Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker – Fan Day Remarks

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Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker – Fan Day Remarks

Mel Tucker - Fan Day 2018
Mel Tucker – Fan Day 2018
 
Mel Tucker took the podium on fan day and immediately asked for questions from the assembled media. Here are highlights from his remarks followed by a video of the entire session:
 
On the makeover of the defense from last season…
“In 2011 with Jacksonville [Jaguars], I think we had maybe eight or nine new starters and they were all free agents. Then they were coming off a lockout deal so we had spring training camp which was pretty tough, but every year there are different challenges. Every time you have a new player you have a new defense so we work really hard to develop all of our guys and get them ready to go. I’m excited about what we might be able to do.”
 
On no longer having a player like Roquan Smith and how that changes the identity of the defense this season…
“We talked to our guys yesterday about it, what’s going to be the identity of this year’s defense. … Obviously [Roquan] is a great player but it’s next man up. So we’ll rally and we’ll develop the guys that we have and we’ll see what the identity of this defense is this year.”
 
Deangelo Gibb (8) and Tyrique McGhee (26)
Deangelo Gibb (8) and Tyrique McGhee (26)
On the expectation of Deangelo Gibbs and where he fits in…
“He’s playing in the middle spot, our star spot, he’s also looking at safety. The expectation is to go out there and do what you’re asked to do, give great effort, be coachable, and work to get better every day; and that’s the expectation of all of our players.”
 
On what Tucker has seen from that “next man up” and if they’re capable of replacing an athlete like Roquan Smith…
“I’ve seen these guys mature, they have a better grasp of the defensive scheme. They work really hard in the weight room to develop and have developed good chemistry within that group and I think they’re hungry. They are all going to get opportunities. The depth chart is going to change from day to day and nothing is set in stone and we’re going to play our best guys. We want to create depth and we want as many guys what will help us as possible.”
 
On maintaining the level of last season given the personnel changes in the offseason…
“Well only time will tell. The standard of performance hasn’t been changed. We’re coaching our players and trying to develop them and teach them in a way that they can reach those standards. We always want to play great defense here regardless of who those players are. There are always going to be changes, there are always going to be new players step in and great players leave so that’s our job to get them ready. That’s why we’ve recruited well and we expect these guys to step in and play great defense for us.”
 
On the growth and expectations of Richard LeCounte…
“Richard has a much better grasp of the defensive scheme. At this point, it’s about the details. Really, the devil is in the details in our defense. He’s been more disciplined at what we’ve asked him to do. He asks really good questions. He spent a lot of time in the offseason studying and I’ve seen his overall maturity level improve. We’ll see how far he goes in camp but I think the arrow is up with him.”
 
On using the Second-and-26 breakdown as a teaching tool…
“We learn from everything, whether it’s good or it’s bad. Obviously we study it, we break it down, and we know what we need to improve, we take it with us and we move on, hopefully it will help us down the road.”
 
On the versatility of the star position and whether it was a revelation or envisioned from the start…
“In this day and age in football, the offenses are so complicated and so diverse that you have to have different ways to defend them. To be able to have different body types in that position, guys with different skill sets for first and second down and also for third down and passing situations that’s what you have to have. We work to develop as many players at that position as we can. We want to have depth at the star position so we work defensive backs there, we also work linebackers at that position.”
 
Notre Dame transfer Jay Hayes - Camp Sunshine 2018
Notre Dame transfer Jay Hayes – Camp Sunshine 2018
On what Jay Hayes’ experience can bring to the defense line…
“He’s played a lot of football, he’s a mature guy, he’s a high-character guy, he’s a high-motor guy, he’s a leader, and he’s a team guy. He’s very unselfish. When you can add a guy like that to your roster, that’s like gold. We’ve been very happy with what he’s done so far. I think he’s fit in well with our group.”
 
On the assistantship of the support staff not only for recruiting but for everyday tasks like practice…
“They help a great deal with practice. It’s all hands on deck when preparing for our practices. Our practices are complicated with a lot of drills going on at one time. It’s organized chaos. We need everyone to be able to pitch in and help us prepare so we can have an organized practice.”
 
On having a cover corner like Deandre Baker in terms of confidence…
“We want to play a lot of tight coverage so we have to have corners that can play man-to-man, that can play on top and can make plays on the ball at the catch point. He’s a guy that can do that and he’s proven that. Obviously we want to work to continue to get him better every day. As many of those guys that we have, the better coverage we’re going to have. He does allow us to do some things defensively. Baker is one of the guys I take a lot of pride in and I’m very proud of what he’s done because he’s worked himself into what he is today as a player. He works really hard in practice, he’s developed in the meeting room, he’s emerged as a leader for us, and I’m really excited to see what he does for us this season.”
 
On where Jay Hayes fits in and what is in store for the nose guard position…
“I really see him in pass-rush situations to be the inside pass rusher. I’m not sure how much Nose he’s going to play. He has the ability to play all those spots up front so he give us position versatility. He’s a team guy, he’s going to do whatever we ask him to do. … We have Julian Rochester, we have Tyler Clark who can play there, we have [DeQuan] Hawkins-Muckle who can play there, we have Devonte Wyatt; we have guys that can play there. Most of our guys can play multiple positions; a lot of the techniques carry over from In to Nose and vice-versa so we feel good there. We got to develop more guys that can play more inside. Jon Adkins was a heck of a player. He was maybe somewhat unsung but when you go back and watch the self-scout and watch all the plays from last season and you see he did a lot for the team defense. He was a heck of a guy and you always want to be strong down the middle. The standard has been set inside.”
 
