Jack Bicknell, Caleb Chandler Talk Start of Fall Camp


(Photo of Caleb Chandler: Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville football program recently kicked off the start of fall camp, as the Cardinals conducted their first practice session of the preseason this past Sunday.

Following their third practice on Tuesday, offensive line coach Jack Bicknell and offensive guard Caleb Chandler took time to meet with the media. They discussed the depth and rotation of the line, their focus on preventing sacks and tackles for loss, and more.

Below is the transcript from their press conference, as well as the videos:

Offensive Line Coach Jack Bicknell

(On his early impressions of the line)

I've been very, very impressed with the offensive line. It's been a great fall camp right now. It's a lot different. The five starters have played a lot of football, so that's a huge deal. We went third down today, they kind of threw a lot at us. They're going from even to odd (fronts), bear looks, and twists and everything else. It was just such a luxury to have guys that have seen that before, and they're able to pick it up. That's a huge, huge deal. Then we got some young guys. Mike Gonzalez, Luke Kandra, there's some got young guys that are gonna be there playing a lot of football to help us. I really feel great about the O-line. I think it's gonna be something that-we're going to be a strength for the team, I hope. What I'm trying to press them right now, is take it to the next level. It's not just be average, let's be great. It's been good so far, and we got to keep doing it.

(On his rotation philosophy knowing he has good depth)

We're gonna play eight guys. Those eight guys to me-and we're determining that right now. That's what I told those guys. I said, "look. I don't care if you played 40 games. If somebody comes in and he's better than you, he's playing." We got to win, simple as that. What I would really love to have is eight guys that feel like they're ready to go. That's what we had at Ole Miss one year, and it was great. A guy like Trevor Reid, he kind of struggles in the heat at times. Well, we're playing, and he gets a couple series off, that could really help him. That's kind of what we're going to determine in the next three weeks, basically is who's going to get what reps. But the way I'm looking at right now, we got eight guys I feel great about putting in the game, and now we're just trying to determine how many each will play. But if one guy just totally takes over a position, he'll play the whole game, and we'll rotate a guy somewhere else. But it's a great luxury to have. I'm excited about it. What it does, is it gives competition to everybody else. Everybody kind of knows, "I don't bring it every day, then the next guy is gonna be in there." That is the ultimate when you're trying to build a great offensive line.

(On where this offensive line unit ranks among his previous offensive lines)

I'll tell you what, they're right up there. They really are. I love them personally. I think we have great young men on this team. They're really into it, they're really trying.I have a tendency to be a little crazy, people must think I'm nuts at this point to be honest with you, but that's fine. Because I'm going to push them to be the best they can be. I was also in the NFL for seven years. I tried to tell them today, what separates them from the NFL players? You got the few freaks like Laremy Tunsil, some of those guys, those guys are unbelievable. But a lot of the other guys, it's just the toughness and the precision of the technique that separates them. I feel like this could be one of the best offensive lines I've ever coached in college, if we can get that done. If we can play with precise technique, and strain on every play, and finish on every play, we can be right up there with the best. Now we're not there yet, of course, and that remains to be seen whether we do that or not. But I think we're well on our way, and I'm excited about it.

(On what the next level is for the offensive line)

It's sort of similar to what I just said. There's a guy that sang Amazing Grace, the first song was pretty good. Everyone's like, yeah it's pretty good. Then they said, sing it with soul. Sing it with real feeling. The second song was unbelievable. That's what I tell those guys all the time. You can be pretty good, and we're gonna be pretty good. Cole (Bentley) and Caleb (Chandler) and Renato (Brown) and Adonis (Boone), those guys are all going to be pretty good. But can we take it to the next level? Can we take it to that NFL level? You say want to go to the NFL, well the NFL level is, if I'm supposed to put my head on the play side armpit, it's not on the play side numbers. It's not two inches off, it's precise. If I'm supposed to finish, I finish every single play. That to me is taking it to the next level. That's how you win these close games. You're talking about inches off. Anybody can do this thing pretty good, but do you want to be an NFL player? It's not the size. We got a lot of guys that look like that size, it's how they approach. They go to sleep, they're in the cold tub right now, they're hydrating, they're getting their bodies ready so I don't miss any time. But everything that is, what they call in the NFL "be a pro", that's what's taking it to the next level. If we do that, we can be one of the best lines I've ever coached, and we're gonna be doggone sure we're gonna do that.

