April 16, 2011
WATCH: Exhibition Highlights | Coach Fitzgerald Interview | D. Persa Interview | J. Matthews Interview | K. Colter Interview
2011 Spring Exhibition Statistics
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
Quick hitters ...
This Saturday was dark and blustery and spitting rain, a setting perfect for one of those Holmesean adventures that pits the great detective against some hound from Baskerville. Still, in the 'Cats spring-practice-ending scrimmage at Ryan Field, Trevor Siemian threw touchdown passes of 17 yards to Charles Brown and and of 18 yards to Brendan Barber; Evan Watkins went 7-of-11 for 70 yards and threw his own touchdown pass to Rashad Lawrence; and Kain Colter went 5-of-10 for 35 yards and skittered 27 yards for a score.
None, in other words, simply blew away his competition and, together, they did nothing to clear up which one would emerge as the primary backup to the injured Dan Persa. "I still don't know if that's necessarily cleaned up," offensive coordinator Mick McCall would say with a laugh when he was asked about that. "We're going to have to make decisions. But we still have a long, long time (until next season starts)."
The questions about Persa's backup were persistent this spring and, just as persistently, they were brushed aside by 'Cat head coach Pat Fitzgerald. He was not, here, being ingenuous or impolite. It is just that he is not a big believer in depth charts at this time of the year. (Look at his team's spring prospectus and you'll see that, at each position, the players are listed alphabetically.) So Saturday, when he was asked if there would be one coming out sometime next week, it was no surprise when he chuckled and said, "No. No. No. I mean, if you really want one, I'll give you one. I don't really care. I care more about when we get ready game week. Al Netter's our starting left tackle. Brian Mulroe's our starting left guard. But a lot of guys, what happens between now and camp (in late summer) is going to determine their role."
So who's Danny's number one backup, someone threw at him.
"Three guys," he said with a smile. "Yeah. Yeah. Born at night, but not last night. So. No. It'll probably be going into game week (before a decision is made). It'll also be determined on how Danny comes back in camp and how he's feeling. We fully anticipate him coming back full speed and ready to go ... He upped his interval training last week and, man, it was awesome seeing him be sore and work through the growing pains of breaking up scar tissue. So he's way ahead of schedule. He's doing really well."
Siemian, who will be a redshirt freshman in the fall, said this when asked about a depth chart possibly appearing next week: "We haven't heard much about that. But we're going to have meetings with coach next week. He might or might not say how it stands right now."
This is what Watkins said to the same question: "There's curiosity. That's to be expected. But it's out of our hands. The coaches will do what they're going to do based on what we've done this spring. We'll see what happens."
Then there was this from Colter: "I have no idea. I'm going to leave that to the coaches. But once fall comes around, it's going to get more clear about who's going to play. I just want to be on the field somewhere. If Dan comes back, I'll try to go play somewhere else and also be that backup guy."
Have he and the coaches talked about him playing somewhere else, he was asked.
"We've always talked. We all expect Dan to come back 100 percent. If he comes back, we're not going to fool ourselves. He's going to be the guy. So we've talked, I'm a football player, I want to be somewhere on the field helping the team. If that's at running back, receiver, anywhere, I'm going to go out there and try to make some plays."
"Good," Fitzgerald said when told of Colter's comments.
So does he have a plan where he is used as something other than a quarterback?
Fitzgerald, deadpan, could barely contain a smirk as he stared back at his questioner for long seconds. Then, still deadpan, he said, "Sure. Sure. He's a quarterback, number one. He's had a really good spring. So first and foremost, he's a quarterback. Now are you asking me will we be creative? I don't know. You can look at our past history and assume so. We'll do some different things. But we're going to develop him as a quarterback."
Here's Watkins, when asked the difference in him between now and that day he took over for Persa last fall: "I'm a lot more composed. Experience helps with my reads. The spring, I started off a little slow. But I progressed everyday, got better. That's all you can ask for."
Persa's always telling him to cut it loose. Has he been able to do that?
"Yeah. When I say I started off spring a little slow, I was a little too tense, thinking a little too much. But as spring went along, I was just playing. That really helped.
And here's Siemian, when asked if there is actually competition among the quarterbacks: "When you step back away from it, you might see that. But we three, we're practicing together, we're getting the same reps, we're helping each other out. And it's not our call at the end of the day. So we're all just trying to put the pedal to the metal, get better and we'll take it from there."
And here's Colter, on whether he feels himself in a competition: "Oh, yeah, definitely. Everyday I think you have to go in there thinking someone wants to take your job if you have a job, or you want to get a job. So everyday is competition. You go out there and try to be the best out there."
And in other news: The 'Cats on Saturday trotted out the Pistol, a formation that lines the running back up behind the quarterback. "The best thing about it is we don't have to change things up front because we're going to block plays the same way no matter what," said McCall ... Twenty-four players, many of them prominent, were held out of the scrimmage due to injury or Fitzgerald's decision ... The quarterbacks wore purple jerseys, which meant they were untouchables, but the scrambling Colter took a couple hits. "I was a little confused by that," he said with a laugh. "But we were having fun out there. We were joking together." ... With Adonis Smith sidelined and Mike Trumpy seeing limited action, walk-on running back Tyris Jones got a good look and rushed for 30 hard yards on six carries. "Tyris has been a really good addition to what we do in the backfield. He's a downhill runner. He'll block as a fullback. He brings a toughness to that room and an attitude that is nice," McCall said of him. Added Fitzgerald: "He's great. He's going to have a role. He's going to have a role. He's a tough guy, he's physical, he's got a lot of passion. We'll see once we get our full complement of running backs back at camp what role he has. But he'll be on the field, if not in the backfield as a superback. I like Tyris a lot."
And finally, Fitzgerald, on the spring: "We wanted to get our attitude back. I believe we've done that. The guys are having fun, they're competing their butts off, it's been a real physical spring. And we've solidified some competitive depth. Coming out of spring, this will be the most depth that we've had. So that encouraging."
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