On what position Otis Reese will play…
“I always thought that he could play safety because he’s athletic and he’s got good change-of-direction, he’s got good ball skills and good range on the deep part of the field and he’s a good tackler. I don’t see whether there’s any limitations on what position he can play in our secondary role as a safety and I feel good about that. I’m used to playing with big safeties. I remember a guy named Sean Jones with the Cleveland Browns; that joker was a nice sized guy and he hit you. [Otis] has done a nice job since he’s been here; he’s picking up things well. He practices really hard, gives tremendous effort.”
 
Jonathan Ledbetter (13) and David Marshall (51) - Fan Day 2018
Jonathan Ledbetter (13) and David Marshall (51) – Fan Day 2018
On Jonathan Ledbetter’s progression … 
“It’s a credit to him. He’s a good kid. He’s a good young man, and he has always been that. So, I think he has learned from the past. We have encouraged him to develop and move forward and get better and better every day — make good decisions, become a leader for our team, become a better football player, work in the weight room — do all those things. We have a program here with our support staff, player development and all our coaches and people at the academic center. We have a program where we expect guys to progress and mature and get better, and we take pride in that. He is a prime example of a guy who was at this point and now he is here because he has bought into our program.”
On Deandre Baker becoming more of a leader and how he has embraced that role … 
“He is more of a lead-by-example type, but those type of guys who don’t say a lot, when they do speak, everyone listens, and he is that type of guy. He has a really good feel for his teammates. If he needs to get on a guy in front of other guys he will do that. He may need to pull a guy to the side and do a one-on-one he will do that, and that is the sign of a good leader.”
On if he ever imagined how salaries for coordinators would develop … 
“No. I have never been in it for the money, and I really don’t think about it very much. My passion is teaching, coaching and developing players. I enjoy that, and as long as I enjoy doing that, that is as long as I’ll coach.”
On the rushing yards in the first Auburn game last season … 
“We did not play very disciplined in that game. We got pushed around a little bit in that game, so when you are not disciplined and not stout as you need to be then people are going to run the ball on you. We made some adjustments. We got on the guys to be able to stop that run, and the next time we played them we played them a lot better.”
On when he saw signs of Deandre Baker’s ability to have success … 
“The first day I saw him we were at an offseason program. I saw him doing some of the drills, and I pulled him over and said ‘ hey, I think you could be a heckuva player — you are six-feet tall, you are the fastest guy out here, you have good change of direction, you have great length.’ I said ‘ I really believe that you can do something here. All you have to do is listen, pay attention, do what I ask you to do.’ That is what he did. So, that is a credit to him. We develop players along the way, guys buy into our program… The focus for him right now is to get better each and every day. Work on the details — technique and fundamentals. Doing the things that got you to this point and then taking it up a notch. That’s what we are going to do with him.”
On J.R. Reed stepping into a leadership role … 
“J.R. is another guy who has stepped up as a leader for us. He’s comfortable with his teammates. He is establishing himself as a player that can produce on the field. He gives great effort; he does really well in the video room — takes good notes. He is very unselfish and helps other players. His character — he is an impeccable guy. He has a really good pedigree, so he is another guy we are leaning on for leadership. I’ll say this — we tell our guys all the time that you do not have to just be a senior or necessarily a starter. Leadership comes from all different areas. If you have the ability to lead and affect someone else in a positive way then do that. We encourage that.”
 
Tyson Campbell dunks at Camp Sunshine - June 2018
Tyson Campbell dunks at Camp Sunshine – June 2018
On Tyson Campbell … 
“Tyson is playing corner right now and right now we are only playing him at one position. So, all the corners on our roster, he is competing with those guys. All of our guys know we are going to play the best players. We give guys lots of opportunities to show what they can do. We do a lot of two-spot drills; we take a lot of reps; we coach every player whether it is a walk-on or a senior. It doesn’t matter. We coach everyone of them the same. We are trying to develop as many players as we can so we have the best football team that we can have. We will see what happens. He will get what he deserves.”
On the star position and having three corners on the field … 
“It depends on the situation. At the star position, we have had linebackers there. Then, we’ve had more of a cover star. When it all shakes out our job is to find out who are the best guys to put out there and then see what they can do. We have total flexibility in that. We all also have a starting point and then we go from there. We have scrimmage one and then we have scrimmage two so we can make decisions on who we think can help us. If we need to move a guy inside to a spot we can do that.”
On Tyrique McGhee’s flexibility … 
“That’s huge if you have a utility guy like that who is a good player. You do not want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none, so it takes a unique type of guy to be able to play multiple positions and to be able to produce at a high level. We think Tyrique is that type of player. So far he has shown that he can handle that. You could relate him somewhat to someone in Aaron Davis’ role over the past couple of years. Aaron played every position in the secondary for us, and I think good secondaries have those guys who can play multiple positions and be problem solvers and gives you the ability to play the type of coverages you need to play when you are playing.”

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.