BOCA RATON, Fla. -
Opening Comments on ODU
Stating the obvious, they are a 7-3 football team with really tremendous talent on both sides of the ball. Coach [Bobby] Wilder has this team playing at a high level. [They have the] leading tackler in the conference #47 [TJ Ricks]. [They have] a very active defensive line with athletic defensive ends. Guys that we have seen on film all year when we are getting ready for another offense and we see them going against Old Dominion’s defense. We have noticed these guys - their front. They have a preseason All-Conference safety, who has been out a couple of weeks. He played a little bit, late in the game last week, #28 [Justice Davila] so it looks like he will be back. Their Mike linebacker [Anthony Wilson] had 17 tackles against Southern Miss last week and their corner #11 [Brandon Addison] has really impressed us on film. They have a very active defense. On offense, they do a good job protecting the ball. They lead the league in turnover ratio. Their wide receiver group is as impressive as you will see. [I] talked to Dave Doeren from NC State when they played them earlier in the year, right after the game, and he talked about that group right away. When you see them on film, you certainly understand why. #33 Ray Lawry has been a good player in this league for a while. #35 [Jeremy Cox], another running back who makes some big plays and is very fast. Based on the film that we have looked at, we have counted 12 different guys that have plays over 30 yards. So while they have good players, you can’t really focus on one guy. They have proven that multiple guys can make plays.
Can you comment on the senior class and what they have meant to the program going into their last home game?
Sure, they have been through a lot. I’m proud of the guys who have stuck with us. I don’t want to point anyone out other than the fact that all these guys have stuck with us, been through multiple coaches. I’m proud that I got a chance to coach them and that I have a couple more weeks with them.
Is there a different feeling in the locker room after two wins?
Sure there is. I think they are proud that they are continuing to grow. We are not where we wanted to be at this point of the season, certainly, but again like I have said, you have 24 hours to really either enjoy or figure out what went wrong after every game. So, while there is a different level of pep in their step so to speak, we are beyond last week and getting ready for this game versus Old Dominion.
The fact, record-wise that you are not going to take a step back. Is that something for you or maybe recruiting that you can look at?
Honestly, it is not even a thought. Recruiting is about relationships and them believing in the big picture of what you are trying to build in terms of culture and moving forward standpoint. Our focus is really fighting to get a win this week. I will be happy to go deeper in those conversations after the season. Right now we are getting ready for a tough Old Dominion team.
They [ODU] didn’t have a lot of offense in terms of total yards last game, but did force five turnovers. Has that been their trademark this year?
It really starts with their front and how active they are. They defeat a lot of one-on-one blocks and that starts with their D-ends. Both D-ends have a good number of sacks. We just noted how athletic and active those guys are. They do what we call change the math. They defeat blocks and therefore take more gaps than they are assigned. They defeat them quickly. Again, they lead the league in turnover ratio so that is a big part of it, giving Old Dominion good field position.
Roman [Fernandez] went out early. Richard Williams came in to receive his first meaningful snaps of the year. How did he do?
He did a nice job. Thankfully, we said during the course of the week, that he had had his best week of practice since he has been here. And we are thankful for that because he ended up having to step in and play that amount of time.
How are you feeling and how proud of this group are you?
I feel good. A lot of times on Monday, I do put my feelings aside because we are into preparation. I literally come right from our defensive staff meeting, where we put together all these notes you are seeing, right here. We just got done watching 11 personnel. I’m proud. I’m glad we got the chance to enjoy that moment in the locker room after the game Saturday night, but I’m also excited to see how our kids prepare this week as we get ready for a challenging game against Old Dominion.
Is Roman [Fernandez] ok?
I hope so.
On offense or defense what are you most proud of for growth?
The offensive line and what they have been able to do with what we have all seen. I think it was the third time that lineup had started. Only the second time back-to-back (nine different lineups in 10 games). We had to make a change right away in the first quarter at the [L] guard position. The fact that we are able to have positive plays and do some things with that group is something that we are proud of and Coach [Garin] Justice and [Travis] Trickett should be proud as well as those players.
Can you classify the Roman [Fernandez] situation at this point?
I think it is questionable.
Is Kelly [Parfitt] done for the year?
He is doubtful for the rest of the year.
Questionable for the rest of the year.
Was Kerrith available?
He was not.
Will he be this week?
Brian Beck – do expect him to go this spring?
[Richie] Kittles is he ok?
Is Kittle ok? Yes.
Can you talk about what Harrison Bryant has done over the course of the last couple of games?
He has shown to you guys what we see out there on the practice field quite a bit. He continues to grow as a pass catcher. He had a key catch, back in the Marshall two-minute drive that unfortunately we weren’t able to complete. He is a tough kid. He is a competitor. He doesn’t shy away from competition. He doesn’t shy away from being coachable if he makes a mistake in a game. Not all young kids can do that. Everything is personal in a young man’s career. Harrison hasn’t show that. He just wants to be coached. How can I do it better? Help me be better the next time I face that situation. He is an impressive young prospect in our program.
Josh Kendall. He got his first start. What did you seen in practice and what did you seen in the game? How did he grade out?
