"Okay. Anybody? Heiko, you don't have a question? You always have a question."
MGoIAmAboutToLookReallyStupidIn321: I do. I was just waiting for someone else to break the ice. Anyway, regarding the offensive line, a couple times during the game Akron lined up both of their defensive tackles in the A-gaps, and that sort of screwed up Jack Miller's blocking -- [MGoContext: Someone mentioned during the game that this happened. As it turns out, this may not have actually happened. MGoFail.]
"Well first of all, they didn't do that. They lined up in a double-eagle defense. Every time he blocks one direction he's covered the other direction, so the decision never should be bad, but it's all a matter of technique and fundamentals. On the first play of the game, he was lined up at nose guard and we just didn't get it covered. He stepped one direction and there was too much space between him and the left guard, and a guy leaked through. What they did in the game, they had done in other games. They didn't do it as much. They walked up on our weakside guard and was in essence a double-eagle or bear type defense, which wasn't anything new, it just wasn't run as often as we had seen on video. So we made some adjustments at halftime, handled it pretty good in the second half. We ran a little more directly at them the second half, a little less sideways, and that helped. That helped our running game."
[I recover! Eventually. Hit the jump.]
Status of the offensive line personnel-wise?
"Like I said, it's always been in pencil. We're going to continue to force people to compete at the position. It's that simple. But to say we're going to start firing guys left and right, no. We knew if we go through this there’s going to be some growing pains, and there has been in the first three games. Not a heck of a lot but it has been affected. But at the same time there is an expectation that we should improve. That’s my biggest issue with this football game more than anything – I don’t think we took a step forward. That irritates me more than anything.”
Who are the guys being challenged right now?
"The inside three are the guys that would probably be affected the most, but again, we want to give everybody a chance to continue to improve and compete. If you just change people every time you're not happy with how someone plays, sometimes you end up putting somebody else in there that goes through the same growing pains. You have to be very careful with that. But by the same token, like I said, from the beginning, it's all in pencil."
Yesterday Taylor Lewan said Glasgow graded out well. What did he do right?
"He plays with aggressiveness. He gets after people. But he too is a guy who has an error here and an error there, and a lot of it again is experience. He played hard. That's one thing Graham does a nice job of. For the most part he plays smart. But he still has those things that happen in games that kids have to go through to grow. He still has a couple of those, but that's an experience issue. But I think at the end of the day, Graham is progressing pretty nicely."
When you look at that third quarter drive when you drove down the field unimpeded with a bunch of runs, what was the difference between that and other drives?
"Well there just weren't any errors. If you look at the video, there's some really nice-looking plays surrounded by garbage. That's what happened in the game. How do you play a game like that? You turn the ball over. That's one thing we preach all week: we have to make sure we take care of the ball. We had a couple of ridiculous errors that put us in some bad situations. And that was it. When we didn't do that, we moved the ball fine. Total offense was pretty good at the end of the day and all that, but you can't surround it with all the stuff that we did. And it wasn't just turnovers. It was other stuff too. Blown assignments. A few things that were hard to fathom for me as a coordinator. Some of the stuff that I thought we had down by this time. We just didn't execute like we should have executed. It put us in a lot of second-and-long situations and some tackles for loss that were at times inexplicable. As coaches we have to do just a better job of preparing a team obviously. We didn't do as good a job. It's never one guy, although everyone always wants to blame it on one guy. It's a combination of things that we just have to improve on. We have to do a better job of coaching it, we have to do a better job of forcing the issue. A great coach demands what he wants. He doesn't ask for it, he doesn't suggest it. He demands what he wants, and that's what we have to do a better job of."
Is that the tone you take with Devin?
"With everybody! With Devin, with everybody. He's not any different from anybody else. If he makes a mistake, he's going to be corrected just like the left guard, just like the wide receiver, just like anybody."
What were your conversations like with Devin during that game?
