News bullets and other important items:
No status change with Beyer. Knee injury. Will be out for a week.
Courtney Avery missed some plays late in the game due to a back problem.
Richard Ash has a boo boo.
“It’s good to win a football game, obviously. That’s why you go out there and compete. I think when you evaluate and you see where we’re at, we’ve got to improve if we’re going to win the Big Ten Championship. We’ve got to improve at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. You’ve heard before, and that message won’t change. I think we went out with a mission offensively to get Denard very involved running the football. I thought he did a nice job of that. I think we did a nice job in the throwing game. The interception, I think Vince was fighting the umpire a little bit, but also it’s just one of those things that we have to execute that, but from that standpoint defensively, we played 98 plays. Way too much, we have to get off the field obviously, but at the same time those guys hung in there, and they hung in there when they had to at the end of the football game and made some plays. So that part of it is a very positive part of it. I think we adjusted to some things to some things they were doing, which helped in the second half. So all in all was it where we want to be? No. But at the same time, it was a good win to get.”
How much does UMass provide you an opportunity to work on the things you need to work on?
“Well I think they do. From an offensive and defensive perspective. I think what we manufacture this week against each other has to be part of it. When we do ones on ones or we do competing-wise. I think that’s all a big part of it. They give us -- they’re running a lot of the spread, but there’s a lot of things within that that can help us.”
How is Brennen Beyer? Will he be available?
“I don’t think he’s available this week. He tweaked a knee this week. ”
Is there more of a diagnosis on what it is?
“It’s the same.”
Kovacs said you ran an entirely different defense during the last two series. What did you do differently and would that have worked better had you done that earlier in the game?
“Well we got into really our nickel defense because they had to throw the ball. That’s something they’re not comfortable doing as much from a drop-back standpoint. Now boots and waggles and those kinds of things, they’re pretty comfortable with off play action and all that, but from the standpoint of them wanting to be in a drop-back game, that was to our advantage.”
Looking at the running game, were there different holes for Denard than for Fitz?
“Well some is we couldn’t get Fitz started. They ran 30 times fire zones -- run fire zones, which they never were that big a team. We call them sharks and stuff like that. But it was a little different. It was a little different. Never could get him started. Some of it we have to block better, some of it on some of the reads, maybe he should have kept the ball twice in there, but I think some of it goes down to number one what we were trying to do, giving Denard the ball, and secondly blocking better. And then you’ve got to give them a little credit, too.”
How much of an emphasis will it be to get Fitz started against UMass?
“Well I think it’s important. Any time we can get the running back involved is huge for us. And I think when you see that involvement from the running game with him and Denard and then complementing with the pass game, it’s worked out well for us.”
Was the use of freshman linebackers specifically for Air Force or was it because they’re playing pretty well?
“I think we feel real comfortable with them. I think at one time there were six true freshmen on the field together, or redshirt freshmen included in that. They’re competing and this whole game’s about competition. Guys who are playing well or guys who are earning time, they’re going to play.”
When did you identify Devin Funchess as a playmaker, and do you have to temper his expectations and tell him he may not have 100 yards receiving every week?
“You know, I don’t know if I’ll temper it. Obviously we recruited him, so we thought he had some ability. He’s done a nice job, I will say, and he’s bigger than when he got here. He’s not afraid, which is good because blocking’s a big part, whether it’s that Y position which A.J. played most of, or the U position, you’ve still got to be able to be good at the point of attack. He’s got ability. He’s a little bit of a mismatch problem because of his range and his ability to run.”
Have you ever had a team that played so many true freshman as this team has?
“No. I have not.”
What challenges does that pose?
“We had 17 true freshmen go to Dallas. Some of them hadn’t flown. The schedule that we keep, there’s an itinerary and when we meet, what we wear, what we eat and all of those things. I don’t want to call it babysitting, but it’s a lot of educating. Our upperclassmen have done a good job so a young guy understands what’s expected.”
With Bolden and Ross specifically, what did they show you to put themselves in that position to earn playing time, and where do they need to get better?
“I think the second part of the question, there’s a lot they need to get better at. From drops and coverages to footwork, all those things, but that’s no different with the guys that are playing them, but they’re both very instinctive football players. At that position, being instinctive is a big plus.”
