Here’s part II of a three-part Q&A with Georgia State football coach Bill Curry.
Q: Switching to the improvement hoped for in special teams, some of that may have changed during the past week (with the suspension of kicker Christian Benvenuto and dismissal of quarterback/punter Bo Schlechter), but how did that look by the end of spring practice?
A: It looked better. We haven’t done anything to write home about. We spent more time in the spring than we normally do on things like kickoff and kickoff return. Most teams only do Pat, field goal, block, punt and punt return in the spring. We did all the teams. We worked on technique, we worked to make starters understand that being on the kickoff coverage team is more important than starting on offense and defense. You are going to stay on it. You aren’t going to be pulled off because you sprained your pinky.
Special teams will be the way we win this year. We worked every day on a circuit of special teams skills: getting off blocks, blocking punts, blocking in the open field, things that aren’t traditional. We had 15 sessions of a five-station circuit of special teams skills that we hadn’t done before.
Q: Where did you get the idea of the circuit from?
A: It was in a lecture [Anthony] Midget heard during the convention from a special teams coach. We had always had a special teams period where we would do two or three special-teams skills.
Q: What about the transition to the 4-2-5? How did the guys appear to pick that up by the end of the spring?
A: Pretty well. Not great, but reasonably well. We have to get tougher and better up front. But our skill people made a statement about effort and breaking on the ball and changing direction and disguising coverage. Lot of that stuff the 4-2-5 gives you.
Q: When you say up front, people are going to wonder about the run defense, which was such an issue last year.
A: That’s what I’m talking about. We made some improvement in the spring but not enough.
Q: What would be satisfying? What would have pushed that standard to acceptable?
A: Probably nothing. That’s just got to happen. The only thing that would push it to acceptable is game performance. That’s true for every segment. We made up our mind to work every day, all of us, coaches, everybody, to put a real football team. The only thing that’s going to make a difference is performance on the field.
A: Year 3, you have more depth, more speed than you had the previous two years, does that raise the expectations?
A: We don’t have more depth everywhere. In some places we have less. We have more speed.
Q: How satisfied are you with the job that Ben Pollard is doing as strength and conditioning coach?
A: Very. Ben Pollard … I got a bunch of phone calls about him but I only placed one and it was to Mal Moore at Alabama. I’ve got one question, “When this guy was at Alabama, did he do a great job?”
“Did he do an Alabama-caliber job?”
“Thanks, that’s all I need to hear.”
“I’m not trying to turn him into a super human, but he’s awfully good.”
Q: That will manifest itself with better tackling, more aggression?
A: It has to.
Q: Who else surprised you? You’ve mentioned [Jordan] Giles, [D’Mario] Gunn, [Demarius] Matthews. Anyone else stand out as you reflect on the practices?
A: Ulrick John, our left tackle. He’s a potentially dominant player. We didn’t look at him and say “left tackle, the most important position…”
A lot of that stuff has been created and the fact that NFL people are paying left tackles like they pay quarterbacks now.
But he happens to be our left tackle. Last year he also happened to be a guard and our center because of all of the injuries. He can play all three. He’s one of few guys I’ve coached who can do all three.
When we recruited him he said “Coach, I only have one favor to ask you: I’ll come to Georgia State if I never have to play center. I said “I can’t promise you that, Ulrick.” I said, “I promise I won’t put you there unless I have to. But you are so good there.”
One day last year I walked up and said, “You’ve got to do it.”
Well, he didn’t just do it well, he did it joyfully. He’s a team guy. He’s physically capable of dominant performance. So, I’m not sure surprise is the right word.
It was good to see Tim Wynn worked the way he worked. If he will work in classroom the way he works on the field he could be a Rhodes Scholar. He works so hard on the field. We want him to do the same thing in the classroom. He’s certainly bright enough to do that.
We were pleased with Emmanuel Ogbuehi. He was a really powerful presence. In the second half of the spring he really caught the ball well. You get that guy turned up the field with the football in his hands, you get a problem in the secondary because nobody wants to tackle him.
I was really pleased with some of our walk-on guys. Davis Knowles did a nice job playing inside linebacker and getting pounded on. He’s wearing a “I hit for 15” jersey. That’s tough to do playing there.
I’m sick for Jamal Ransby, who was injured the entire spring. We are counting on him to come in as well.
The guy that made progress – he’s got has a long way to go but he made plays — is Qwontez Mallory. He’s got to beef up but he makes things happen.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu.