MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']
" 'Big win.' Two words."
Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?
"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."
What did you think of Jeremy Gallon's game, and how do you feel about the receivers in general?
"Well, uh, Jeremy just had a lights-out game. He's a good player and he knows how to run routes and he knows how to get loose, and he's obviously a good run-after-catch guy. Him and Devin have worked together a lot, not just out here but in the offseason. They have a little chemistry. That's nice. Threw a couple nice back-shoulder throws that were right on the money. The routes were well run. But he did what he's capable of doing. I've been saying it from the beginning. He's not very tall, but he plays a lot taller than he is. And he's a tough guy that has explosive strength. That makes a big difference. But our overall receiving corps, we still need to get more guys involved, I think. Jehu Chesson hasn't caught a ball yet, but we're going to work on getting him more involved. Jeremy Jackson's been solid and steady. So you know, we're doing okay, but that can always get better."
Looked like Jake Butt was pretty involved.
"Yeah I thought Jake Butt was probably our nicest surprise because after spring football -- he came in kind of light, so we assumed it would probably take a year and we would redshirt him. But he came back bigger and stronger. Jake's always had good football awareness, even from the first day he got here. So he's made a contribution much faster than we had anticipated after spring football."
Do you think opposing teams underestimate Jeremy Gallon because he's so small?
"I don't think that anymore. I think that might have been maybe early, but now they've seen enough. I don't think his height's a factor anymore in terms of their thinking. He's just a crafty route-runner. He's strong, he's hard to press. He knows the tricks of the trade because he's played the position a lot and he's got a lot of balls thrown in his direction. He's gained confidence. All those things combined have made him what he is now. And he's still -- he'll tell you -- there's still a few things he needs to improve. There were a couple of routes where he fell down and just run with a little more control, get his feet underneath his pads. He's not a finished product either, but he's certainly a threat."
Did you coach Devin to target Gallon so much? Was that part of the game plan or the play calling?
"No. No. Everything's a progression. You call a route and he goes through a progression and he's got certain things within a route, where if he sees single coverage he can take it and other routes if that's not the case. It just depends on the play. That's really the way it is. Every pass pattern's got a first look, second look, third look, and you may have something that can trump it if you see man-to-man in a certain coverage. That's the way it is. But no, we don't tell him, 'Look for Gallon' or 'Look for this.' "
Physically, how did the offensive line hold up? Seemed like some of the mistakes were assignment-related.
"Yeah there were a couple of blitz issues that we screwed up a little bit, but they played hard. But we had some things that showed up -- our inexperience showed up. We had some linebackers run through some zone plays, where that shouldn't have happened. We messed up a couple of blitz pickups because we'd take our eyes off a guy and he's slip through us. But everything is very fixable. Not major issues where it looks like a guy was just lost. That part of it was good, and like I said, the effort was good. As long as they're trying hard and listening to you telling them what to do, you can always fix it. These guys are going to get better and better as they play more. I don't think they did a bad job. There were a few deals -- [Notre Dame] is good up front. The nose guard is hard to block. All of them, not just him. But he's particularly difficult to block, but I thought Jack Miller did a nice job of fighting in there and holding up the best he could hold up in a game he was tested."
MGoQuestion: How do you adjust to aggressive linebackers, particularly on the zone stretch?
"Well you have to keep your eyes on them as you zone so you can retrace back and pick them off. Once you step to your zone, the area of your zone, you always have your eyes on the guy that's over you. If you've over stepped your zone, they can undercut you in the run through. Manti Te'O did a lot of that. He kind of mastered that thing. So you know, just have to get more reps. Have to do more. Very doable."
MGoFollowup: So it's an assignment, targeting thing?
"No no. Assignments stay the same. It's just the technique within the assignment. Occasionally switching schemes, which we did later in the game. We switched schemes a little bit and started running more directly at them, which kind of keeps them a little more honest. We were running wide zone a bunch during the game, and that's one of our plays, but it's not our only play. Having the ability to run the ball at them in home position and some pistol runs that will hold them inside a bit better. That's always -- you have to vary your schemes enough so that they can't just run outside or run under you."
Does Devin have more leeway to take more chances throwing at Gallon than other receivers?