"Well some of them were probably a little obvious to you. Just correcting the errors for the most part. The big thing about a game like that is because you're playing a team against whom you're heavily favored, there's a natural tendency for everyone to think that every time you get the ball you should score, every time they get it they should be stopped. If that doesn't happen everyone starts freaking out. Well I've been in many of these games where you're playing a team that you're favored against and if you start freaking out, they beat you. They darn near did anyway. But what you have to do is keep your composure as a coach and a player, so you’re not being a hypocrite, you’re not saying, ‘Keep you’re poise’ and all of a sudden you’re a screaming maniac—that’s a mixed signal there. You have to keep your poise, know what you want to call next, keep them informed and tell him what he’s doing wrong. That way you can correct the errors so hopefully they won’t show up again. I don’t know any other way to do it. I could go crazy, but I don’t know at what point that’s going to help. I’ve done some of that too. I don’t know if it really helps that much.”
Did Devin not keep his composure?
“I think he did pretty much. He was just having trouble finding a groove, I think we all were, having a little trouble finding a groove. Because if you look at the pattern of the game, and I’ve watched the game several times now, it’s long run, holding penalty, long run, holding penalty. The next question you're going to ask me is 'How come Fitz didn't get more yards?' Well he had 120-something yards but we had two holding penalties. That's a microcosm of the issue. Drive the ball down, turnover. These are the types of things that are a perfect storm for the team to upset you. And to our credit, they didn’t. And when we needed a touchdown, we got one. Did we play well? Not even close. But, in the crucial we played well, and we basically did not lose our composure to a point where we fell a part and didn’t play at all. If we had, we’d have lost.”
Did you get into trouble trying to get into a groove and maybe trying to force things to go right?
“Yeah. Oh yeah. When it’s not happening at the speed that you want it to happen. Offensively, we kind of have a microwave mentality –- we want it now. And then it’s ‘Oh god it didn’t happen, well now we want it!’ It’s a new series. Oh, it hasn’t happened yet? Well sometimes these problems perpetuate themselves and before you know it you’re pressing a little bit. Not necessarily losing your poise, but saying, ‘Okay, now it’s time we should be beating this team worse than we are.’ It can lend itself to some errors.”
With Devin in particular, is he more prone to forcing things because he's so athletic?
“Those are the plays you have to use good judgment on. Those are the plays you have to say, ‘Well, when do I cut my losses?’ You heard me say it with Denard all the time. When do you do it? There’s a fine line between being a playmaker and making a bad decision. Sometimes, the playmakers step over that line and sometimes the playmakers supposedly step over that line and make a play. So, as a coach, you have to make sure you keep them aggressive, you can’t scare them into playing cautiously. But at the same token, knowing that you have to use discretion, you have to keep us out of trouble because the quarterback influences the outcome of the game a lot and you have to make sure that he’s making the right decisions.”
Is knowing where that line is something that comes with maturity and experience?
“Oh of course it is. Without question. That's part of the position. You learn more and more about what to do and what not to do as you play more and more. These scenarios, different scenarios come up every week that under pressure are different than they are in practice. You live and learn. If one thing happens bad, hopefully you fix the mistake and move to the next thing. My biggest thing with any position, not just quarterback but any position, is how much do I have to re-coach you? How many times am I telling you the same thing time and time again and you’re just not getting it. Devin is actually pretty good at not being re-coached. He’s smart and an error he makes, he generally won’t make it again. But these scenarios, they’re different all the time. As much as you talk about them in the week, it’s a different deal when you’re playing on Main Street than when you’re playing on State Street. That’s with any quarterback. That’s with any position.”
What's your concern level regarding the run game?
“I think we need to improve it. I don't think there's any question about it. We've got to continue to pound it. A lot of our issues are still fundamental and techniques. And that sounds like coachspeak, but I'm telling you if you watch the tape that's exactly what it is. It's taking proper steps, working in concert with the guy next to you, understanding what the guy next to you is going to do depending on the line call or whatever. So much of it is that. On occasion we'll get pushed back, but it's not like that's happening constantly where we're just getting tossed. That's not happening a lot to us. We just have to improve ourselves fundamentally and technique-wise. As that happens, our run game will get good. Because you can see, even in the first three games, are we killing people running the ball? Not necessarily. But you can see flashes of it happening now, because there were some very nice runs in that football game by Fitz, by Devin. Devin ran through a couple of holes you could drive a truck through. And the quarterback rushing does count. Just want you to know that. That's part of your rushing. When it's done right, it's done well. When it's not done right, you get tackles for loss. So much of that is how you go about doing it.”
MGoQuestion: Is learning how to double team, who to double team, and then when to peel off of the double team one of the most difficult things to learn as an offensive lineman?
