Spring practice is coming to a close, and one of the most important questions from the opening of spring ball has gone unanswered, and that's who will lead the team out as the starting quarterback on September 2nd in Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Both Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers spoke about their experience with the QB competition.
Forrest was up first:
How has this competition this spring gone for you?
"It's been a lot of fun, we're just learning. We're adjusting to all that the coaches want us to do and how they're teaching us, and so far it's been great. The coaches have been saying we're getting better every day and there's a drastic change since day one for everyone. The defense is rollin' and they have their different schemes and at the same time the offense has come back and answered, and we're studying them. Yeah, it's been a really good experience so far, and really fun."
Can you feel that difference from practice one until now?
"Without a doubt. I think generally, defense, you can get a hang of it a little bit quicker than offense, and we have a whole new system so with that, concepts, repetition, everything, everything combined, the reps that we do, it just gets us better over time, and that's just all it is. The reps are the biggest thing, so we've done a lot more team than since I've been here. I think Ross and I have taken the majority of the reps too, it's a tremendous amount of help for us as well. That part, I can feel it, and I can see the offense, one day the defense will get us and then we'll respond and come back with the offense, so it's been a lot of fun."
How much more comfortable are you feeling with the terminology after taking all these reps?
"It's night and day, I mean we did a bit of it when we could in pre-spring mentally, but not coming out and actually running the concepts and the plays. So just with the repetition you get better through that. I think not only will it improve during the summer too, I think that's the biggest thing, is that in the summer time, we'll have even more knowledge, maybe add more stuff, then coming into fall camp we should be rolling right where we left off."
On Tui's Gruden Impersonation
"Oh yeah, it's awesome, because I think he was with him for four years and it's awesome to hear, because he always asks us 'do you love football?' and I guess that's what Jon Gruden would always ask his quarterbacks too, and when you see all the guys that can kinda mimic Jon Gruden, I forget his name, but the one guy who always impersonates him and so...
"Yeah, Frank Caliendo, exactly. He does a pretty one too, it's pretty funny, you've got to get him to do it one day."
What are the other strengths of having him as your QB coach?
"He brings everything he's learned from all those guys, Norv Turner, Jon Gruden, and you've just got to absorb all that, and it's cool to hear, because I grew up listening to Jon Gruden, knowing what a good coach he was and even Norv Turner. So Coach Tui really has a wealth of knowledge from all these different coaches, so we trust him and we enjoy everything he teaches us in his presence, and he's competitive, so it rubs off on us."
On doing some individual studying on his own time and if that's been something he's always done
"Yeah, I learned that from Jared. I'd find him, well he would tell me then other times I'd find him watching film late at night. He told me he'd come in at 11 PM one time when he couldn't sleep and just came in and watched film. Took a little from him early on, and even more so I was distilled in that in high school, my coaches really harped on us knowing the playbook, so we try to take advantage of that. So coming in here, that's just how I was driven, how I was brought up. And even Davis, Davis too, he was phenomenal, he was always watching film, student of the game, so that's how I try to be."
Anything that you'd like to see from yourself and the offense on Saturday?
"Just coming out, being consistent and having fun, playing fast and moving the ball, scoring, that's all it is."
Have you enjoyed the whole competition thing?
"It's fun, it brings out the best in you. This is my second year in a row competing with Ross and we're just battling, that's all it is. We're kinda back to square one where we were last spring. Like I said, it brings out the best in you and you just kinda learn how to improve and be consistent every day and take it into the offseason and fall camp."
What's been your overview of the spring, the QB competition, and what do you expect to get from this Saturday?
"Saturday's gonna be a fun day, hopefully it's a culmination of all our hard work put into one day. Just from the beginning of spring to now, there's been so much progress made, not just with myself but as an offense. It's really been fun to be a part of this because the growth is happening so fast. The hardest part is just fighting and consistency, you know, that's the dipping down and having to come back. That's been the hardest part for us, but I think we handled it well, and we always find a way to finish strong or get through whatever drill it is, and overcome it, so that's a good thing for us."
Do you think it's a pretty noticeable difference between day one and now?
"Oh yeah, so much better understanding of what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it. Just, the more study we put in, the better you know things, so it's getting to play more free and, just less thinking and just reacting."
On how confidence translates to learning a new offense that you may not know right away
"It's a good thing because you have to learn the hard way a couple times, there's sometimes where I'm getting myself in trouble with mental mistakes, or (I'm) late on throws, the wrong reads, so it's stuff that isn't fun at the time, but if you go back and correct it on tape, it's something that you don't forget. So it's a lot of the mistakes I've made, I haven't made similar mistakes, at least big ones. That's been good, just learning the hard way from my mistakes and just trying to keep progressing."
What's it like going against a defense that is so much more focused on taking the ball away?
"It's more of a threat, I'd say they're flying around a lot faster than I've ever seen, at least these past couple years. It just seems like they're having more fun playing football. You've got 11 guys who are enjoying playing for each other, you've got to match it and somehow get that brand on them, which is tough. It's fun, they're getting us a lot better, and it's gonna be fun to see what they do come fall camp."
Do you enjoy being in the middle of the QB competition?
