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    BLOG: Catching Up with Coach McCall

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    Tuesday's was the penultimate practice before the 'Cats close out their spring labors with a Saturday exhibition at Ryan Field. So we felt it time for a chat with offensive coordinator Mick McCall, who began our conversation with an overview of that unit he directs. "I think we have really, really good chemistry with the quarterbacks and the receivers and the running backs," he said here. "I think they've got really good chemistry and work together, which they can build on in the summer and into fall camp. I think the line is working at it. We've got some guys dinged up a little bit. But we're really, really athletic. Now we've got to figure out how and why we do certain things that make sense so they don't have to think about it."

    Was he saying the line is athletic, or the whole offense?

    "I'm talking about everybody. Overall. We've gotten so much better at cutting loose and just playing and worrying about things later on down the road when we'll fix them. And the kids come back and they usually fix it right after they make a mistake. They usually haven't made the same mistake twice if they're cutting loose and playing. When they've made the same mistake twice is when they've held back the first time."

    From thinking too much?


    We turned now to quarterback Kain Colter, who after a scrimmage two Saturdays ago talked of looking downfield while he scrambled instead of immediately busting out on a run. Was that alteration something McCall had noticed?

    "Oh, yeah, and we've talked about it too. This is the time to work on it. Later on, he's going to be able to take off and go when he wants too. He'll make some plays with his feet. That's not what we're worried about. We're worried about, or concerned about, being a quarterback, and playing the position of quarterback, and distributing the ball. That's his thing right now."

    But his instinct is to run.

    "Sure. And every young guy's that way. It's one, two in progression, take off and run. Especially when you've got God-given skills like he does, you're going to use them. But he's really worked hard at being a quarterback, going through his progressions, distribute the ball, get it to his playmakers."

    Our impression, we tell him, is that Colter feels he can make every play even if there is traffic around his receiver where it appeared different with Dan Persa, who seemed to sometimes err on the side of caution. So is it possible they'll have to rein Colter in?

    "Ah-h-h-h, we'll see, we'll see when we get to that point. Right now, I still want him cutting loose, and I still want him following his instincts, and the progression that he's taught. He's trying to do what we talk about, and he's got a really good football mind. You can tell him something once, and it's locked away. It's locked away and will show up a little bit later. I can remember one specific thing that happened. It didn't happen for two weeks, but we had talked about it. He made a check the other day like it was nothing because that's what he saw. I was like, 'We haven't seen that in awhile, but you're right. That's what we talked about.' So you tell him once, it's locked away. That's one great thing about him."

    We turned now to running backs and mentioned that sophomore (in the fall) Treyvon Green, who was inconsistent as a true freshman, looks quicker, less inhibited, than he did last fall.

    "I think a lot of guys in that position are really trying to cut it loose now and playing a little more physical. I think they are. I've been pleased with the progression of those guys even without (Mike) Trumpy (who sat out the spring while recovering from a torn ACL) in there. And Trey's a warrior. He's been all the way through and not been hurt where some other guys have been dinged up here and there."

    Pat Fitzgerald, we tell McCall, has opined that Green has benefited simply by being in the program for awhile.

    "There's no doubt. He's gotten the start of the playbook for the third time now. He got it at the beginning of the year last year. He got it in bowl practice. Now he got it in spring. So now he's got a pretty good feel for how we teach things, what it is. All those kids, they don't get everything the first time through or the second time. The third time, it starts to come, and the fourth time, when he gets it in the fall again, it's going to help him even more."

    Now we turn to the receivers and smile and say that any number of them look alike.

    McCall laughs. "I don't know. I can tell the difference."

    Busted, we clarify our observation by noting the similar body types of 6-foot-3, 225-pound Christian Jones, 6-foot-2, 195-pound Rashad Lawrence, 6-foot-5, 215-pound Kyle Prater and 6-foot-3, 200-pound Cameron Dickerson.

    "Big, tall, long guys who can run a little bit."

    Are the 'Cats looking for that type and what advantages to they provide?

    "We've recruited those guys, and we're going to continue to recruit those kinds of kids. We're looking for playmakers."

    But, we recall, checking our memory, didn't he say last year that those types of guys are often quicker than a defender might think?

    "They are. Their long strides get them on top of the defenders quicker than you think. And as a quarterback, it's a lot easier to throw to a big six-three, six-four guy than it is to a five-ten guy. They've got more catch radius. So, yeah. You can put the ball in different spots. That's another thing we're finding out. We're able to do that."

    You're finding out where to put the ball?

    "Throw the ball up high, or behind. We're still working on that. We don't have everything down. Like the one to Christian in the back of the end zone (during the practice just ended), that probably shouldn't have been thrown. But we're working on some of those higher-up balls that we put on Drake (Dunsmore, the graduated superback) a year ago. We've got a bunch more guys who can make that play now."

    And another change is the move of Demetrius Fields inside.

    "Yes. And Christian too."

    So they are the successors to Jeremy Ebert, who led the 'Cats in receptions the last two seasons?

    "And Drake and Zeke (Markshausen, who led them in receptions in '09)."

    Why them?

    "We just felt it was a better fit for them inside, and the guys outside, a better fit for them outside. Now, they're interchangeable. We'll move guys around. But just to start with, we felt that was the best fit for our program."

    Since Demetrius is a bit more rugged than the rangier guys?

    "Yeah, and the same with Christian (who has some meat on his long hoof as well). He's a little bit bigger, stronger, physical inside. It gives us a chance to do some things inside there."

    No one, we note now, mentions the redshirt freshman Dickerson when discussing the 'Cat receivers.

    "We do. We do. He's a real long guy that really has strides and gets up on you faster than you think. He's typical of what you just talked about, and he's getting better, he's getting better all the time. He makes plays. He's pretty physical outside. He'll block you. You're right. We've got a number of guys out there who can play."

    But the speedy Venric Mark is no longer among this group?

    "Venric's definitely playing running back."

    So he won't be at receiver at all?

    "Probably not outside. He's doing a good job inside, and he's going to be a returner, and he can make some plays for us as a running back."

    And, finally, this has to be asked. Is it possible we see Trevor Siemian slipping in at quarterback and Colter, as he did last season, lining up as a receiver?

    McCall smiles. "We'll get to that. I don't know. Right now they're playing quarterback, and we'll see. We'll see. There's always a possibility of that."

    (COMING UP: On Thursday we will check in with defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.)

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