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TE Coach Mike Pope

Q: How about the competition behind Kevin [Boss]?

A: We have three B's and a BC. We have Boss. We've got Beckum and we've got this young kid from Ohio State (Jake Ballard) that we signed as a free agent. Then we have Bear Pascoe, who comes to us from another team. Then we have Chandler who was here a year ago. Went to Dallas and then came back to us. The kid, Jake, from Ohio State, studied some things in the spring. Unfortunately, because they're on a different system, he wasn't able to come for most of the minicamp, OTAs and stuff. But he caught up quickly. He's a very bright kid. I'm very anxious. The fun part of this job for coaches that really enjoy coaching is to try to put the team together. To try to take the young guys and grow them. Some of them we don't know very well at all. You can't judge these guys without shoulder pads. We don't know that much about some of them until we see these pads on them in a couple of days. It's going to be fun to watch and challenging. No one around here is anywhere close to pleased with the way things finished. We absolutely have a rock in our shoe about this thing getting underway.

Q: With Boss running today, does that mean he's going to be full go?

A: Yeah, he's going to be able to practice. The trainers will determine the number of his plays. That will determine exactly who practices and how much and so forth. Some of these guys will be monitored. We will just see how it goes from day-to-day. He's anxious to go. He doesn't want to miss anything.

Q: How about Beckum. You guys have had trouble finding a spot for him.

A: We did a lot of work in the spring, trying to place him in the offense. He has to be, with his skill, his pass receiving ability, and his speed, a little bit more out in space. But you can't do that totally with him. You have to put him in. Otherwise they're going to play pass when he's in and they're going to play run when he's out. So we have to be able to develop him, which he's never really done because he's only played in a two-point stance. He has to be able to grow into being able to block someone at the end of the line of scrimmage or block as a fullback around the edges. He's aware of that. He's totally aware of that. I've talked to him a great deal about it and he knows that has to be the case in order for him to help the team.

Q: Did he make progress in that regard?

A: Yes he did. His shoulder is completely well. He should be ready to go. So we're very anxious to get the pads on. He does need blocking training. He just never has really had to do that. His attitude is good. He's strong. You can see it in his upper-body. His strength development has improved and I've monitored him in the summer. He's worked.

Q: Talking about blocking training, you had to do that a little bit with Kevin too?

A: Yeah. Most of these guys that came out of the space positions, the pass orientated offenses you just have to start over with them. If they haven't played inside, next to the tackle, it's a challenge to start from scratch with them. You gain some advantage because they're mature, they learn quicker, they can understand what you're talking about and you can give them good pictorial books of what you expect from them. We have had a number of guys play here that have been pretty darn good at that. They're easy to follow along in that trail of blockers that we've had here. It's a real good model for them, too, if they pace themselves

Q: Is it easier to make a pass-catcher a blocker, or a blocker a pass-catcher?

A: No. Both of them are challenges. Most guys can be adequate pass-receivers. If they're athletic enough to get to Albany, then they can catch the ball fairly adequately with some training. Some of them just have bad habits. They look away. They don't really have good habit skills. That can be taught, but you can't make them faster very much. You can help a little bit, but the blocking aspect, if they're tough enough and they'll show you that effort, then they'll improve a bit. Because of the way that college football has gone in the last several years, all of the offenses are so spread all over the field. A lot of these guys never even had the chance to be taught. They weren't in those close positions because it's all the wide-open, sandlot type football.

Q: We've seen some of that evolution at the pro level. Is that being dictated by college?

A: Absolutely it is. You go back in the draft this past year, there are four positions that are more and more difficult to find. A blocking fullback, because very few teams use that blocking lead fullback. Some, but not many. The tight end position, the middle linebacker position. The guy you would think about as a tough run stopper, but he has five wide-receivers spread out over the field, why do you need a guy to stop the run in the middle? You don't, so he's on the sidelines. So what you get is all undersized linebackers with speed. And then the strong safety position. Strong safeties generally can't go cover wide receivers. So if you have four wide receivers in the game, the strong safety doesn't really have a place to line up. If you could say he could cover this guy man-to-man, but he can't because they're bigger and slower a little bit, but tougher and more run players. So those four positions, two on offense and two on defense really are becoming very, very difficult to find in the draft. Back to your question, the reason is colleges are not using them. Those are the positions that need to be developed, I think, the most. Quarterbacks throw fifty passes a game, some of them. Receivers run routes the whole game. So they've had a lot of training, but these four positions I just talked about, they don't get much background. You have to really grow them.

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