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August 8, 2010

Demands increase with age

Experience and talented depth have their advantages, Butch Davis said as training camp opened for the 2010 collegiate football season.

"We can probably actually be tougher on them," Davis said. "Mentally we're going to challenge them. We talked about it in our team meeting. We want to encourage a lot of competition in practice. We want to encourage an awful lot of situational football. We have got a lot of guys that have played.

"We don't want to leave camp fundamentally unsound. There will be a lot of emphasis on great fundamentals, but we have to become a much better situational football team."

Two-minute drills and other offensive scenarios come to mind when a coach mentions situational football, but Davis includes the defensive side of the ball as well.

"There are some areas in our breakdowns and our studies over the springtime and into the summer that we weren't very good at," Davis said. "The defense, for example, was third in the nation last year in third downs. We were at 29.4 percent in getting the other team off [the field].

"But on first downs, [opponents] averaged almost 5.2 yards per play. That is atrocious. It's amazing that we played as good a defense as we did as poorly as we played first down."

A patchwork offensive line and freshman wide receivers led to even more glaring troubles on offense.

"The number of three-and-outs offensively, that is a crusade," Davis said. "We can't have that volume of three-and-outs. If you're going to get 11, 12, 13, 14 possessions a ball game, hopefully you only you have one or two, or maybe none.

"If you have four three-and-outs and you're only getting 11 possessions, you have got to try to score in seven possessions to win the game. It's not enough frequency."

Situational football also means making the most of the opportunities that arise.

"One thing on defense was missed-play opportunities," Davis said. "[Defensive coordinator Everett Withers] figured out we had in the neighborhood of 17 potential turnovers that we could have created on first down and we missed it. We didn't recover a fumble. An interception hit us in the hands and we dropped it. We had opportunities to get off the field and stop a possession."

The demands will not be just on the front-line performers, either.

"We need some others guys [to produce]," Davis said. "We talked about it. It's time for guys like Dwight Jones, guys like Todd Harrelson, some of those guys need to step up. They have been in this program now going into their third season. They need to go out here and compete for opportunities to play."

Davis said that the veterans will play a key role in getting more production from kids who have been backups in the past.

"For the first time we're getting some of the byproduct of some of the older kids having enough confidence in their own abilities to be able to share an awful lot of things with the younger kids," Davis said. "Guys are talking to guys, saying here is the way to watch film; here is the way to look at coverages; here is the way to look pre-snap reads.

"You're getting a lot of the little nuances that really helped kids grow during the course of the spring. Some of these older kids have played in more than 30 games."

And now is the time to show what they have learned.


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