First Evans last week, now Isaac today. How big is it for you guys to gain more depth at the running back position with all the guys you lost from last season?
“I thought Ty had a heck of a game. Career high for him and he keeps ascending, so feel good. Fullbacks are doing a nice job. I think most of our veteran players are playing good and kind of the theme is we’ve got to get experience. We’ve got to get experience playing. It’s guys’ first time playing here in the Big House, first time going through a week of school, and got to be patient. We’re going to coach ‘em up and long road ahead but can’t get experience without playing, so that’s kind of the theme.”
If you could talk about two plays: the first one the 36-yard reception by Zach Gentry that kind of got things going for the offense and then the decision to go for it on fourth-and-eight.
“Yeah, that was a nice job by Zach. Wilt threw a good ball on the crossing route. Yeah, we needed that to flip some field position where we had a couple previous punts, so that was good.
“The decision to go for it on fourth-and-eight, we were around the 33-yard line, would have been a 50-yard, 51-yard field goal. Punting it could have gained you only eight yards, so decided to take the chance there. I think, I believe—who made that catch? Was it Grant? Kekoa.
“There was a lot of good. There was a lot of good and a lot of times where the screen’s going a little fuzzy and we’re not doing our assignments. Then the fumbles, those hurt. And the ball handling. We’ll just keep going. Wins are tough to come by and we’re glad to have this one.”
Started strong in terms of the score and the final score was lopsided but what happened in between to maybe make it closer than expected?
“You saw the game.”
[After THE JUMP: “I’m dead in here. It’s like burnt wood in terms of nervousness and butterflies and emotions that way.”]
I’m not the coach.
“I’ll just let you write whatever you want, Larry.”
“Did you not watch the game?”
Yeah, I did.
“Okay, well, you’re a paid writer.”
Right side of the offensive line: I know last week you mentioned Nolan [Ulizio] was improving. How would you grade out Nolan, the good and the bad. Same with Mike Onwenu. The right side as a whole, how would you assess those guys?
“It was a game where mistakes were made and weren’t multiple in terms of like three or four by one person, but it was one by each. One by Mike; you know, he pulls, when the play’s coming toward him he pulls and we get hit in the backfield on third-and-two. Made it fourth-and-four down on the goal line. Stuff like that. A guy gets a holding penalty not using the technique and blocking the guy he should. There’s the personal foul by Nolan. Quarterback on the ball handling, ball slips out of his hand, et cetera et cetera.
“I could document it and go through it play by play like Larry wants me to do but that’s kind of the cause of it. There’s guys that are taking turns and we’ve got to get into a rhythm. All 11 got to execute and that’s on us as coaches and the players to evaluate what’s causing it and how to get our offense into the rhythm, because we can move the ball. We can move the ball, and we had the feeling coming out of this game that we stopped ourselves on occasion. That’s the challenge for our team.”
Is there any level of frustration or anticipation? In your mind how long does this stuff need to take to be ironed out? Week two, still early in the season, but are you thinking about that, like, ‘Okay, this stuff need to be ironed out now’?
“Well, as I said in the very beginning, very patient. You can’t gain experience playing in games—you can only do it by playing football, so there’s definitely a certain level of patience there. And stubbornness. Call it either way. Some people like to say stubbornness, I like to say patience. We’ll continue on that path striving for perfect, striving for perfection. That’s the goal, execution, and we’ll keep going.”
Going through the roster there’s about a dozen kids from the state of Florida and all those starters from the state of Florida. With Hurricane Irma, was anything addressed with the team or players?
“We all—I have relatives in Florida. We all do. We talked. All you can do is pray about it. And you check and make sure your families are okay and yeah, it’s a challenge. Guys were talking about it and making calls, et cetera, but that’s… you pray for the state of Florida but certain things aren’t in your control.”
Nothing was addressed to those guys prior to the game?
“We had conversations.”
You made a change at punt returner. It looked like on the sidelines you had a talk with Donovan [Peoples-Jones] at one point about being able to come up and catch the ball and be in control. Was that what that conversation was about, and when you switched to Grant [Perry], why did you switch to Grant?