"Of course, competition is the best thing for people like me because it elevates my game or I fall. The cream rises to the top and battling with Chase and having Coach Tui riding us hard, it's been really good for me, just having to step up in certain times. Really being forced to put in the work that's necessary to being a great quarterback at this level. (I'm) nowhere near that yet, but striving to be there, and trying to earn that label, every day putting in the right amount of work and waking up the next day, doing it all over. So it's been good, the competition has been great."
What's given you the most trouble fundamentally or learning the offense this spring?
"I'd say just a little bit of both. I'd say fundamentally it's been tough because this is the third year I've had a different coach and they've coached footwork differently each time, so it's been kinda hard to adjust, but that's no excuse. So it's been good getting back to the normal ways of how everything's coached at camps when I was growing up , taught, so it's been good to get back to that type of footwork and feel comfortable with that again. Then learning the plays is all about repetition, studying and stuff like that. That took all of spring break to really hone in on that stuff and came back and felt a lot more confident and just day by day kept putting in more work. So it's a day by day thing, just putting in the right amount, whenever you start feeling comfortable with it that's when you've got to push it, so it's been good."
What did you do over spring break?
"I went to Arizona, and my quarterback coach who lives out there, I stayed with him for the whole week, and we'd wake up, we'd go throw, and we'd lift, and he'd always have a surprise third workout of the day, we did yoga, then we did boxing. It was a whole bunch of stuff, he just kept us on our toes and stuff like that. Colin Moore actually came out with me so that was fun, so I got to have a buddy there to grind with me all day. It was a really good opportunity to focus on the mechanics and fundamentals and it just felt like it gave me an upper hand knowing that not a lot of guys in the country are probably working on their spring break."
Who's the QB coach?
"His name's Dennis Gile, he's with the Quarterback Academy. He's good, he's been a really good guy for me, he really helps me and he's just a really good person to have in your life, a really positive influence, and the stuff he teaches, I believe in and it works for me. So I've just got to keep applying it.
And quotes from their coaches:
How has the quarterback competition gone this spring?
"I think both Chase and Ross have done a nice job with getting a pretty good understand of our system and what we're asking them to do. They've both flashed and done well. They've both shown times where they need to learn. I'm excited with where they're at. We have a couple more practices left and I'm looking forward to continuing to get them better each day."
Are there specifics you'd like to see from them in the spring game?
"I think as I approach their progress individually, and then collectively as a group, I just want to see consistency. When you play the game of football, you're going to have the chance to throw a deep ball for touchdown, you're going to have the chance to check it down or throw your first progression in an intermediate pass or get us out of a bad run and into a good run. I just want to see the consistency, because that's what it's all about, and I think they flash, like I said earlier, and they've done some really nice things, and I think they need to continue to work hard to be consistent."
Does one do certain things better than the other and vice versa?
"It's funny, they're almost similar but they're also as much different as they are similar in a way, so it's kinda funny, but I'll tell you what, they're both done a nice job of throwing the ball. Ross's ball jumps off, but Chase's quick release and his ability to escape has helped him. I'm very pleased with where they're at and look forward to continuing to push it here this last week and through the summer program."
What Chase and Ross have done well this spring
"I think more than anything, they're developing their ability to truly operate. That takes time with a new system, new terminology, where to go with the football, what to do going from plan A to plan B to plan C. Sometimes plan A looks one way then at post-snap it changes, so they're developing their ability to really operate, because at the end of the day the best quarterbacks understand how to get the ball to athletes in space, how to move the offense, how to get the O-line in the right protection, how to just truly, and I don't like using the word necessarily 'game manager,' but those guys who do it at a high level, and I like to use the word 'operate.' You look at a guy like Kellen Moore, always struck me as someone who you might call a game manager, but man he was a killer the way he did it, just because he was accurate with his throws, they were on time, he was allowing fast guys to run with the catch without having to catch a ball behind him, this, that, and the other. So he really operated at a high level, and they've made huge strides in how they're operating within the system. They're reacting more. They're not getting a call and trying to process everything, they're getting a call and just knowing right away what read one is, what read two is, where are your checkdowns, that sort of thing."
What are the primary differences between the two QBs?
"Honestly, they're pretty similar in a lot of ways, they really are. I don't have great differences between the two, I mean they have a different level, in terms of through the spring one's out practice one, and the next day the other will out-practice the other and they're growing within that, but honestly they're fairly similar. They're fairly similar in size, they're fairly similar in certain things they do well, in certain things they need to keep working on. In other words, I don't look out there and wonder who's out there and think about how I'm gonna call something. I'm gonna call, you could close my eyes, I'd call it, it wouldn't matter which one is out there in terms of what I believe gives them the chance to have success."
On the confidence of Ross Bowers and if that translates to his game
"Yeah, it does, he won a lot of games in high school and he understands what it takes to do that and he does. He plays out there without fear, and you know, with that it's a fine line. You have to play without fear, but you also have to understand how important the ball is too. But he has a good level of that and he's continuing to get better. Yeah, there's no question, he gets out there, he's confident, he's excited, and he's able to at different times flush things that don't...that's what I want to see, how does a QB respond to stuff that doesn't go right, does he come back and respond. They've both done a really good job of that at different times."