Tommy West Press Luncheon Quotes, September 28, 2009
Sept. 28, 2009
An Interview with Coach Tommy West
Q: Opening Statement
COACH WEST: I am disappointed that we were not able to do what we said wanted to do. Going into the game we felt like we had to generate more in the run game than what we had been doing. We needed to develop more inside the tackles, and for the most part, we didn’t get that done consistently.
The key to the game was to throw the deep ball and get people open on the deep ball, and we ended the day two of eight on balls thrown deep. We were poor in the red zone, an area that we improved greatly a year ago. We were doing really well going into this game but didn’t get it done Saturday. Four times in the red zone we had a turnover and scored nine points and had to kick three field goals. We had a bad penalty and did not execute well once we got in the red zone.
Offensively, I have to find a way to help the run game, and I will do that. In the passing game, I think we will continue to improve. I am satisfied with our quarterback, and he is going to improve weekly. He is going to make mistakes, and I expected that when I made the quarterback change. He is going to make some mistakes, but he throws the ball down the field really well. When it all hits him he is going to be a really good player for us.
We have to continue to improve on the offensive line where we are not going as fast as I would like to go. We are playing good at wide receiver. It will help to get Curtis Steele back, and that will help the offensive line. We have to be more consistent on the offensive line to help the rushing game and the wide outs.
Defensively, I think we are really close. I talked about stopping the run prior to the game Saturday and we gave them a 70 yard run. We had two errors and two secondary guys that couldn’t get him on the ground. Our defense competed and gave us a chance to win the game.
We had a bad recipe with our special teams breaking down, like outkicking our coverage. At the end of the day, all the things we didn’t do we gave up a long punt return that put the defense in a bad place. Right now I don’t like where we are and my job is to get our football team better and explain to them why we lost the game. I have to find a way to correct it and that’s what we will do.
Q: How tough is it to motivate the team? Is it easier when winning?
COACH WEST: Honestly, its gives you a chance to teach the guys to overcome defeats. You can’t just throw the towel in and start blaming guys. We have to sit down and analyze what is happening and show it to them on tape, get it corrected and stick together to turn things around.
I spend a lot of time talking to the team about having a team afraid of losing. If we get to that point we will lose. I want the team to understand why we lost the game but now I have a chance to teach the guys to be mentally tough. You can’t start pointing fingers and blaming other people. We have been here before, and I am about tired of it to be honest.
Q: How tough is it for you right now to keep yourself upbeat to keep the team upbeat?
COACH WEST: I have to try to get this team better each and every week regardless if we are winning or losing. I will add them up at the end of the season and see how many we get. Right now, I don’t think you can coach differently whether you are 3-1 or 1-3. You better be coaching them hard every week to give them a plan to win.
I have to get this team playing good enough to win. You have a BSC league and a non-BCS league and there is not a lot of difference between us. It’s all about who makes the fewest mistakes giving yourself a chance to win the game. We didn’t play good enough to win the game. We are making more mistakes than the other team. You can’t get the ball to the three and have a motion penalty. You can’t overcome those things unless you are a heck of a lot better than everybody.
Q: On the young offensive line
COACH WEST: knew going in, I think we all knew going in, we knew we were young in the offensive line. This isn’t a surprise that we haven’t quite meshed yet up front. What I hoped was that we had a back that was good enough to overcome some of this. We are not quite there up front. When you throw in the fact that I had to make a change at quarterback, that didn’t help our offensive line a whole lot. I was hoping to have a veteran quarterback that could help the offensive line, but I had to make the change with Arkelon Hall. Then we lose our back (Curtis Steele) that is a break away guy. That didn’t help either.
I have got to find a way to help (the offensive line); that is my job. But no I am not surprised that we have struggled a little bit up front. The recipe that I thought would help them didn’t pan out. That is not an excuse; that is just fact. This is going to be a very good offensive line. I would like for that to be this week. They have a challenge ahead of them this week (against UCF). This is one of the better fronts that they (the offensive line) will play against this year. I think our quarterback (Tyler Bass) will get better every week.
Q: How does the criticism affect you?
COACH WEST: You do care what people say about you. To say that you don’t care would be crazy. I have not and will not lose sight of where I think I can take this program. I don’t let it get to me. I am not going to listen to it. It doesn’t affect my job. Professionally you can’t let it affect your job.
Does it have an effect on you, sure it does. You don’t like it but you learn to deal with it. That is my big thing with players. I always teach kids to believe in themselves because if you don’t then you will never get there. Believe in yourself. Believe in your plan. Make sure you have got a plan and don’t be afraid to fail.
There are so many people in this world that are so afraid to fail. They are afraid of that criticism that is going to come. If you are afraid to fail, then you are afraid to get out there and try something. You can’t be afraid to try something new. It wasn’t working with our quarterback (Arkelon Hall). I am not going to barrage Arkelon, but it wasn’t working. I needed to do what was good for program, and I think I made the right decision for the long term of the program (going with Tyler Bass at quarterback).