“Just felt like the decision to not catch the ball was coming too late and was allowing too many of our guys to be around the ball. Going to have to keep coaching that up. Guy’s doing it for the first time. There’s a point where you have to come off blocking your man as you get closer to the returner. That 10 yards distance away and got to be able to find the returner and it’s not easy to do. Trying to block a man, got to find the returner, got to have that awareness and St. Juste at one point was getting blocked into the catch spot and saw that that was one that Donovan needed to—he needed to… he wasn’t going to be able to make a play. He was going to run into his own man, so there’s experience that needs to take place there and felt like we wanted to go with the guy that had a little bit more time on task, a little more experience. It was just that simple. Donovan will be really good but need more experience, and you get a couple thing that go bad and you’re not confident, so that was the decision to change at that point.”
Between games one and two, overall did you see the growth that you wanted to see between week one and week two?
“Well, we grew in experience. Again, there will be a lot of things for each individual player to think about. Just… In a number of ways of playing a football game, there’s things that you can’t experience until you experience ‘em. There’s handling your emotions, handling a week at school for the first time, even that environment, that atmosphere. There’s nerves, there’s butterflies and you get experience on how to handle them. At some point. I mean, it’s like, me, I’m 53, it’s gone dead. I’m dead in here. It’s like burnt wood in terms of nervousness and butterflies and emotions that way. Guys that are doing it for the first time or second time even? It takes some time on task. It takes some experience. We got some more of that today, and that’s a good thing.”
Maybe this falls in that category but Wilton was in here talking about his mechanics and the passes that sailed on him. There were a number of them today [and] there were some last week. To the casual fan it may look like open guys, shouldn’t he make those but enlighten us: when that happens, is there more to it than that?
“I mean, guys—there’s different ways people throw. They’re gonna—you go with the usual buzzwords. I can think of one that sailed: I think it was Donovan coming on the deep crossing route. He had a nice throwing lane. See the lane, see the throw, and make the throw. You’re not going to be perfect. Went 17-of-28, 58% with a couple throwaways. Not bad. Could be better, and we’ll keep striving for that perfection. I don’t know exactly what his mechanics were on that but people throw how they throw. He’s done it enough where he’s going to hit most of them in my mind.”
You mentioned you were, what did you say, charred wood, dead wood inside—
“Yeah, to those emotions of nervousness.”
Have you had to stop and think when you’re reacting to some of these guys about how young they are? In a game, in camp or anything, have you changed the way you coach at all the past couple weeks?
“Yeah, I think about it a lot, Nick. And what you’re asking somebody to do and putting them in a position where they’re confident they really understand it. That’s the ideal position. There’s a lot of it right now. There’s a lot of who’s really got this and you don’t know for sure, but happened some—first, punter, snapper, kicker I think did a nice job today. You don’t know but you remember. You remember. It’s hard to execute. It’s hard to play with a lot of emotions. You’re better off being dead to ‘em.
“But to answer your question, yeah. Think about it, try to anticipate, try to resolve when you can but the other thing in my mind is you can’t dumb it down Barney-style either and just line up in a two tight ends and a balanced line and think that you’re just gonna run off tackle play after play after play when they have five defensive linemen in the game and they’re doing a nice job as the case was today.
“I don’t know. Probably talking too much here but yes, I do think about it. Try to anticipate, try to resolve, and the experience has taught me that they’ve gotta go do it. They’ve gotta go do it and keep moving forward and gaining the experience. I know what these guys are made of and they’re going to get it. I feel very, very confident about that. Did that make any sense?”
“Thanks for interpreting.” [laughs]
Did you get an explanation from Wilton on the couple fumbles that he had? Was it a miscommunication?
“Uh…no. No miscommunication. He’s taking the other hand off the ball and trying to do it one-handed. I’ve been telling him it’s a matter of time until it slips out of your hand. Today was the day. Today was the day it just slipped right out of his hand. It’s a bad habit. Keep working hard to break him of that but got us today on that.
“The fly sweep, I’ve got to see that one, whether the depth—the snap off-point I thought was too late. Kekoa might have been a little too tight and I’m not so sure that that ball didn’t slip out of Wilton’s hands. I think it was a culmination of three things that went wrong with that play and we’ll get more time on task on it. That was my feelings on both of the plays. Quarterback’s gotta—you’ve got to handle the ball handling. Belt to belt, seat it in there with your eyes.”