He is another one that has continued to grow in front of our eyes. There has been a steady growth with his play and with his approach. He is a guy, when I was at Wisconsin, I don’t know if I told this story here, I have told it to the players. I was evaluating him as a player, but then there was something that I saw in him as a person and I thought man I hope I get to coach him. Fate put us together. Their Spring Game [Lehigh Senior], they played the young guys the first half and then the varsity in the second half, over on the other side of the state. In watching him coach the young players and watching everyone react to Josh, Josh has a magnetic personality. His play has gotten better, obviously he got the big sack [Saturday]. That is where he has improved the most. There was a different push from our interior in the pass rush the last couple of weeks and Josh is a big part of that. We want Steve[n] Leggett to answer the call and keep getting better as well which he is doing. It is fun to have some competition there.
Devin Singletary had a big week last week and followed that up this week. What has he done for this team?
He provides a spark. It is fun when he has had a couple of special runs where we get him started and he does some things on his own at the second and third level that open people’s eyes. His touchdown run on Saturday night, I heard a few players on the sideline go wow! It is fun to see the kids feed off of his plays and create energy on both sides, really all three phases, when kids can make plays like that. Not to change the subject, but that catch Kalib Woods had over the middle - he caught it, got wacked and came down with it. That had an effect. More guys are having that effect through the course of the game, but Devin is having that kind of impact.
Pico [Tavaris Harrison] had his best game overall, I thought. Back in practice he was making a big play every day that I was out there. With young guys it doesn’t always transfer to Saturdays. Talk about that process?
A big part of it, and you are seeing it across the entire wide receiver group, is that they are doing a much better job the last three to four weeks of catching the ball and Pico is an example of this; his growth of catching the ball away from his body with his hands instead of getting the ball in here [close to the chest]. Pico is a prime example of where he is, showing up because of his work on what was a weakness a month ago. Sometimes it is hard for young guys to one, recognize a weakness, and two, not run from it and attack it. Pico has attacked his weaknesses. There is still a lot of game that we want to see grow, like the run game, effectively making the read to block the force, etc. He has got a lot of growth [ahead] but he is attacking the weakness like a more mature young man. That is the thing, we have [a] maturing right-in-front-of-our-eyes type of team right now. That is why you see different guys show up.
With the catching the ball away from their body, is that just as simple as taking more balls from the jugs?
It is part of it. It is an emphasis on making that happen all the time in practice. Like anything when you need to improve upon something, it comes down to reps. When you talk about translating practice to game day there is muscle memory. Depending on what article you read, some say a couple hundred, some say over 10,000. How many reps does it take to commit what you want to do by muscle memory? I lean more towards the 10,000 range. It is reps. Continuing to do it. Continuing to focus on whatever the skill is. The one we are talking aboutspecifically just takes reps and the jugs is part of it.
Is Pico ok?
With Daniel [Parr], he has only been in briefly in the last couple of games. Is that a situation where some playing time is better than none as far as development goes?
It is. We want to continue to develop him. We want to give him those game reps but right now we have to do what we feel is best at the time to win games.
Does that mean Jason [Driskel] right now?
We will see during the course of the week.
What was the difference in being able to come from behind, where before with the close losses you did not?
Kids made plays. Coaches called great plays. We just executed better. That is really the difference at the end of the day. You can go back to all those games four or five whatever it was, I think the total was 17 points or somewhere around there. [Last Saturday] we made the plays that we needed to make. You are going to have to make some plays. Really, at the end of the day, players make plays, coaches call plays. Kids are executing at a higher rep. Kids are maturing right in front of our eyes. They have never wavered in their effort. You are just seeing them execute at a much higher rate right now and it has led to a couple of wins.
We have talked a lot about Trey [Hendrickson], when did you first realize he was a special player?
In ’14 when we played Western Kentucky, he made a big play where he actually kind of did the wrong thing but it worked out. He ran all the way around, left his lane and forced a turnover. You could see it happening on the practice field and it started to show up in games. I think that specific play gave him some confidence that I can have a huge impact. Then last year was really a breakout year, obviously for him. So it built over time. When I first got here, I don’t know that I saw this coming. I saw a kid that worked hard and had some raw talent but HE has put himself in this position. The way he is so meticulous now with his diet, with his sleep and with his hydration. There is a reason that he is the position where he is and that he has nine sacks, making plays with – we have talked about the double and triple teams – he is finding a way to have those impact plays as well as drawing blockers away from other guys. He has been extremely vigilant in his approach, especially the last year and a half, to do everything he can to be the best player that he can be.
With the other safety position, has he [Richie Kittles] given you what you are looking for in recent weeks?
I think everyone has room to improve at all positions and I think Richie is one of them.
Jacob [Douglas] is really coming along?
The thing we are really happy with him is that Saturday night, and I know it is hard when you are not in it, but when they are moving multiple guys followed by motion there is a lot that happens and the Mike linebacker is right in the middle of that. He did a great job on Saturday night and I’m proud of him for that.
I don’t know how your defensive communication work but when you have a new linebacker does Azeez [Al-Shaair] take some of that responsibility?
He would have out of necessity but Jacob had been training behind Nate Ozdemir in a way that all of our twos need to learn from. Jacob prepared like he was a starter every week. Again, everyone who is a backup on our team can learn from that. Some guys do it transparently in every organization. Some don’t necessarily approach it that way but he has and that has allowed him to step in where Azeez didn’t have to take that role upon himself.