Oct. 10, 2011
I have just a couple thoughts on this past weekend. As you well know, the result that we got was not what we expected nor what we envision. With that being said, I do not want to minimize the growth of our defense. It's obvious we need to play better on offense. I don't think that we're at the point where defensively we're so strong that we can win games 3-0. But I do see tremendous improvement, and I think we can continue to grow and get better so I like the direction in which we're headed. Certainly we've got to do some things differently offensively. Nothing drastic, but we've got to make some subtle changes to what we're doing. We've got to get healthy too because that's been a big part of the inconsistency, just different line-ups and things of that nature. All in all, we're disappointed, but we've got to move forward.
This week's opponent is East Carolina. They've only won one game, but I think that can be deceiving. I know they've lost to three top-25 teams. Offensively, they like to throw it around. I think they'll probably throw it a minimum of 40 times because that's been their average, about 42 or so. When you look at them offensively, they've got a veteran quarterback they brought in last year in Dominique Davis. He's the heart and soul of their offense and does a great job distributing the ball. His favorite receiver is Lance Lewis. He's a speedster and a deep threat, so he's a guy we definitely have to be conscious of. Their running back, Reggie Bullock, has served them well in terms of what they're asking him to do in the running game. Those three guys are their primary playmakers, although they have a number of receivers with a number of different catches so our pass defenders will certainly be challenged this week to say the least. Defensively, they like to blitz. They play a three-down front, and they like to bring pressure. I think their secondary is veteran and is probably the strength of what they do defensively. It allows them to pressure as much as they are because those guys can hold up on the back end. As long as we can manage the pressure that they bring, there are some things they do give up, which we can take advantage of in order to sustain drives and put points on the board. If you go back and look at how they put points on the board, they start strong in the first quarter and the third quarter. So we have to match their intensity and their strong starts with a strong start of our own and then, let's play ball. I think that's critical to this week, just getting off to a good start. I think if we can do that we can sustain our productivity throughout the course of this game to truly pursue victory.
Can you talk about the problems on the offensive side of the ball, particularly all the three-and-outs?
In terms of third down, it was a bad day for us for a number of reasons: protection, decisions, some things we probably could've called differently and a lack of consistency in our passing game. You don't plan for third-and-nine-plus. You just don't plan for those types of situations. Third down is normal but you like to get into more of a manageable third-and-short. That's what we have to focus on. That means that we have to be more productive on first and second down.
You've said that Taylor (Reed) is still your starting quarterback. Have you given any more thought to opening up that situation?
The thing that we've got to do is glue our offensive line together. We've been very inconsistent with injuries and it showed on Saturday. You have to start there because when you can't run and you can't throw, it doesn't matter who your quarterback is. We've got to start with our offensive line and try to glue a group together that can play for some amount of time together, create some chemistry and continuity and give our offense an opportunity to go forward.
What will you do specifically to your offensive line to get it that way?
We're looking at a number of options. The first thing we have to do is get Nick Chartain healthy. He didn't play last week either. So we'll look at that. The young guy, Al Bond, started at right tackle so that may be an option for us as well. We've also considered looking at Ron Leary as a guard just to give us more of a physical presence in the interior part of our offensive line.
What's the injury status of Andy (Summerlin)?
It's still day-to-day. It's just how fast he can get over the pain threshold. Some of that will be him forcing the issue so he can get out there and practice.
Jerrell (Rhodes) only had seven carries on Saturday. Will that increase this Saturday?
We'll give him as much as he can handle. Jerrell and Marcus Rucker were not completely 100 percent, but they refused to not play. They wanted to play in that game. That's a compliment to them and their desire to help their teammates. We'll continue to nurse their injuries along until they can get completely healthy, but we will play them as much as we can. Marcus played 22 snaps, I think, and was probably a little sore afterwards. I'm hoping we can bump that up a bit. We'll give them as much as they can handle.
How would you rate Rucker's status? Is he 60 percent? 80 percent?
It's all about his pain threshold and mentally what he can sustain and handle based on his injury. I wasn't expecting him back until the ECU game, but he forced the issue. He fought through the pain and refused to sit. That's a compliment to him. We'll go through this week and be just as aggressive as we've been in the past in terms of his rehab and getting him healthy. As long as he can go and wants to go, which I know that he will, we'll continue to play him, but we'll also do it with caution because I don't want to have any setbacks. To me that's most critical, to make sure that we're not overdoing it and he's not pushing it. As a coach, I've got to make sure that I don't allow him to go overboard and cause a setback for him.
Talk about Kevin Wright - he seems to be getting the hang of it now and factoring in more.
He has. I think both him and Tannar (Rehrer) are. What you see on Saturdays is what they do during the week. They work extremely hard in practice. They push themselves to play fast, think fast and see it coming and react as opposed to guessing. It shows up on Saturday. We are looking at other ways to get the ball into Kevin's hands because he's deserving. Every time he gets the ball, he's productive.