Oct. 17, 2011
Good afternoon, thank you for coming. A few comments on Saturday's game--certainly, we wish that we could have finished that game. We didn't, and it was disappointing. But, with all things considered, I thought we got off to the start we needed, but we didn't finish. Again, it kind of got away from us in the middle of the third quarter, and we didn't respond properly and we didn't overcome it. With that being said, based on what I saw this morning, the attitude of the team is very healthy. The guys worked out and were in good spirit. It was a little different because it seems to be more a focus on getting this thing right. I did see, after watching film, a part of them that could truly be something special if we can just sustain it. It was refreshing to see that.
In terms of this week's opponent, Tulane, they're struggling as well. But, when you're watching them on film, you can see a team that's very capable but hasn't been able to get any breaks--a lot like us. We look at them, offensively; they're balanced in terms of run and pass. They're very physical when they run the ball; they like to do some play action. Scheme wise, they do some very interesting things. They can lull you to sleep with the run because they do have a very physical attack. They have a strong running game behind Orleans Darkwa. Their quarterback, Ryan Griffin--he's been solid. I know this past weekend, he left the game and the game kind of turned on them from that point forward. UTEP was winning, but when he left, it didn't seem like the same team. I know when he's in there they have tremendous balance in what they try to do.
Defensively, their front four guys are very good. I think their defensive end (Dezman Moses) is as good as we'll play this year. He is quick. He has four sacks this season, but I think the interior part of their defense is solid with really a good solid two-deep. Their linebacking group is strong. (Ryan Travis) is probably their best secondary guy. All in all, you see them do some good things and then you see them self-destruct. I don't think that their record indicates the type of team they are capable of being. We definitely have to prepare this week and be ready to go in there and focus on starting and finishing strong. You have two teams that are struggling, so it's important to strike fast and get some momentum and energy going early that you can sustain. I think both teams understand it's a winnable game for both, but it'll be about the team that can execute the most.
Q: I know you talked about the demeanor in the locker room being positive, but are the players still having fun?
A: Yeah, they enjoy each other. It's a family, it's a team. I know the record is the same as last year, but we have a team this year. They count on each other, they hold each other accountable. Again, you watch them working in the weight room, it's no different than in the spring and summer. That's healthy, that's really healthy. They won't allow each other to drop the edge. There's a lot to be said for that. I've said all along that they have resolve. I mean, you saw that this week. They didn't come out and lay down. That's what we have to continue to do.
Q: Is it tough for the players to still play loose?
A: Well, we're going to have to play loose. We're going to be very aggressive in our approach, in every phase. You know, in order for us to truly jumpstart this thing, we're going to have to stay together. You cannot focus on the negatives because it captures you. But, if you're positive and you focus on that, it inspires you.
Q: That's the same message (men's basketball coach) Josh Pastner has, have you guys talked about that?
A: I have not. Josh and all the head coaches in the athletic department have been very supportive and I thank them for that. I also want to wish Josh, Melissa (McFerrin) and those guys well as they head into their season. He shoots me texts and says "Good luck, coach" and things like that.
Q: What's the quarterback situation for this week?
A: Sometimes we try to make a situation. Be it last year or this year, the reality is that whoever we decide to play is either a freshman or an inexperienced quarterback. That's been the case 95 percent of the time over the last two years. What we have to do is continue to grow those guys. The thing that I like about what's going on with them is they're positive. Their attitude truly reflects the attitude of this team. You look at a young Taylor Reed who is young, competitive and tough and wants us to win in the worst way. Skylar (Jones) got an opportunity to play, so that's re-energized him. Andy (Summerlin) is probably the leader of the group in terms of being mature. All three guys are in a very healthy state in terms of mentally. Physically, they've all been banged and bruised up. Skylar, you know left the game, but I think he'll be alright. Taylor is ready to go. We are in a phase right now where we will continue to do maintenance with him. We'll do the same with Andy so that we can avoid any controllable injuries going forward. Going into this week, just like I said on Saturday, Taylor will lead the charge.
Q: What did you see in Skylar that you liked on Saturday?
A: He did some positive things. He gave us some sparks at times. Again, where we are as a team, we can't afford to give anybody anything. We can't afford to be careless especially with the football. We'll continue to assess his play this week. If this game dictates, based on what Tulane is doing, we should create a package for him, then we'll certainly look at that. We're in the early stages of game planning.
Q: Talk about the running backs and where you are with Billy Foster and Jerrell Rhodes being out against East Carolina.
A: Both guys will get out and do some things. We will have to continue to evaluate it this week, but I anticipate Artaves Gibson being our starter this week.
Q: Will Jerrell Rhodes be back?
A: We'll have to see. Again, him getting out on the field is a positive step in the right direction. We'll evaluate it going forward.
Q: Talk about your offensive line and if you feel like the group you had on the field last weekend is a lineup you can stick with.
A: I think the offensive line that we have is a solid one. I think that's the one we'd like to stick with. I know A.J. Antonescu will be in the mix somewhere because he's such a quality player. We'll have six guys in position to play.
Q: Did you agree with the call that was reversed on the touchdown catch last weekend?
A: The reality of it is we got a new set of downs and it was first and four on the goal line. We have to get it in and get seven points and make that a non-factor.
Q: Why did you decide to kick the field goal instead of going for it?
A: That early in the game, it's time to put points on the board. Let's kick it off and stop them again and go back down and score. When you have a chance to put points on the board that early, you don't have to panic and go for it on fourth down. I didn't feel the need to go for it then.