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Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Al Borges
We're splitting the coordinators now, so Greg Mattison's transcript will be up after I eat something.
On the last four plays, do you wish you would have been able to call a run or a roll-out? “Yeah, you were going to struggle rolling out. They were in full blitz. Guys coming outside. I mean, you could roll out but your odds were not very good. Your best -- in four straight full blitzes, your best case scenario was the single coverage matchups. We got our hands on three out of four balls, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. But not a lot of reservation about that. Like I said, rolling out conceptually sounds good, but when the edge isn’t clean, it doesn’t look as good as it sounds.”
Any thoughts of running on first down? “No. Absolutely not. 16 seconds with no timeouts? What’re you going to do? If you run the football inside of 18 seconds, your odds, if you fail, of getting back lined up to run another play are very very slim, not to mention you eliminate probably two calls. So that would be bad playcalling. Bad strategy.”
What about the last play, with two seconds left? “That’s a possibility. That’s a possibility, and it was a couple different options we could have used there. We chose the one we chose and it didn’t work out. I wish it would have. But that’s viable, but at three yards, again, if you don’t make it, you’re going to look silly. When you have a seven-man pressure staring at you in the eyes, superman’s going to struggle running through that.”
Has Denard gotten tentative running the ball? He looks slower. “I don’t think so. I haven’t timed him, but he doesn’t look any slower to me. So my answer to that is I don’t think he has. No. Not really.”
MGoInterjection: I did notice that on the outside runs, he constantly looks for the cutback … “Well, what’s happening on those is he’s got to start cutting off his outside foot. We talked about that. That’s happened twice now, maybe three times when we’re cutting off our inside foot and he slipped. So we’re getting that corrected.”
(more after the jump)
The outside receivers weren’t blocking as well as they were in earlier games. Was it because Iowa had aggressive cornerbacks? “Well we lost some matchups outside and we won some matchups outside, but it wasn’t always the wide recievers because a couple of times we didn’t get the ball to the perimeter. It’s a combination of issues. It was a game where unusually enough, we played a lot of 10-man football in this game, where we had 10 executing and for some reason one guy, and it was usually someone different every play, wasn’t getting it done. It led to a lot of unsuccessful plays that had in the past had been successful plays. It’s all usually fundamental and technique and things like that. We just had a lot of 10-man football.”
In the first quarter, Toussaint had 39 yards on seven carries. What happened going forward? The power running game kind of disappeared. “We had 14 plus-four runs, I believe, during the course of the game. [At] the 10-minute something mark, we went to fast offense. We were down 24-9, so the balance of the playcalling is skewed based on that. You lost 10 minutes when we were throwing the ball a lot just to get back in. It worked nicely, too. It got us back in the game, but I think in a four-quarter game when you have a balance of playcalling, you would have seen -- he would have had 20-something carries like he did last week. He wouldn’t have had 170 yards, but he would have had decent numbers and everything would have worked out fine, but at one point in time, you have to change your strategy, and sometimes it means giving up what your original game plan was to do, and in that case was to run our spread, run our two-back, run our stuff.”
Hopkins was doing well as a lead blocker. “He had a good game. Played good, yeah.” What does he add to your run game? “Just that. He’s a good lead blocker. Has tailback type skills, so he has good feet, but he has some toughness, can catch the ball, have to get him more involved in that end of the game, too. He was one of the guys that played better than a lot of the other kids. As we develop more and more some of our two-back offense, he’s going to be more of a factor.”
How has he handled the transition from running back to fullback? “So much of it is a buy-in. You have to buy in. If you don’t buy in to the position, you’ll never be any good playing fullback. We’ve converted I don’t know how many kids from tailback to fullback, and the ones that did well generally became next-level players. But they had to be convinced that that’s what they were. If you’re still thinking in the back of your mind you’re still going to be a tailback, you can’t be a fullback. That doesn’t work in our offense. That has to start with the mindset.” So does he buy in to that? “Oh yeah.” How much bigger would you like to see him get next year? “He’s big enough right now to play the position. He’s moving people because he’s explosive and he’s strong. You can always put maybe a little bit of quality weight on -- muscle -- but I don’t know that he has to be a lot bigger. He’s big enough to play the position.”
Seems like shotgun three-wide is Denard's most comfortable set, especially in the fourth quarter. “That’s a little different. You have to understand at the end of the game, when the defense wasn’t playing the same way as earlier in the game. You have a completely different scenario. One of the big misconceptions when watching the football game is two-minute offense. Some guys are trying to do that the whole game. Some are succeeding and some aren’t. Well the mindset of the defense changes when you’re at 24-9 and some completions might be there that weren’t there in drives. You just have to know that situationally football changes series to series. How you appraoch that is based on how you plan it and what you think the quarterback’s best at. But that time, we got in three wides and did what we did. Maybe the next time we try the same thing it’s not nearly as successful.”
How does Illinois’ defense differ from Iowa’s defense? “They’re schematically very different. Illinois is very much a movement team. Likes to pressure with at least one linebacker at one time or another, whether it’s the strong inside, the strong outside, the weak inside. They’ll corner blitz you. There’s more variation to the defense whereas Iowa is more line up one way and do it right, do it sound, and do it consistently. I think Illinois teaches the same things. They want to do it right, but they’re willing to do more things to that end, if that makes any sense. There’s more chalkboard to draw up. There’s more for the kids to digest. There’s more for us to look at. Two different approaches, both very good. It’s all in what your coordinator’s philosophy is and what we can get taught.”