Where are Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan in that respect? Have they been beaten out?
“I don’t think they’re beaten out. They’re competing. We want to roll some guys in anyway. We rolled a lot of guys in in the front during the course of the game, but as far as [the linebackers] I think there’s a healthy competition that’s going on.”
With Jake wearing No. 47, will he wear that the rest of his career?
“Yeah, that’s the plan.”
How concerned are you about the offensive line? Will you consider shaking things up?
“I don’t know if I’m real concerned at this time. I think one, I give them a lot of credit for what their plan was. I think as a group they’re coming together. I think we’ve got to be more consistent and better at the point of attack on some things, but I’m not concerned yet.”
How much does it increase practice intensity when guys are seeing that the competition for playing time is real?
“I think it would get your attention if you were one of those guys.”
Are you concerned with Roy Roundtree’s production? Is his knee still bothering him?
“No he’s fine. I would say it’s more what’s in the plan and a little more how other people want to defend [him]. I’m not concerned.”
How much do you need guys other than Denard to make plays?
“Oh you have to have guys step up. And again, guys making plays, it’s easier to make plays if I’m a running back and I can get started and there’s a decent hole. That always helps. From that standpoint, we all have to improve.”
Raymon Taylor got a lot of work on Saturday. How is the competition between him and Courtney?
“Well I think it’s good. Courtney got a little beaten up. His back was bothering him a little bit at the end, but I think it’s a healthy competition. Ray did some pretty good things being aggressive. Had some plays he needs to be a little more disciplined with to some degree with his eyes and what he’s seeing and how he reacts.”
What is Quinton Washington doing better now than what he was doing in the past?
“Well fundamentally and with techniques. That’s probably where he’s playing better. I think the more experience, game situation, I think they all tend to play better and at the same time they can see the correctable things that they need to do better.”
What did you think of Norfleet running in front of Dileo and grabbing that ball?
“Uh, I think we need to have a little bit better communication. That could have been disastrous, but again he’s a freshman, he’s young, he loves to compete, so you’ve got to get that squared away.”
Is he overeager at times?
“No, I think all his decisions were pretty good besides maybe that decision.”
How much do you think you can get him going on offense?
“I think, well, I don’t know. There’s a lot to being a running back. There’s a lot of things where he’s still going through a process of learning. If we felt he was our best running back, he’d probably be playing.”
Especially with Beyer’s injury, how important is it to have Frank Clark back?
“You know, Frank gives you number one a little bit of experience from a year ago. He’s pretty athletic and pretty physical. Whether Brennen was hurt or not, it was good to have Frank back.”
How important is the development of younger players for depth?
“Well I think that’s always an important part in the development of your depth. I think we’ve been able to do that a little bit. That’s something that we have to keep the competition very healthy and very lively in practice, and at the same time feel confident in the guys who are going out on the field.”
Do you think the defensive line will improve on a similar trajectory as it did last year?
“You know, if I knew that, I’d feel a lot better, but I think we have a long way to go.”
How did Will Campbell do?
“Yeah he did some good things in there but I think the consistency from a leverage standpoint and the pad level at times, he needs to play a little better. One thing is William’s come to work every day and I’ve loved his work ethic, I’ve loved how he’s come in to lead. I expect he’ll keep improving.”
Is that correctable?
“I think the only way you correct it is doing it every day right, and those good habits that you try and create. I think with Will, playing defensive line maybe didn’t come naturally at first to him.”
What was the defensive holding call all about?
“Yeah it’s … I’m a defensive line coach, so I have a little problem with the rule. But I don’t make rules, so that doesn’t help any. He did a nice job of flattening the center, and when he’s flattening the center, the guard’s going to try and cut him from the back side. Sometimes you’re holding onto the center as you’re moving your feet so you can stay upright.”
You’re playing against Mike Cox next week. Does that affect anything?
“No. I’m happy for Mike that he’s getting to finish out his eligibility and getting to play. I’m going to root for Mike every Saturday but this Saturday.”
Does it help that you’re more familiar with UMass’s offense than the triple option?
“Well I think the triple always -- you can go from staff to staff across the country. I like playing that offense as much as anyone, believe me. But most people would tell you they don’t.”
Is that because of how disciplined your defense has to be?