"I don't know about that. I think if all things are equal, then I think yeah, you're going to lean more toward the guy you have more faith in. There's no quarterback in the world who wouldn't do that. But he's not independently throwing the ball to Jeremy Gallon if I call a pass play that's not designed to go to Jeremy Gallon. As long as he's working within the realm of the offense -- "
That back shoulder fade. You wouldn't throw it to Chesson at this point, right?
"Well yeah. That all is absolutely, that's all built in we'll put them in certain situations where he can throw the ball to Jeremy knowing that Jeremy's going to be a little more reliable. There's no doubt about that. But in terms of just saying, 'I'll call this play, but I'm going to throw to Jeremy Gallon,' we don't do that. If we do that we end up on the bench. But he isn't doing that and isn't going to do that. A lot of times you look at the situation, and you have this matchup or that matchup. Which matchup gives you the best chance for success? A lot of times it's Gallon, so we can't say the quarterback's wrong there."
What does Fitz Toussaint give you as a running back, and where can he get better?
"Well he was explosive on some runs. He didn't get started a couple times because of the run throughs I mentioned earlier, but he had a couple -- he had one cut on an isolation play that was unbelievable. I mean he juked an unblocked safety in the hole. Quick as a cat. It was a great run. Early in the game he bounced outside on a stretch run with an unblocked safety and had a nice gain there. He played solid. He played pretty good. Nothing that necessarily brought everybody out of their seats yet, but he's getting close. You'll see that before it's all said and done."
That wheel route to Toussaint, was that something you knew was going to be open? Or did they miss an assignment?
"I don't know if they missed an assignment or not. I just know that he came out the short side on a three-by-one. We had a three-by-one to the field. Three to the field, one to the boundary. He came out short side and the outside guy squeezed the stick and he was just open. He wasn't the primary receiver. He was a second look, really. It's just one of those deals where you look here and with your peripheral vision you can see something else, and he saw him so he gave him the ball. He's in the progression. It wasn't an independent throw. I don't know if he blew the assignment or not."
Is the depth chart for the interior offensive line in pen now?
"No. Never is. No. Not yet. I won't say that. I think it's starting to solidify a little bit more, but we're always -- the good thing about this game in that regard, and in so many regards, is that we got tested. We'll find out not necessarily how good we are but where we are. Whether we can match up with a team that's got a good front and all that. We didn't play fabulous, now, but we didn't play terrible, either. So it was a good next step. It's a lot more battles, a lot more tests out there that will be just as tough as this one."
Two games in though, do you really want to start tinkering with the offensive line?
"No, you really don't, but you still have to make sure that the five you have out there are the right five. Eventually it'll shore itself up, and it's on its way to that, but I'm not going to commit to saying, 'This is the five guys.' Not yet."
Would we be able to print what you might have said when Devin threw that interception in the end zone?
"Uh ... no."
What do you tell him about that, and what is your frustration with that sort of mistake?
"We did some research about this years ago -- what are the major causes of interceptions? The number one major cause of interceptions is late throws in the middle of the defense. That's number one. Number two is trying to throw the ball through flat defenders that are backing up. That happened to [Notre Dame]. And number three is desperately avoiding the sack. I've said. He knew right away. I mean, I could yell at him -- I wasn't very happy, but he knew right away. He didn't need to be told what he did wrong. He's been coached on that."
Did you do anything unique to scheme against Nix and Tuitt?
"A couple things, yeah. Trying to help our guys as best we could. Yeah. We did a couple things different."
Can you say what they were in general terms?
"I'd rather not because the same thing's going to come up later. We're always trying to help our guys as best we can, knowing we can't help them every play. You can't double team three linemen on pass plays the whole game. You do the best you can to help them the best you can, but there's a point in time where you have to block them. That's why we give you scholarships and that's why we expect you to perform here."
MGoQuestion: What did you make of the pass to Jake Butt in end zone? It was a corner route that got broken up.
"Just threw it a little short. Yeah. Just threw it a little short. Had him singled up. So yeah. It was just a little short, and Jake's got to attack it a little more. Between the two. It wasn't a godawful throw, but it wasn't a perfect throw either."
Talk about your tackles?
"I thought our tackles were very solid, particularly Taylor [Lewan]. Taylor was really good in the game. Really good. I mean he was -- nobody went by him. Mike [Schofield] was darn near as good. Mike gets overshadowed a bit because Taylor's such a good player, but Mike Schofield is -- we're good at that position. It's nice to be good at that position because you feel much better about the edges and all those issues that come."