Were you pleased with the offensive line? “Oh at times I was. At times I wasn’t. I think we’re not as complete as we’d like to be. We did some good things. Our biggest reason that we didn’t win this game is because from an offensive perspective we had no big plays. We had nothing -- if you look at the seven games that we’ve won, almost all of them there’s been huge chunks of yardage taken off in certain drives for whatever reason, whether they were runs or passes or whatever. In this game, we had some nice runs. We had 14 plus-four if I’m not mistaken, but we took no chunks. We failed to get big bites out of the defense. It took a toll on our point production. It took a toll on our yardage. It took a toll on everything. We had 20-something first downs, but that’s kind of meaningless when we can’t score. 16 points -- you have to score more points. You have to assume you have to score more points from an offensive perspective. And the way you do that is you move the ball incrementally and to turn around once in a while and take a big bite of the defense. We did not do that latter, and that, from an offensive perspective, is one of the reasons we didn’t win the game.”
Was that more your doing or Iowa’s doing? “I think a little of both. You have to give them credit now. They do a nice job and always have. There were some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on. It’s always a little bit of both. We didn’t get pushed around. They didn’t dominate us, I don’t think, but they played good. I think they played darn good, and the combination of them playing well and us not playing as well as we could -- you see the result.”
What does Denard need to do better to complete more deep passes? “We went back to basics on this Sunday. Earlier in the season, we were doing a really nice job of giving our receivers an opportunity to make plays down the field. Our philosophy is to make sure the receiver touches the ball. We have some good rangy receivers that can make jump balls, take balls away, and we just went back and said, ‘Okay, we can miss a little short, but give him that opportunity,’ because that’s what happened of late that wasn’t really happening that much earlier in the season, is we’ve been overthrowing guys. So we went back and worked on that, and I think you’re going to see some results there. Two things we talked about is that, number one, and number two is using his skills more on improv. Any play caller, whether they want to admit it or not, is probably going to call anywhere from five to seven plays during the course of the game where it’s going to be [covered]. There’s going to be somebody that’s not open. You call too many of those and you’ve called a bad game. It’s going to happen. Now what’s going to happen those five plays where there’s nobody open? In those instances your quarterback has to create. We emphasized that more is the ability to create and what we’re going to do when we create.”
Was the Fitz Toussaint touchdown pass a play where you would have liked to see Denard improv/just tuck it and run? “Exactly. Great example. That was covered. They did a nice job. We ran a little goal-line zone, beat them off a play-action pass, and the safety came out and took Hopkins, and the corner squeezed in the pop, and there was nobody open. But he bought enough time to let people move around. And all of a sudden you can’t cover them forever. I don’t care who you are. Somebody broke free. Fitz broke free and we completed a pass. There has to be a portion of your offense that there is some improv involved. I don’t like too much of it, because then it becomes street ball. You can’t win doing that. But the greatest quarterbacks ever -- and I’m not just talking about the scramblers, I’m talking about the guys that can buy the extra beat to get the ball off just by moving their feet a little bit -- make that third play I’m talking about. That third play where that guy’s covered and they create something. Denard’s capable of doing that as well as anybody I’ve ever coached. We just have to work on it more. We have to get good at it and be willing to do it in certain situations.”
Is Denard too hesitant to take off? “I don’t think so. Here’s the deal. There’s a delicate balance between turning down open receivers to run, okay, and running when nobody’s open. Just in all the research I did over the years, particularly in West Coast offense -- there’s that word again. Steve Young, for example, became a great, great player, but Steve became a great passer and great quarterback when he found where that balance was. I think even Steve would tell you earlier in his career he ran when he shouldn’t have been. But when he knew when to run -- nobody’s open, improv, do all that -- he became a better quarterback. Denard’s learning that. He possesses the same type of skills. He does. But that’s growth, man. That’s learning how to play the position. It takes a while. When you add to that, your pass offense, learning the new pass offense, and still going through the progressions and all that stuff, there’s a lot to learn that way. He’s not unlike so many quarterbacks I’ve had in the same situation.”
It seemed like Iowa defended the Deuce package really well. Was it lack of execution on your part or did they have a really good plan against it? “Well, breaking down the plays, we didn’t really use this much of it as we have in the past because we kind of started slow. We had two three-and-outs to start the game, which is just painful. That’s a horrible way to start the game. So we didn’t get into the flow of the package very much. You have to understand something about that package -- not every play’s going to work in that package. Plays build off other plays build off other plays, and they change week to week. Sometimes they’ll shut down a facet of that and won’t shut down another facet of it. The residuals will get you something. We never really got into the second part of the package. We just tapped it a little bit and never really got into it.”
What goes into calling a Deuce play? Some of them seemed to stall drives a little bit. “You call them as you feel it. I don’t know if they stalled drives or not, but we don’t use them on third down very often so I don’t know if that’s a big factor. So much of playcalling is feel. When you put them in, when you feel like it’s going to work the best. A week before we put them in there, we had some great pops. This week we didn’t have great pops so people are going to perceive it as stalling drives. You can’t give up on it. Certain things you can’t say, ‘Well it didn’t work this week, let’s not do it anymore.’ That’s panic and that’s bad and that’s getting away from what’s gotten you where you are.”
Does anyone know why we don't run the counter out of the shotgun that we ran really well against Minnesota (I'm pretty sure)? You know the one where Denard takes a step or two in one direction and hands it off to the other direction? That play was insanely effective and we haven't seen it in quite a while. Any ideas?
Denard to throw jump balls (ala Notre Dame). My apologies to Denard. All of this time I thought that he was just chucking it up there and hoping to get lucky.