“Well it’s some of that, and it’s some of what they do, how the blocks take place is part of it. It’s a little different.”
It seemed like when they ran the dive, you did pretty good defending it, but you struggled when they went to the edges.
“I think there’s all kinds of reasons. I mean, was the quarterback player taking the quarterback? Was the pitch guy blocked or unblocked? Were they arcing? Were they loading? Were they loading the fullback? They did a lot of different things.”
Did you do cut block practice?
“It’s hard to do that during that week. You got bodies.”
Did Joe Bolden play more because of his familiarity with the triple offense?
“You know, I think he saw things pretty well. I think part of that experience might be that.”
Freshman offensive linemen? Do you envision them playing this year or would you rather not have that happen?
“You know, I don’t car eif they do or don’t to be honest with you. I want the best players on the field. I think they’re all making progress. Probably as hard a position in division I football to play as a freshman because of the schemes, the protections, the defenses you face, the variety of zone blitz, all those things. That’s probably the toughest. If they progress and we feel they’re better, then they’ll play.”
What is Richard Ash’s situation?
“He’s got a boo boo.”
Evaluation of Ondre Pipkins?
“Ondre, he’s a long way from being the nose tackle that he will be. He has pretty good quickness for a big guy -- more explosion, probably. Technique and fundamentals he keeps working. Has to be better with his hands and his eyes, but he’s making progress. ”
Did his neck injury slow down his development at all?
Denard accounted for most of your offense. What does that say about the progress of your team?
“Well I don’t know. Game to game, again you got to go back to how people defend you and how they defend him. I think that’s a big part of it and how we can be successful enough at point of attack on the quarterback -- not the quarterback but the run plays by the running back.”
Did Alabama do anything scheme-wise to stop Denard that Air Force didn’t, or did Alabama just do it better?
“They did a good job.”
You put on the headset on a little bit for part of the game. Was there something you needed to monitor?
“No. I put them on every game sometimes. Especially in the two minute, that part of the game. We were in between if we wanted to go two-minute at the end of the first half. We started with the ball on the 20.”
Seemed like there was some confusion at the end of the half …
“Well, to be honest with you, the first part of it we wanted to see what we did on the first play and how we reacted if we got enough of a chunk. Didn’t want at that time to give the ball back to them. So that part of it.”
How much did you learn from the clock management situation?
“I think we did okay.”
Would you have called a timeout earlier?
You had two, right?
“Yeah, we had two.”
You had very few offensive plays over the last two games (50-60 per game). Are you comfortable with that number?
“No I’d rather have 80 offensive plays. You play better defense watching your offense.”
Is that something you’ve emphasized to your players?
“No. Because what are you going to do? Take away a 90-yard touchdown run?”
What’s your reaction to a guy who has nine of the top 10 offensive performances in program history?
“Well, let’s hope he gets nine more of them.”
Did you offer Jake Ryan a choice?
“Sure. Him and I talked about it.”
Do you like that he’ll have some time to wear that number as opposed to a senior who will wear it for only a year?
“Yeah. I think so.”
What does a player have to do to initiate that conversation with you about the number?
“He probably wouldn’t initiate it. I’ll initiate it.”
What do you have to see from a player to offer them a number?
“Well I think the character … I think Jake’s character, I think the integrity, I think how he’s represented himself and this program. I think from a purely football standpoint, his competitiveness that he shows daily.”
Are there different criteria for different jerseys?
“Same approach for all of them.”
What did you see from Devin Gardner? Is he becoming more comfortable running routes?
“Well I think he is getting more comfortable running the routes and doing those kinds of things within the offense. I think it’s still a learning curve, especially when it comes to runs.”
Evaluation of special teams? Last season you were never that pleased.
What about this year?
“Well I don’t think -- 31 yards net punting? That wasn’t very good.”
I just meant over two games, are you feeling like they’re improved?
“I think we have the potential to be very good in special teams.”
Is Gardner advancing faster than you expected him to?
“I never thought how much he’d advance, like we had this marker or this goal. He, like all of us, if we have the chance to win the Big Ten championship, we have to improve. Coaches, players, everybody.”
Has his ability impressed you though?
“I think he’s a guy who number one, he’s an athlete. Number two, I think he understands football at a pretty good rate.”