Willie Fritz previews spring football

Willie Fritz met with the media on Monday afternoon, a day ahead of the start of spring camp. Fritz started it off by saying, “UH had a great weekend this past weekend in a lot of different sports,” and said he’s enjoyed following many of the sports and getting to know the coaches.

Some news, notes, quotes, and thoughts on what he said:

Willie says he “really enjoys spring football.”

He praised Kurt Hester for getting players faster and stronger but “most importantly, making them better football players. Hester told GoCoogs.com a few weeks ago that the goal isn’t to have the strongest players, but the best players.

Donovan Smith had labrum surgery “a couple months ago” and will spring practice. Willie said Donovan is further along than he expected at this point but “has made great strides. The head coach said “hopefully he’ll be able to do some things” at the end of spring practice but expects most of Donovan’s work to come in the summer.

The injury occurred before Fritz took over as head coach. Willie said he sat in on QB meetings this morning.

DL Justin Benton is also out for spring ball after surgery. TE Kaleb Thomas from North Shore will probably be able to practice in two weeks. First-semester DL Zion Taylor will also miss the first two weeks of spring due to an injury he suffered in a December all-star game.

Willie will speak at UGA’s coaches camp in a few weeks.

The staff met with the team this morning to discuss expectations in the spring. “I have different expectations than what they’ve had before,” he said. “There’s going to be a learning process for both sides (players and staff).”

Willie on the first spring with a new program: “It’s huge. You know, it really is. You want to make sure they understand how you like to do things. Hustling on and off the field, how you like to do drills, respecting the importance of special teams.”

“Everyone in our program is gonna know how to block and tackle,” he declared. Talk about different expectations…

The spring roster is out, but jersey numbers are fluid. The staff and players will not lock down 2024 jersey numbers until May at the earliest.

He said he tries to make every weight room workout. As we’ve learned from assistant coaches, they are also in most workouts.

All coaches sit in on meetings from the other side of the ball. “Maybe learn a little bit of football,” Willie says. “Kind of like an everyday clinic.” He says he’s been doing that for about 10 years.

The spring game is on April 13 at 10 a.m. at the Carl Lewis complex. The game will also air on ESPN+. The night before, Willie will host an event for former players. He rattled off several players he’d gotten to know – including Case Keenum and Tank Dell – and others he’d coached before at Blinn JC and other places. He said he’ll also have an event for players’ families.

Every player has a clean slate going into spring. He said that doesn’t work out ideally for some players, but it helps others who might have been in the dog house with the previous staff. By the end of spring, he expects to better understand the roster and who can play Big 12 football.

UH Basketball’s success “shows it can be done” at UH. Willie expects about 15 HS players on unofficial visits for the Kansas game this weekend.

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