August 17, 2009

Q & A With Coaches: Part Three - P Darnell & Downing

Part One: Running Backs Coach Keith Grable
Part Two: Secondary Coach Kendrick Shaver

Two of the smallest groups on the field are discussed today in the third installment of the coaches question-and-answer series at Northern Colorado. First on the docket is third-year quarterbacks coach Pete Darnell before attention switches to the kicking game and head coach Scott Downing.

Each conversation will have four to five questions asking the respective coaches about fall camp thus far and what they see for the future of their position.

Pete Darnell
Question: For the first time in quite a while, there hasn't been a "quarterback controversy" during fall camp. Has that changed the atmosphere among the quarterbacks at all?

PD: Obviously, (Sr. Bryan) Waggener is definitely the starting quarterback, but there is still the competition a little bit for the number two slot so the competition level is still going. It's obviously a good feeling to have a guy that you know is going to be the starter. He had a pretty good year last year and having him coming back so that's better than going to camp and having to figure out who's going to be your guy, so that's obviously a better deal than how it's been.

Q: How do you feel the two true freshmen, Cameron Deen and Tim Tancik, have picked up the offense thus far?

PD: They're still swimming a little bit to be honest. It's to be expected when they're coming into a new system. We ask our quarterbacks to do a lot more. Every year it seems we're adding more and more to (the playbook). Right now, they're still swimming a little bit, they're both trying to pick it up and they're doing a good job.

Q: What do you think will be the recipe for success for Waggener and the offense?

PD: Last year we were a heavy pass team, we threw the ball 39 times a game. I think this year, with adding a few good running backs, we'll have a good run game and be a lot more balanced and take a little bit of the load off of Waggener, where he doesn't feel like he has to make every single play. Also, we've got some pretty good wideouts to get the ball to, they've got a lot of speed now on the outside, we can get them the ball and they can make some things happen for us. At the end of the day, I think that's the recipe, he doesn't feel like he has to make every single play, he can get it to some other guys and they can make some plays.

Scott Downing
Question: You return two placekickers with plenty of experience. Talk about what that brings to the special teams.

SD: Anytime you have experience it's a plus. In the game experience is huge because now both Michael (York, Sr.) and Zak (Bigelow, Jr.) feel comfortable on the field. They feel comfortable being in pressure situations so we have a lot of confidence in both of them. It gives us an opportunity to know when we send the kicker out on the field, we've got a better chance than most to put points on the board.

Q: What has been your take on the punting in practice thus far?

SD: I think that Cameron (Kaman, So.) has worked very, very hard in the offseason and I think he's ready to have a good year. Cameron is a very talented athlete, he's got a live leg so that's very helpful. Obviously, we've also worked with (Jr, safety) Max Hewitt and Max as a safety gives you another weapon because he not only can punt it, but he can go down and make the tackle as well so he's kind of the ace in the hole. Our young guy, (Fr) Tanner Ellingsen who's been in camp has shown some really good things. He's got a really good leg and I think he's a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Q: What is the most important improvement the kickers/punters can make before the season opener at Kansas?

SD:  Accuracy of kicks: accuracy of punts, accuracy of kicks, accuracy of kickoffs. One of the things we do is we shape coverage on every cover team to the kick and when we have a really good idea where that kick is going it allows us to cover even more aggressively than most teams. We've talked a lot about accuracy of kick and I think our guys are doing a good job of it.

Q: What is your favorite moment of camp so far this season?

SD: I suppose my favorite moment was our first team period. It was just the fact that our guys came out and they practiced with a lot of enthusiasm. There was a lot of retention of what we had taught the older guys in the spring. There was just a sense that they understood and they still understand what we're expecting them to do as Northern Colorado football players. I thought the older guys did a great job of setting the tempo for the season, for camp, with that first team period and our younger guys did a great job of learning from the veterans from what college football is all about