Q: Are you feeling more pressure to get wins being 1-3 through your first four games?
COACH WEST: We have been pretty good historically at the end of the season. Do I feel more pressure? No I don’t. I can’t worry about UAB, Tennessee, Houston or Tulsa. I have got to concentrate on (the current game) and at the end of the year, I add up the wins and losses.
You have to go one week at a time. That isn’t coach speak. It is the truth. We have to go and try to get a win this week and then try to get a win against UTEP. Then try to get one against Southern Miss and then East Carolina. That is the way you have to do it.
The hard part to teach kids is if it doesn’t work, you have to come back on Sunday and do it again with the same passion and the same enthusiasm. This game teaches you how to get up; or any sport really. Nobody has ever played this game and not got knocked down
I don’t feel any pressure right now because the back end is loaded up. I realize who we have at the end of the season. I know who we are playing. But again, I am going to try to get this team to where we can win those games at the back end if I can get this team to where it needs to be.
Q: What about the Central Florida game? What concerns you, and what are excited to get done on Saturday?
COACH WEST: To try to help this team; try to help this offense right now. It’s definitely better than it was the first two games because it was horrendous. We threw the ball horrible in our first game, which isn’t our nature. And then we threw it and ran it horrendous in the second game. They’re better. They look more like an offense than they did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough to win a game Saturday.
I’m excited to try and improve this offense, and then if we can get our defense going every play, I think our defense has a chance to be really good. I really do. I told them yesterday, they’re close. I think the addition of (Marcus) Ball, having Marcus out there will help us. But I think they’re really close. I think they have a chance to be a really good defensive team. We’ve got to get a little more gap accountable, and we have to tackle better in the secondary than what we’re tackling right now. I said that for two weeks.
Q: Can you talk about Central Florida and what you see in them and what kind of game you expect Saturday.
COACH WEST: It will be a dogfight like they all are. Again, I see one team in our league that looks like they are head and shoulders above everybody and that’s Houston. They look like they’re humming pretty well. I watched them Saturday night. They’re a talented team, and they have a quarterback, and they’re quarterback is playing pretty good.
Southern Miss is probably second right now in the league and they’ve got a quarterback. It’s no secret in our game right now that your quarterback has to play good. If he doesn’t play good, you’re not going to win a lot of games. That’s the nature of the way it is with everybody right now.
Central Florida has changed quarterbacks, so they’re kind of going through a deal with their quarterbacks like us. They’re probably the best front; they’re front four is probably the best in our league. Now they lost their secondary guys. I thought they were the best defense in the league last year. Without question I thought they were the best defense in the league. All four of their secondary guys graduated, so they’re obviously not as good there losing four guys that had started for four years.
Like I said, we’re all about the same. It will be a dogfight and we’ll see if we can win it.
Q: Is this still like extended training camp for Tyler (Bass) basically since he didn’t get a chance to do very much?
COACH WEST: He will improve weekly in the games. That’s where they get better because that’s where they get the experience is in the games. I don’t think it’s training camp as much as you learn from games. Again that’s why I left him in the UT Martin game. I left him in probably a little longer than I would have a starting quarterback because he needs the reps. He needs the experience. He needs time on field playing because he’ll learning something every series that he’s out there. He’ll get a little bit more about the feel and learn a little bit more about the game. Situations will come up that he’ll have to deal with on the field.
Q: What did you see in Marcus Ball?
COACH WEST: What I thought; Energy. He’ll tackle you in bounds, out of bounds. Not only was he all over the field, he was all over off the field. He was on Coach (Tommy) Bowden’s whistle. Coach Bowden made the statement that they play to the echo of the whistle, and he definitely was doing that.
He’s an energy guy. He’s an upbeat guy. He’s an up-tempo guy that I think can be contagious with some guys. It kind of runs in spurts defensively. Through the years I’ve learned this. You’re good defenses when it starts going your way can crank that volume and then all of a sudden they are flying. I’ve always told them when the momentum turns our way when we got it you’ve got to be like sharks on a piece of raw meat, and it’s just like a frenzy defensively. You watch good defenses, and that’s what happens. Everybody has a little momentum at times during the game. When you get it defensively you’ve got to turn it your way.
He’s a guy that can help you do that because you watch him. He’ll be that energy guy running around, jumping, slap somebody in the head and get into that frenzy that you’ve got to have to start turning the ball over and getting the ball back to your offense. He’ll bring that I think to our defense.
Q: Is there anything that you want your fans to understand or appreciate because they are on the outside?
COACH WEST: Support your players. I think that’s what they ought to do. I’m sure they’re mad at me right now. That’s okay. I’m okay with it, but support your players and support your team. There’s always going to be some people that don’t like the coach, but support our players. I promise you they’re trying as hard as they can. We’re 1-3, but it’s not a lack of effort, I can guarantee that. They’re busting their tails. We don’t have a bunch of hoodlums that are running around. These are good kids that are busting their tail for this program. Support them. If you don’t want to support me, that’s okay. I can live with that.