(On what makes true freshman Michael Gonzalez so special)

Well, he's got it all, really, to be honest. He's got size, he's got flexibility, he's got strength, he's got intelligence, he's got character. He's the perfect example of a guy that can come in and do it right away. The one thing I would say now, I've been trying to get in, "Hey Mike, you take it to the next level now". You can do pretty good, you can do good. But good doesn't beat Ole Miss, good doesn't beat Clemson. We got to be great, we got to be precise and all those things. He's a great young man, he's intelligent, and he's physically ready to go. That's the recipe for being ready, and he's a very mature guy. Again, all of us can improve, that's why we practice. We practice every day to get better, and that's what he needs to do. But I think he's gonna end up being a great player and have a great career

(On if that focus is what can help propel the O-line in terms of sacks and tackles for loss)

Yeah, absolutely. 100%. We're playing good people, and we're gonna give up sacks. We're gonna give up tackles for loss. Matter of fact, Renato Brown, we were just out there, and I was kind of getting on him. I saw his set, it was a good set. I've been been telling him, the only way to compete us is run around us. And the guy did, he might he got a sack. I say no problem, we can fix that. But we can't fix you over setting and leaning way back. That's the whole key to this thing. The higher level you get, the more precise you have to be with your technique. If you're not, you're going to get beat. But there's a lot that goes into sacks. It could be the running back, could be the tight end, could be the quarterback that didn't get the ball out, could be the receiver that didn't run a route. What the main focus for us is, just do your job, do it precisely with great effort, and finish the play. That's it. If you do that, now it comes down to: are you better than those guy? If you're not better than those guys, you're still going to give up sacks. But I think we do have some very good players, so I think if we can do that, then you're going to see much improvement in those areas.

(On if more than eight players could see meaningful playing time)

Yeah. I'm thinking we got nine or 10 that are right there in the mix. That's the nice thing about playing more guys. I've been on teams where we play five, and they know that's all we're playing. The guys that are like, eight or nine, are like "screw it, we're never gonna play," so they're not as much into it. If you play eight, then the ninth and 10th guy are like, "man, now we got to make sure we know what we're doing, because we got to get in there". I'm not saying we don't have a ninth and tenth guy that could play, because we do. The problem is, the ninth and tenth guy might not be better than the first eight, We've got 10 guys, for sure, that I would put in the game and feel very good about. We have some guys that played in games last year, when they beat Wake Forest. But, now it comes down to the competition part of it, and who's better than who and all that. This isn't little league, everybody understands we got to win games, and we're gonna play the best, period. I don't care who they are, how long they've been here, we're gonna figure out the five best. If it helps us win games we're playing six, by playing seven, by playing eight, we're going to do that. I think that does, because it keeps guys fresh, because now in the 13th week of the season, they're not beat all to heck, they're fresher. They're fresher in each one of the games. They rotate the D-linemen in and out all the time, why can't we rotate guys? I think that's a good thing.

(On if any of the current offensive linemen have NFL potential)

100%. All the starters do. That's I was just telling them after practice. I've been there. I was kind of shocked when I got to the NFL. I thought everybody was like, you know 6-8, 400 pounds, running a 4.6 (40 time). But they're not. They're all like the guy sitting behind me right now, Caleb. Cole, Renato, Adonis, Trevor Reid, those guys, I mean, what's the difference? I was talking to Cole on the way in here, I'm like, "what's the difference between you, and the other centers I've had in the NFL?" The difference is being a pro, and playing with an edge, and being precise and getting the sleep, and working hard all the time. All those things are what separates college young men, from a guy that's making a living doing it. I probably wouldn't be coaching like this if I hadn't been in the NFL, because I wouldn't realize it. Now again, Laramy Tunsil and some of the guys, Trent Williams, those guys are unbelievable. Maybe there's not a bunch of them, but all the other guys on the team, they're all trying to hold on to their butts trying to make a job. They're very similar to the guys we have. That's what I'm trying. I'm trying to push them and trying to coach him like they are going to be coached in the NFL. A lot of times, they get upset because it goes this way, and they get in the NFL, and be like, "Oh, I better do this now". I told those guys I'm gonna coach you like you're already in the NFL, because that's going to get you there. and that's going to keep me here, and everybody's going to be happy. That's why I'm doing it.

