By Steven Bartolotta, April 5, 2011, 11:24 a.m.
Q: Eight practices down, seven to go, what are the areas that have really improved so far?
Coach Mac: I would have to say we are a much better team fundamentally and technique wise. When I got here we were probably the worst tackling team in college football on defense and those are some areas that we have really tried to improve in. It takes technique, coaching, and learning. Our coaches have really tried to work on the little things to try and get our team to improve in these areas. We have a high level of expectation and the kids are starting to understand what we expect out of them and improve.
Q:. On the other side of that, what are the areas of this football team that haven't improved?
Coach Mac: Depth, we have some major depth issues at a lot of spots right now. There's no doubt about it, we just don't have enough quality depth right now at enough spots. This freshman class that's coming in will have a lot of places to contribute right away.
Q: Quarterback battle, any separation between those two and is it possible to that one of the incoming freshman could win the battle in the fall?
Coach Mac: Derek Thompson is the guy right now, if we were lining up to play FIU down in Miami he would be our starter. I love the competition between the two guys right now though; they have great leadership, intelligence, and have really had each other better. What's funny is that Derek and Brent have talked about living together in the fall which would be great and speaks to those kids and their character. The two freshmen coming in are both fantastic athletes, but I have no idea if they could or not, check back in the middle of August.
Q: Physical play, has this team started to take on that look?
Coach Mac: We are making strides in that regard. In the past we haven't been a very physical team so it's going to take some time. A lot of the guys are a little sore right now but we are trying to get them ready to be physical in the fall.
Q: Any surprises this spring and anyone you didn't have on the radar stood out?
Coach Mac: I would say the most improved guy this spring has been Antonio Johnson. He's a guy that we didn't have anything to go off of with him, he didn't play so there was no history to look at with him but he's been one of the most improved players this spring. I really like what Brandin Byrd has done this spring, along with Michael Stojkovic.
Mike is a guy that every time I'm looking up, he's making plays. Some of our walk-on's have also been surprising and have actually been playing better than guys with scholarships. Drew Miller, Brandon McCoy, Chase Baine, and Tanner Smith have all improved a lot.
Q: People always talk about teams that have success in the regular season, point back to the off-season as to where it began; do you see any of those type tendencies developing with this group?
Coach Mac: So much of that started when I hired Coach (Frank) Wintrich down in the weight room. He's started everything with the program over the winter and that's the foundation. He really got things going development wise and we are starting to see some results.
Q: How hard has it been to change the culture of losing and how hard has it been to get the players to "buy into" you and your coaching staff?
Coach Mac: Very difficult and it has come slowly. When I first got here the off the field stuff was embarrassing to me, the ridiculous grades, the things that you have to fix first to be a good football team. We are slowly but surely making progress, the kids are having fun, they love to be in the meetings, the practice field is full of energy and I think that's some of the success that we are having. Any transition is going to be hard, especially for the kids, but I think that they have all handled it great.
Q: Have you enjoyed being back in the "grind" so to speak as the HC now and have you slept in your office yet?
Coach Mac: No, not once, the guys at the Homewood Suites have been great to me. My sister is one of my biggest fans, and she was telling me the other day that in all the photos and videos that she has seen of me I've got a big smile on my face all the time. I told her that's because I'm loving what I'm doing and where I'm at, but it's been great to be back in it.