(Photo by Adrian J. Hernandez / New Day Review)

Aug 10, 2017 at Wayne Densch Center

Availability: OC/WR coach Troy Walters, DC Erik Chinander

OC/WR coach Troy Walters

After the first scrimmage Walters wants his offense to focus more on detail.

Well, first and foremost, we got out healthy. That’s always a huge deal. Because any time you go live tackling, you always want to come out healthy. So we did that. A lot to learn from. There was some ups and downs. Made some plays. But, at the same time, as an offense, we gotta come together and have more detail. The guys know what to do. Now it’s all about the fine points. The detail. ‘Cause the margin for being successful and not being successful is that much. And so it comes down to just fine-tuning and really paying attention to detail of every route, every run, every block. And that’s what we need to improve on.

You know, like I said, detail. We gotta group that could be pretty special, if we do things the right way. If we’re detailed and fundamentally sound. And like I said the guys know what to do now it’s about doing it exactly how we’re coaching. You know, the defense is throwing a lot at us. And so the details change from play to play. And they just gotta kinda grasp that and embrace that. And if we do that, we’ll be a special unit.

Walters took note of how well freshman quarterback Noah Vedral played.

Composure. You know, he did a good job running the offense. Calm, composured, composed. Understood what we’re trying to do and made plays. Any time, whoever that quarterback is, he’s gotta make plays—with his feet, with his arm. We’re gonna put checks on him. So we’re making the right check. And he did it all. So, great performance for a freshman, and we look for him to build on that.

Walters has enjoyed what he has seen from his freshmen wide receivers.

Yeah, I mean, Gabriel Davis—athletic, smart, tough. That’s the one thing you notice when he’s on the field. We ask him to block, he’s gonna block. He’s gonna get after that corner, and that’s what we need on the perimeter. We have a saying, “No block, no rock.” You gotta be able to block first, and he does a great job. And he just wants it. You know, he’s in my office he’s in meetings—he’s the first one in meetings. He studies his butt off. Just his effort is awesome. You know, Marlon’s [Williams] coming back form a little hamstring injury, so we know we kinda gotta get him going a little more and get him in shape. When the ball’s in the air, he snatches it. He’s a strong receiver. And Emmanuel Logan-Greene is doing a good job. He’s coming on. He’s athletic, he’s slippery. Kinda like myself when I played. And so he’s gonna help us out this year as well.

This season, Tre’Quan Smith has become the leader of the wide-receivers group.

Big thing for him is set the example. Go out there and do what we’re asking you to do. And the younger guys are gonna follow him. The young guys are gonna watch him. And so he’s gotta step his game up, which he has. You know, it’s kinda lead by example right now. Set the example, and he’s doing that. And he’s gotta be more vocal. You know, when a guy’s not doing what he’s supposed to do, he’s gotta be at him—not be scared—and he’s earned the right to be the vocal leader and to stand up and say, “Hey, you’re not doing it right. Do it this way, and go from there.” So he’s having a good camp, and we just gotta keep allowing him to get better so when Aug. 31 comes, he’s hitting his stride.

Walters is proud of how his team’s running game is doing, considering it’s going up against a defense he’s also proud of.

It was good. Like I said, the defense is throwing a lot at us. And so up front, there’s all sorts of different looks. They’re twisting. You know, they’re pretty stout up front. So, you know, we were up and down. There were some minus runs where the defense got us, and then we had some where we found a crease, and we hit ‘em. You know, the backs are running hard. So, it’s just continue to get better, get detailed and then, next scrimmage, come out and do better than we did last time.

The offense is ahead of where it was this time last season.

Yeah, we’re further along. We’re further along. We can do more. You know, I think last year’s scrimmage, you know, we probably only had 10 plays. Just to keep it simple. Now we basically threw the whole playbook at ‘em. Everything that we have installed. So, we’re definitely further along. I think the defense is further ahead, which I keep telling the offense, “Hey, you’re going against one of the best defenses in our conference, if not the country. So, yeah, they’re gonna win some, and we’re gonna take our lumps at times, but understand it’s gonna make us better in the future.”

DC Erik Chinander

In the first scrimmage, Chinander wished more expected-to-be-good players got more reps.

The post-scrimmage evaluation: I think the guys that were supposed to play good, played good. They didn’t get as many reps as some of the guys we wanted to see a little more action. That next crew, there was some good things, some bad things. Some guys maybe need to get a little more run with the ones. Some guys maybe need to get moved down. And that three crew is still coming along a little bit. Some of those freshmen still trying to make their way. Still trying to get the communication down. Still trying to get lined up correctly, as expected. Tackled okay. Tackled okay in the scrimmage. Few that we missed that we should’ve had. For the most part, it was pretty good. But still, a couple critical tackles that we need to get corrected. But, overall, I was pleased, but we got a ways to go.