"Well a lot of it's chemistry. You're coming off on a guy on a double team. Very seldom are you going to double team a guy through the entire process of the play. At one point you're going to leave him to take a second level defender. Just working with the guy next to you, knowing exactly when either you're going to do that or he's going to do that based on how the defender moves takes some time. It takes some understanding exactly what your buddy's going to do. Our guys are getting better at that all the time, but we still have not arrived, and that's part of the process."
MGoLastQuestion: Akron's nose tackle seemed to be getting a lot of penetration. Jack Miller wasn't able to single block him well. Should he have been double-teamed at all?
"At times, depending on the play. Sometimes the center's got to block him by himself. Every play is different. Sometimes the center's going to get help on a double, sometimes he's not going to get help on a double. You can't double team every player now. There's only so many that you can. Depending on the nature of the play, whether it's a gap scheme, a zone scheme, or whatever, it will determine whether a guy's going to get help or not. Like I said, you can't double team all of them.
How do you coach judgment?
“Repetition is the best way. Guys doing it, blowing it. Some of it –- as much as I hate to say this –- is trial and error. Because you can coach a guy, coach a guy, coach a guy, but until that scenario comes up and he senses it and he blows it and he goes, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do that.’ But you talk about it. We talk about the three causes of interceptions. That's something that we've talked about since the first day on campus. You can talk about them and talk about them, but until those situations come up and in some instances you go through the trial and error, it’s hard to process. And that's happened to every quarterback who has ever played the position. Most quarterbacks will tell you, ‘I cannot desperately avoid a sack and throw the ball.’ Yet, under pressure sometimes when you’re trying to make a play. A 15-year NFL quarterback I've seen do that. You can't throw the ball over a flat defender who's backing up. Yet I've seen veteran quarterbacks do that because under pressure something happened that dictated -- they were trying to make a play and afterward going, ‘Oh my god, how did I do that?’ You just expose them to everything you think goes in to the position, practice it as much as you can and hope that they respond under pressure. And if anybody has a better formula than that, I’m all ears.”
Were Fitz's good runs a function of the offensive line using good technique and not making mistakes?
"Oh yeah. If you watch our video and really study it, you can tell when we do it right and when we don't. I mean, we come off the ball and our butts are right next to each other on zone blocks. Our combo blocks are hard and there's no space between blocks. You could see the difference from when it's not. The consistency of play is always the issue when you're not playing as good. One time it's good, one time it doesn't look as good. Why? Maybe fatigue. Maybe just lack of attention to detail. Things like that, but the runs that break are pretty runs. We had some this last game. A couple power plays that were just like you draw them up on the board. But then we run one and we miss a read. And then you go, 'What happened?' Just have to keep pounding. Keep doing what you're doing and coach what you coach and fix your mistakes.”
Fitz has had 13 negative yardage runs in three games. What's an acceptable number?
"I don't put a number on any of that. I don't put a number. Just improvement. That's what I'm looking for. If there were 13, I'd like ... 10. Okay? I want us to get better. If you have an inordinate amount of assignment errors then you better re-evaluate it. We really haven't had that to this point. So much of what we do is just fundamentals and techniques. I know you hear Brady say that a lot, but it's so true."
Despite the turnovers, you still scored 28 points. Does that say something about the offense and its potential?
“I think your ability to pass -- we’re throwing better than we’ve been throwing and that helps. That’ll account for a lot of things when you get behind the chains. As long as you’re not forced to throw the ball every snap, which that’ll come back to haunt you, too. It’s a nice way to recover. It’s not necessarily the answer all the time, I want to be clear on that. If you’re forced to throw all the time, like I said, eventually something’s going to show up that you’re not going to like.”
Jehu Chesson had a really nice game. What have you seen from him the last few weeks?
"He's made a lot of headway. He's learning how to play the flanker position. You could see on that play what we've seen in practice a bunch. He has some big play dimension. He also has some very nice run-after-catch ability. Because he is so explosive. He's very fast, and he's pretty tough. What was really impressive about Jehu was his blocking in that game. He is getting after people down the field. That's always nice to see because that means he's willing to mix it up. But I think you'll see more of him before it's all said and done. As he gains more confidence, he could be a real factor."