Sept. 19, 2011
Good afternoon. I would like to start with this past weekend. It was a good weekend for our program for a number of reasons. One, we got a win, which we needed. I thought because of that win, visiting with our team this morning, the spirit and morale of the team is solid in terms of confidence. It helped us. I want to compliment Coach DuBose and Coach Scott for the way they stepped in and grabbed this defense and took it forward. That was a good thing.
The other thing that happened that I thought was a statement from our supporters was that DeAngelo Williams has decided to make a significant contribution to Vision for Victory, a six-figure gift to our locker room. For him to do that makes a statement as to his commitment to this program. We want to applaud him for staying true to his roots and thank him as we go forward.
Our opponent this week, SMU, we all know is a quality opponent led by head coach June Jones, who has done a tremendous job in reviving that program, bringing it to prominence and making it a factor in the league. He's a good man and a good ball coach.
A lot of people like to talk about their offense, but I want to start with the defense because I think that the defense is very solid and sound and very capable of confusing you and causing some problems. We've been looking at them over the past 24 hours, and I'm trying to make sure we put together a game plan that's sound for some of the things they do. They like to blitz a lot, which always concerns you when you've got a young quarterback. The young man that is probably the most active is No. 56 (Ja'Gared) Davis. He moves around a lot. Taylor Reed, No. 44, does a good job as well. They're very active, and you can tell that they're in total control of the defense and the things that they're doing. Their defensive end, No. 9 Marquis Frazier, has been a solid productive player for them. He's one that we're trying to make sure we keep our eyes on at all times because he can be disruptive. Their defensive unit is very strong.
Offensively, Coach Jones went away from one of the best quarterbacks in the league, No. 2 Kyle Padron, and went to No. 15 J.J. McDermott, who's just as good. This young man has served them well in terms of what they do offensively. He has a very strong arm and is a good decision-maker. We're going to have to make sure from a secondary standpoint that we close those windows down and force him to make tight throws because they're very active in the passing game. To date, they've thrown 135 passes, which is about 45 passes per game, so we're looking forward to them being very active in the passing game. They also have a very productive running back in No. 48 Zach Line. This young man has been a load against everyone they've played. He was productive last year and is off to a great start this year. He's a guy that sometimes they lull you to sleep with because they just throw, throw, throw, and then they give it to him and he runs forever. He's a young man we have to make sure we keep bottled up, make sure he earns his yards and make sure we tackle him. Of course as much as they throw the ball, their wide receiver group as a whole is very productive. No. 3 Darius Johnson and No. 11 Cole Beasley are the ones they lean on most in terms of putting the ball in their hands, but as a unit, I see them being one of the better groups that we'll play this year. From a secondary standpoint, I don't think our coaches are getting much sleep. But I think our guys will be up for the task. We had guys over this morning at 5:30 watching film so that's a compliment to their commitment to win this game.
Overall, they're a very fine football team, and they're aggressive on both sides of the ball. To say the least, it will be a challenge.
They've thrown five interceptions this year; does that give the secondary some confidence knowing the ball will be there and they'll be able to make some plays?
Of course, as much as they throw it, they're prone to make some mistakes so that's a good thing. Our secondary is starting to change a little bit in terms of some of the things we're doing coverage-wise and from a technique standpoint. We'll make subtle changes this week and continue to grow our coverage unit in a way that can serve as an advantage for us. So there are a number of things I think will give us an advantage going into this game. We just have to execute and take advantage of them.
Obviously your defense was a lot better this past week; what do you attribute that to?
We simplified a lot. We may have cut things in half. I don't see us going beyond what we did last week in terms of what we carried into the game, but we definitely simplified. When you do that you have to stress fundamentals and technique because when you're doing less, you have to make sure you're doing things right in order for it to be effective. So there's more of a focus on fundamentals. I thought our players played a lot faster in terms of reacting and positioning themselves to make plays. As a whole, I'm proud of that unit.
What did your two new defensive coordinators bring to the game this week in terms of a different mindset on how to run your defense?
Philosophy, first and foremost. Every guy has his own philosophy no matter what you're running, so philosophically there was a difference. But the great thing is that those two are on the same page in terms of chemistry and what we wanted our philosophy to be. Everybody knows Coach DuBose and his resume; it speaks for itself. But Galen (Scott) was a coordinator and has also coached the secondaries well. He understands the front end extremely well. The knowledge from both guys, the energy and the way they took control and got these players to buy in to them made a difference. I have to compliment our players as well. They made it an easy transition. They embraced change, and we moved forward.
The changes in simplifications on defense - was that something that you prompted or they came up with?
I wanted to do less and focus on the fundamentals and the details of technique and assignments. They had some input in that, but they took some of the things that I wanted to do and put it in their philosophy and made it work.
What did you think of Taylor (Reed's) performance? You said Saturday that you wanted to start stretching the field a little more; is that the plan?
Yes, but we also have to be fair to Taylor and his growth process. The thing that we need is for our receiving corps to be more consistent, and I think that will help expedite his growth. I thought we did too much in the Arkansas State game with Taylor, and as a result he didn't perform quite as well. He was better this past week, but he still has a lot of growing to do. I always say the good thing about Taylor is that he works hard. Once he makes a mistake or two, he learns how to overcome it and tries not to make it again.
How do you want to work Keiwone Malone more into the offense?
He played a good bit the other night, and he'll play the same, if not more, this week. We want to continue to find ways to put the ball in his hands. As I was evaluating the other night, I think we just need to get him the ball in space or in a position where he can get vertical. I know one-on-one in space, he can make some guys miss and he can be dangerous. He will probably serve as our primary punt returner this week as well.
You open up conference play this week, and some of the players have alluded to you guys competing for the conference championship. Is that realistic?
Yes, it's realistic. We still have all those games available. We set goals. We're not going to lower expectations for this team simply because we're building. We've got to press and push to get them to reach those goals. Our first three games were games that didn't count in terms of conference play. This one does so there's a sense of urgency. It heightens the importance of this game. Since I've been here, we've never had two players show up at 5:30 a.m. to watch film like they did this morning. So we're totally committed to winning this game. We understand it's going to take a team effort, but what game doesn't? Right now with the way things are going within this conference, it's anybody's game. There were some unexpected losses this week and some that you expected. We've just got to get off to a strong start and position ourselves in the back end of this season to be in position to play for the championship.