Offensive Guard Caleb Chandler

(On how different the line feels than in previous years)

It feels completely different. We just have a whole different edge to us, and that's a huge part to Coach Bick. He's made it known that he wants to five best guys, and as he already mentioned, and we've been rotating. He wants to keep guys fresh, and he's made a big emphasis on the younger guys as well. Hop in, If you can play, then he's going to play you. It's really good at knowing that if someone went down, we have a lot more depth than we had in the years past. That's really a huge difference for me.

(On how you build camaraderie with teammates while still competing)

Competition makes everything better. If you got one guy, like in my case, if I got a younger guy who's out working me and knowing that he's gonna take my spot, then that makes me want to work harder, and go harder every day. We're really out there competing, trying to hold onto-the starters trying to hold on their spots, and the younger guys are trying to come up and take their spots. But we're still trying to make each other better, by competing hard every day. It's been going really good these first three days.

(On Jack Bicknell's coaching style)

It's different, I love it though. I love it. It's awesome. He's coaching us like it's just in the NFL. He's very passionate and that's awesome, I love it. He's been there, so it's not like, whatever he says coming out of his mouth is not right, or he doesn't know what he's talking about, the man coach there for several-plus years, and other big schools. He knows what he's doing, what he's talking about, and I love his coaching. It was different when he first got here. It was different from Ledford's, but as time has gone, I love his style. Just the way they go about their things, how they do things, the way that they teach their things, their styles is just different. It was just something we had to get used to. It took time, but we built a relationship through spring ball and through the summer. Now, we're rolling.

(On if there has been a higher emphasis on being precise during this offseason, and how it will help them as whole)

It's gonna help. It's been helping tremendously. When he came in, he watched our film, and was just telling us how we were so loose on our zones, and not getting movement on inside zone, and how we weren't doing this and that because we weren't precise what our technique. But now, if we don't get our technique down, then that's a problem. He's making it known that's a problem, and we have no problem with it when he makes it known that it's a problem, because we know that he cares about us. It was different at first to get used to, but now it's like night and day with him. We know we have to be precise with our techniques, and the offense we run, you have to be precise with it

Bick doesn't yell unless you're not going hard, or giving 100% effort. If you're giving effort, and say you get beat, defense is on scholarship, too. He makes that known as well. But if you're just not precise, like if I don't have my hands inside, if I don't take the correct steps, he lets me know in meetings.

(On how position versatility helps the line in the long run, and what other positions he can play outside of left guard)

I can play a little bit of center, I could play right guard. Almost had to play tackle a couple years in the bowl game, I know how to take some tackle sets if needed. That versatility is very good, because like I said earlier, if someone happens to go down, we have guys who played multiple positions. One key guy that comes to my mind is Bryan Hudson, who can play all five. That's awesome. I love Bryan, and he's a really, really good football player and smart. If someone goes down, we know we have him, and multiple guys who can fill in at multiple positions, which is awesome.

(On how hard it has been to learn several positions at once)

Oh, it's very hard, especially center. Props to the centers, man. Those boys, man, props to them. Taking a step and snapping the ball at the same time, a props to them. It's very hard, but it's also good, because NFL teams like that.

(On what makes Michael Gonzalez special)

Michael came in with his head on straight from the start, which has brought him farther along.. Even me during my freshman year, he's further than I was my freshman year. Michael comes here ready to go every day, doesn't complain. when he gets his number called, he does his job. He does what Coach Bick asks of him, what the strength coach asks of him, and just seeing a true freshman being able to do that is truly amazing. Michael is going to help us tremendously at the tackle spots. He can play both sides of the tackles, and Michael is going to be ready to definitely help us play this year.

(On what they have to do to prevent allowing sacks and tackles for loss)

We just got to be in it from the jump. We have to hit all of our strides from the start. We can't start slow, we can't put ourselves in holes like we have done in the past. We just got to be on point from the start. That's what we're working on right now, learning how to go hard from the beginning to the end, and that's something that we're doing really good at right now. We can't put ourselves in a hole anymore, and that's something that we're really emphasizing this offseason as well.

When Coach Bick talks to us, and shows us film from the past season, and how the offensive line was loose on blocks, and this and that. If we were just precise by a couple more inches, that five yard loss could turn into a 30 yard touchdown. That's how big those small areas mean to him, and to us.

(On his impression of the defensive front)

Oh the front, man. You got YaYa (Diaby), Tabarius (Peterson) Ramon Puryear, D-Tell (Dezmond Tell), some of the freshmen, (Ashton) Gillotte, RJ (Sorensen). They are big, they're tall, they're fast, athletic. I'm excited to see our whole defense this year, but I'm really excited to see that D-line this year.

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