can you keep the same? (Cordell Woodland) "I don't think you have to change the language much at all. Like I said, we've been building this system for a long, long time – since 2018 – and the people that were here that are at other places, they'll tell you, 'The gameplan is going to change week to week, so based off what you do is basically how we're going to play you.' So, I don't really think that's an advantage or something we think about a lot; we're just going to do what we do and play how we play."

With the play calling, how comfortable are you after a few practices now calling plays? And how did you practice calling plays before practices started? (Ryan Mink) "It's just taking it day by day. You definitely get more comfortable. Coach [John] Harbaugh does a great job of putting us in these game-like situations, even as play-callers and as coaches. We always do 'move the ball,' [and] we do 'call-it periods,' where there is no script, [and] you have to call it, and you have to think on the fly and use your play-calling sheet. And just how I prepare, I just go back and – when I'm watching the film or watching games from last year – just look at how I would call it, looking at the situation [and] trying to put myself in those shoes. And then, just before practice, just reviewing my play-call sheet and just trying to play out scenarios in my head that could possibly come up."

Do you remember as a player, if you ever got a play call from your coordinator and you're like, 'Man, I wish I could call the play right now.' (Kyle Goon*)* "Definitely. When you're a player, a lot of times, you think you have all the answers. You're like, 'Man, we could do this, we could do that.' But when you step back and you become a coach and you become a play-caller, you kind of see the bigger picture of things. You're not just thinking about you're one particular area or position that you're playing; you take a step back and think about the whole game."

S Kyle Hamilton was a first-team All-Pro a year ago. He did so many things. What is his next step? Do you have him do more? Do you have him deep more often this year? How do you deploy him? (Ken Weinman) "Kyle Hamilton is the ultimate chess piece; I think he's one of the top players in the league. My goal for him is to one day win [the] defensive MVP – here – of the league. I think he has that type of talent, he has that type of work ethic, he's that type of person. The thing about him being the ultimate chess piece [is], depending on what the offense does, he can play anywhere. He can play safety, deep safety, box safety; he can play corner, he can play nickel, he can play backer, he can even play outside linebacker, too, and you guys know he can rush the passer. The thing that you appreciate about Kyle Hamilton is, is he works at it, he's a smart player, so he can handle all the different volume that you get him. I think he's eager, going into his third year, to do more, so we'll see."

With that in mind, identifying a third safety to go with S Kyle Hamilton and S Marcus Williams that can help you deploy Kyle in different ways, is that a priority for you right now – in terms of seeing who can maybe emerge to replace that S Geno Stone role at the very least? (Luke Jones) "Yes, for sure. Obviously, with Kyle [Hamilton] being the ultimate chess piece, the third safety position is important. I feel like we have some great in-house candidates that [have been] working their butts off since Day One, so we're excited. They had a good first three days of practice, so we're excited to see where it goes. But yes, that position is important."

Within the first four weeks of the schedule, you will face QB Patrick Mahomes, QB Dak Prescott and QB Josh Allen. How does that feel as a first-year coordinator? Does it just kind of make you alert? How do you feel going into that part of schedule? (Kyle Goon) "It was funny, because Coach [John Harbaugh] was talking about this the other day, and he said, 'Everybody in this league is good, and if you're not prepared and you're not doing things the right way, you'll lose and get your butt kicked by anybody in this league.' So, you respect the guys. We understand ... We respect the team, the quarterbacks, the coordinators that we're going to face as a defense, but we honestly believe that if we prepare the right way, we play how we're supposed to play, it's not going to really matter who we're playing or when we're playing them."

There's a number of former NFL linebackers who went on to be great coaches right? DeMeco Ryans, Mike Vrabel, Jerod Mayo and Antonio Pierce. Do you take any inspiration and tips? And what is it about being an NFL linebacker that helps you be a good coach? (Ryan Mink) "I definitely take inspiration from that. Just playing the position, all of those guys you named – DeMeco Ryans, Mike Vrabel [and] Antonio Pierce. Those guys were great players, I grew up watching those guys. And I just think [with] the linebacker position, you're in the middle of the defense. You have to be able to understand what's going up front, understand what's going on behind you [and] understand what's going on beside you in the run game and in the pass game. You're in all of those meetings. They say, 'Run game meeting,' linebackers in there. We say, 'Pass game meeting,' linebackers in there. OK, 'Protection meeting, blitz meeting,' linebackers are in there. You're everywhere. You have to have a grasp of the whole defense and how it fits together, because you're in the middle of it, and you have to execute a lot of jobs; you also have to get everybody lined up because when people want to know the call, when people want to know where they need to go, they're going to look at you, just like they look at Roquan Smith now."

