Panther-lair - Bates' first impressions
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Bates' first impressions

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Randy Bates is two practices into his first spring camp as Pitt's defensive coordinator; here's what he thinks so far.

You’ve seen the guys for two days of spring ball - what are your initial takeaways or early impressions?
I’m pleased with their skill level. I’m pleased with their focus. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Truthfully, they’re just getting to the point where they’re getting to know me and what I expect and vice-versa. So it’s a learning experience for all of us but we’re making strides.

For the last however many years, you would walk out onto the practice field and go right to the linebackers and that’s where you spent your time. How has this been different for you in a new position?
Well, I coached the secondary, too, so I’ll go over and help. We’ve got two new coaches, obviously, in the secondary, so we’re forming relationships at those positions with those coaches and also with me, so I’m also helping there. And then I also jump down with the D-line, really just come and yell at them for a couple seconds. But they’re doing great and I think the guys are starting to get a good feel for each other. We’re just trying to work on some chemistry right now.

Archie Collins was telling us that Paris Ford really made some plays [on Monday]. What have you seen out of him?
Well, they’re all making plays. I would say to you, Paris made some good plays [Monday]; several of them did. But it’s way too early to get too excited about anybody without pads on. We’ll go in pads on Thursday and the game will totally change. It will become a physical game, it will become blocking, tackling. So we’ll hold our reservations or hold our opinions until after we get maybe through the first scrimmage here, and then I’ll give you a better feel. But he’s doing great.

The first time we talked to you, you said you wanted to try to carry over a lot of the terminology the players were familiar with. How much carryover is there overall?
It’s funny: I’m trying to just put the French into Spanish, if you would, for me. I spoke Spanish for the last 12 years and they’ve spoke French, so it’s taken me a little time. I have taken my terminology and put it into my terminology here at Pitt. Are we doing some different things? Yes. But we’re forming it through the Pitt terminology, if you will.

What about the linebackers? There are a lot of returning players - does it seem like a group that has experience?
Very much, and think we’ve got some tremendous depth. I’m excited because you don’t just come in here and say, ‘You’re the starter;’ that guy’s still got to earn that starting position. Especially when you don’t go to a bowl game, that doesn’t mean you come back as a starter that’s an All-American; we don’t have any of those. So we are letting them start at a position, but it is ever-changing and the best players are going to play and they all know that, and that’s why there’s such good competition now.

When you talk about getting the best players on the field, is that something where in the future position changes could still be an option?
Absolutely. Very too early for me, only having been through two practices with the kids, but we will get the 11 best players on the field, and if that means moving some guys around, it will for sure happen. It probably won’t be until at least the third week.

Through some meetings and two practices, any guys jumping out at you as leaders?
Well, we have such a large group of seniors, I’m putting all the pressure at this point on those guys. The younger guys will start to grow up and move into those positions as we get to pads. I would say, right now, the seniors are doing a great job. The younger guys will start to form those habits as we get through, but it’s really hard to jump a senior who’s a captain or a leader early in practice, especially without pads on. So it’s a little early for that.

Dane Jackson seemed to make strides last year. What are your early impressions of him so far? Has he stuck out?
He has. Again, though, without pads, I’m not going to say anybody’s stuck out because they’re not allowed to hit anybody. But he’s got certainly the skill level to be an All-ACC player.