Larry Hartstein of cbssports.com (and formerly of the AJC) and I spoke with defensive coordinator Al Groh about the scrimmage and the progress of a few players. A couple thoughts below.
Q: What was your analysis of the scrimmage?
A: We made a lot of progress as far as the physical nature of our game. We have guys who understand how physically you have to play. We had the opportunity to give a lot of plays to some younger players that we’re trying to develop. Those were two things that really stood out the most.
Q: Anything that was disappointing?
A: Unless we give up no yards and no points, we can always do better. But that’s the process of camp. This is a process here. You’re really focused on the process rather than on the results. So what that process entails is still throughout this week we install, we continue to install our scheme, practice it, come in tonight, correct it, try to see those corrections, show up tomorrow, install again tomorrow and go through the same process. It’s kind of a daily (routine) the way things are going.
Q: Do you take anything from the fact that the offense threw a lot of passes and the defense had one interception?
A: We only look at one thing: the scoreboard. That’s what the defense’s job is, to keep the points down. Overall it was a fairly decent day in that respect.
Q: How is Jeremiah Attaochu doing so far?
A: Jeremiah’s having a solid camp. His game has clearly developed. He’s got skills. He’s a bright kid. Last year was just about just learning his job. Usually, that’s the process with players. In the beginning, they’ve just got to learn what their job is, or else they’re just going in the wrong places. Once they’re pretty solidified with that, then they begin the process of learning how to expertly do their job.
This camp has been entirely different for him in that respect in that last year, he was just learning the terminology – what his job was, where he was supposed to line up, where he was supposed to be after the snap. He’s pretty solidified with that. He’s got the opportunity to work on his skills to be able to out-execute the other player.
Q: What sorts of skills is he developing?
A: It’s just his overall game. A player at his stage, he’s only started one game in his career. So every facet of his game is in position to move forward, which he’s concentrating on doing with all things. At his position, you’ve got to play with strength and power against the run, he’s got to rush the passer, he’s got to be a very capable player in pass coverage. So there’s a lot of different ribbons to tie around that present.
Q: Emmanuel Dieke is another player who played well in the scrimmage. What do you see for him this year?
A: He’s another player (that) last year, coming off his redshirt year, it was really his first year (of playing) and. then, (also his) first year in this scheme. And you can see, his body type, he’s had to grow into his athletic ability a little bit plus understanding the scheme. He’s really in the same circumstance as Jerry, even though he was in the second year of school last year.
Whether it’s Brandon Watts or Attaochu or Louis Young or Euclid (Cummings) or Dieke or those guys, they were really just in their first year of being coached in the scheme last year. They were all rookies and this year, they’re just second-year players who certainly have a lot of the process in front of them with two more seasons after this one to go. Next year, we’ll probably be telling you in training camp just how much further they’ve gone, that they’ve really shown that they’re on the second half of their career.
Q: Are you seeing the development that you want to see from the second-team defensive line?
A: We certainly have more players who look like they might have the opportunity to give us minutes this year.
Q: What is the impact of losing Fred Holton?
A: He’s a really promising young player and had done a nice job throughout those 13 practices. That’s a downside. But that’s the nature of this game. This isn’t, well, I don’t want to mention any other sports. Then I’ll have all the activists after me. There’s a little more injuries incurred in this sport than in most others. A team has to develop a mentality of ‘next man up.’ I don’t follow this stuff, but I’m fairly certain that out of 119 I-A teams, there are probably no teams that have not lost a significant player at this point (of preseason).
That’s where you have to begin to develop your depth at an early time. That’s why, at this stage, we’re still trying to give a lot of turns to players that we may not necessarily are going to play in the games early, but sooner or later they’re going go to, so this is the timeframe to develop the depth and develop the mentality on the part of all of the players that when you’re put in, we expect you to play like a first-team player or else we wouldn’t put you in. That process now at that position is ongoing. We’ll see how it goes.
Q: How are you using Jemea Thomas in camp?
A: He’s playing both corner and safety.
Thoughts: Groh said what I imagine fans would want to hear about Attaochu, that he is continuing to get better after being one of the most improved players in spring practice, if not the most improved. He’s a player I’m really eager to see this season.
The brevity and vagueness of what he said about the second-team defensive line may be telling.
If Groh can develop replacements for his seniors, particularly defensive tackle Logan Walls and Jason Peters, where successors are less evident than for linebacker Steven Sylvester and safety Rashaad Reid, I think the defense will be a tough bunch in 2012 and 2013. There’ll be a lot of impact players who will be one year better in the scheme, most of them recruited to play in it.
You should check out Larry’s work here. Definitely some good stuff.