For a scrimmage, Chinander said there isn’t much that is planned besides what personnel is out there and down and distance. Plays are called based on looks given by the offense.

Usually in practice setting, sometimes we just script by purely down and distance, personnel. How I would script in a game. And sometimes we work together with the offense. Kind of give each other the look we want or the look—make it hard on the defense, we make it hard on the offense. Or make it easy on the defense, make it easy on the offense. For scrimmage, we kinda go out and just call it. You know, Coach Walters is calling up the offense, and I think I was calling the defense. Only thing we have scripted is where the ball’s gonna start and what group is gonna be in. Other than that, it’s just calling it.

Chinander likes the depth of his defense and how hard everyone is competing.

No, I mean, that defensive-line crew, you know, expect it to be maybe the rock of the team. But those guys are nipping at their heels. I mean, those guys can’t get a day off right now. They can’t get a day off. ‘Cause those guys are right on them. That inside-linebacker crew, like we said, if we had to play a game today Pat [Jasinski] and Chequan [Burkett] would probably be the starters. But Nate Evans and Gabriel Luyanda are—I mean, it’s such a tight race right now. Some of it’s a little bit—athletically, one’s better; one’s better in the scheme. So there’s gonna be some guys, maybe, that are flip flopping in this lineup. As well as those young safeties are playing. Antwan Collier and Richie Grant. I knew what Tre [Neal] was; I knew what Kyle [Gibson] was. I knew they were gonna be ready and step up and take this thing over. But those young guys are not going gentle into the night right now. They’re putting up a fight. So you may see some things flip flop. It may go week to week, throughout the game, you know? And I’m not afraid of an injury right now. I think we’re pretty deep everywhere. We just gotta find out who’s gonna be those corners.

For Chinander, Luyanda has been impressive in training camp.

Gabe has been just an awesome addition. Athletically, he’s good as anybody we have. He’s a long, tall kid. He’s thick. He can run like crazy. His issue right now, as with any new guy coming in, is learning the scheme, learning the calls. And when you’re playing that inside backer, you’re the communication, you’re the microphone for the rest of the defense. So, that’s hard on a new guy coming in, but he’s functioning right now. If he can step that mental game up, then he’s a guy that could possibly have a chance to overtake one of those guys.

Chinander needs to see more out of his corners before he can name the starters.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable right now putting out any kind of depth chart. I mean, you got Chris [Johnson] there, you got [Brandon] “Bam” Moore, you got Keenan Johnson, you got Rashard Causey, you got Byron Brown. I mean, you got guys everywhere. To me, nobody has separated themselves, right now. Some guys are a little better in coverage. Some guys are a little better tackling and being up close to the line of scrimmage. Some guys have a little better knowledge of the scheme that’s helping ‘em. But I feel if we had to put a depth chart out right now, that would be a position I would not feel comfortable naming two starters tight now.

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Nevelle Clarke is suspended the first six games of the season for failing a drug test, so he is not practicing with the starters.

Yeah, right now he cannot be a one. Because he’s not gonna be a one the first game. So, other guys—we gotta get those guys ready. He’s gotta get some reps and get ready when his time comes. But, right now, he’s gotta learn. He’s gotta take mental reps, and he’s gotta learn on the run. Because I need to get other guys ready.

Chinander hopes to have his starting corners as soon as possible.

Yeah, you’d like it to be settled after the second scrimmage. Unfortunately, it may not be settled until Thursday before we play FIU.

For Chinander, he wants to change the demeanor of his defense when they’re down.

We talked today. The parts of the practice where we were winning the practice, our group was really enthusiastic—really a lot of effort. The sideline was how you want it to be. Then, when things got bad, things got quiet; it was a different demeanor. And I want that to flip flop. I want the demeanor to be higher when things are going bad and not just when it’s good. So I need the sideline—I need their demeanor, their mental state to be a little better in the second scrimmage. And also some of those tackles we missed. We gotta get those cleaned up. Some of the alignment with the young guys. But other than that, we just need to step on the gas a little bit.

Staying positive while things aren’t going your way is much more difficult when they are.

To me, it’s easy to be, you know, whatever the kids say. It’s easy to be hype; it’s easy to be lit when things are going good. When things are going bad, it’s hard. It’s hard. And we’re not there yet. The team is much, much better. The culture is much, much better. But that is hard. When it’s hot, when you’re three quarters the way through the scrimmage, that’s hard to be in that zone where you gotta fight it. And, “Can I fight just a little longer than the guy across form me?” That’s hard shit now. So, we just gotta get that mental part up.

For more on the Knights, as they prepare for their home-opener against the FIU Panthers, follow Ryan Weiss on Twitter at @NDR_RyanWeiss.