A week before spring football started, I caught up with Head Coach Ian Shields to find out the expectations of his first spring as a Dolphin. Now with football and classes all coming to an end, I turned to Coach Shields again for a follow-up interview hoping that he could shed some light on how successful he feels spring football was. (Coach Shields' responses are italicized).
1. Your first spring as a Dolphin has ended, what are your thoughts on it?
I thought the spring went well. Anytime you take over a new program, the priorities are getting to know your personnel because that's the first time you have to look at them in-person, then getting your systems in place, and then obviously building relationships. I think we made good progress in all three areas, which made it a successful spring. There is certainly work to be done, and it's not a finished product yet, but the good thing is that we don't play a game until 19 weeks and 5 days.
2. What was the biggest upside that you saw coming out of spring practice and the spring game?
I think we took some real strides forward through the course of spring on both sides of the ball. I think we run very well as a team looking at the video. I also was really encouraged by our playmaking ability and our speed out there. I think both of those assets will help us in this upcoming season.
3. Were there any position groups that gave you a pleasant surprise this spring?
Coming into it as a new head coach and a new staff with open eyes and an open mind, I can't say that I was surprised, but I was encouraged by a few different position groups. I was encouraged with our overall skill level. We have some athletes that can change direction, flip their hips and run, and make plays on the ball. We have some physicality defensively, can run, and love to hit and play. I think we have a good stable of running backs, all guys that can really go. I was really encouraged with the progress Rylan Wells made at quarterback. He's a good player and we can build upon him offensively. I think he really took a step forward, not only as a player because I think everyone within the program already knew he could play already, but I think he is ready for primetime to be a really good leader. He has taken a good leadership role offensively.
4. What is your biggest concern going into next season?
Right now, I would say it's getting accustomed and embracing the style of play, and the overall depth, but attached to that is the leadership, getting the whole team on the same page, and playing hard. There's work to be done for that to be happening, and be the type of team we want to be.
5. How do you feel the athletes on your team, offensively and defensively, have handled the transition to the new systems and schemes?
Well I think the athletes are transitioning well. Both the systems on both sides of the ball are geared toward speed and explosive athletes, and that's what we have here. I think the offense is not that dissimilar from what had been going on. There's going to be a few more runs involved, a little more option involved, but it's still athletes playing in space. The ball is distributed evenly and we are going to score points and be an up-tempo offense, probably more than ever before. I think defensively, it's a chance for guys to play how they like to play, it's a pressure defense. The secondary plays man coverage, and run zone pressures occasionally, and we have great players in the system. It's a defensive back's dream, and it's a front guy's dream frankly because it's going to a nightmare for the opposition.
The next time Coach Shields will see his full team compete in pads again will be at training camp in August. There, he will continue to implement his plans and strategies to his returning players, as well as the newcomers that will be joining the Dolphins. The Dolphins will also prepare for their first game against Liberty University on Sept. 10.
Armani Sampson #24