Kind of going off of that, LB Roquan Smith came in and took ownership of the defense pretty much since he came here. Now that you're out here with players, how much easier has it made things that you already have that relationship with him as he has that connection with the entire defense? (Giana Han) "It's good. Me and Ro [Roquan Smith], we've built a great relationship since he got here. We continue to build on it. He knows how I roll; I know how he rolls. We're comfortable talking to each other, sharing ideas, sharing thoughts with one another, [and] we respect one another, so it's easier. When you have a guy like Roquan Smith like everybody has preached time and time again, he's one of the best players in this league and one of the best humans walking this earth. And then, when you have one of your best players being one of your best workers, everyone else looks at that and gets inspired. It's not just players, just coaches and everybody in the building, so him still being here is a blessing for all of us."

I feel like the last few years on the sideline, you are a really animated, passionate coach. Looking at you for just two practices, it's a little bit different when you're the coordinator. Was that a conscious decision? (*Ryan Mink)* "Yes, I've got to calm myself down a little bit. Now, after a play, I celebrate [but] now I've got to get ready for the next call. I can't celebrate too hard. [In] previous years, I was just waiting to hear the call. Now, everyone is looking at me like, 'What's the call? What's the call?' So, I've got to keep it mild-toned now. I'm definitely going to express my excitement when the time is right, but I definitely have to be aware of that. Things get moving quick, and you have to be planning ahead. You have the call, what is the next call that you're thinking? What's the down and distance? What's the situation? What have you done before? What do you want to do next? So, you definitely need to be more conscious. There won't be as much animation on the sideline as previous [years], but it's all good."

Do you have an idea yet of where you're going to be calling plays from during the season (*Jonas Shaffer)* "Yes, I'm going to be on the sideline."

LB Trenton Simpson is a player who is young, stepping into a big role, and at one point you had to do something similar to that. What are your first impressions of him and what has it been like coaching and working with him? (Kyle Phoenix) "It's been great. Trenton's been great since day one, and nothing has changed. The things I loved about Trenton when he first got here – and we kind of knew talking to the people at Clemson and people close to him through the draft process – is that this dude is a hard worker. He's competitive, and he's going to do whatever he needs to do to continue to get better every single day. He did that. Even last year, when he knew the situation he was in – probably wasn't going to play a lot, which he didn't – he came in every day and prepared like a starter. So, when you look at the situation where he's in a role now where he has a chance to compete for the starting job, he's working even harder, which is crazy because he was already going 100%. So, I've been really impressed with him. He's looked good these first three days. He's been here the whole offseason program. You can see the difference in guys like him, Tavius Robinson, Malik Hamm, all these second-year players that from their rookie year, they're starting to take that jump, which is exciting to see as a coach."

Whether it's guys you've played with, guys you've played under or guys you've coached with, have you reached out to any of your former defensive coordinators to pick their brain a little bit about making the jump and play-calling, how they kind of break down their week and all of that? (*Jeff Zrebiec)* "Not necessarily. We've had those conversations before. Honestly, we haven't really had much time really to sit down. Now, some of the casual conversations have happened maybe at the [NFL] Combine, but not anything too in-depth. Like I said, I think the good thing about it is just the relationship that I've had with, obviously, Mike Macdonald, 'Wink' [Don Martindale] when he was here when I was working and even Dean Pees, I got an inside look to see how they broke the game down, all in their own different ways, how they saw the game, how they thought about calling it, and how they broke down their call sheets. I just took those nuggets from those guys and tried to mix it in with my thoughts."

What have been your observations of CB Nate Wiggins now that you've had the opportunity to work with him a little bit more? (*Carita Parks)* "I'm excited about Nate. Nate's a hard worker. He's great in the classroom. He's a really smart football player. The athletic ability speaks for itself. Obviously, he's still young. He still has a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but if he continues to work hard, like how he's working in the classroom and on the field, I'm excited about what he's going to be able to do for us this year."