How far has your group come since you told us that you were a little concerned?
“You know what, I gotta give credit where credit is due. They’ve definitely stepped up and been playing… playing okay. Yep.”
Okay but not great?
“It’s the third game of the season. We’ve got a long way to go. They know it, I know it, I think our whole team knows it. Each week we’ve got to just keep getting better, so nobody’s arrived for sure.”
Your rotation hasn’t been very deep. For the most part you’ve been going with three; maybe Ambry [Thomas] is getting a little bit of playing time at corner.
Is that part of you just waiting for other guys to show that they can get on the field?
“Same deal, yeah. Competition’s wide open. It’s really been those four: Vert and then Ambry’s been in the mix and then Brandon Watson and David Long. Those are the four that are kind of getting into all of the action now. But, you know, the door’s always open and the competition has been open.”
What unique challenges doe the Air Force offense pose for the secondary?
“Well, for us, certainly all the misdirection on almost a down basis. The offenses that we play, the misdirection isn’t—it’s here and there. Now you have to be ready for it on just about every down, and the fact that they’re gonna run the ball, we think, the majority of the time, so the run game comes into play for our guys big time, too. Those two things are the areas that we’ve got to concentrate on this week.”
[After THE JUMP: Lavert’s UFR grade, where the corners need to improve, and Don Brown’s lessening angst]
Did you ever play against an option team when you were in college?
“I can’t remember, no. No, I really don’t, don’t remember a triple option like that. No.”
What is the scout team doing to emulate that offense?
“I tell ya, hats off to all our GAs and analysts. Drew [Terrell] has got those guys playing really hard. I mean, every week they study the film of the opponent, the scout team, but there’s a bigger emphasis on it this week because it is such a different offense in the things that they do.
“Hats off to everybody on the scout team and the coaches for doing a great job yesterday. We’ve still got a couple more days to go but they’re getting it down, and the tempo, so it’s been great. Big help.”
How’s Ambry coming along in terms of [inaudible because the person next to me coughed]?
“He’s coming along well. Really well. As we said, you’ve seen him in there, so there’s a trust factor involved. He’s gonna be a good player once he slows everything down in his mind and just keeps working on his technique. He’s going to be really good.”
Don Brown says he’s been worried about Air Force since the spring game here. Have you seen that angst take him over?
“Well, because it’s so different. It’s just a different deal, and what we have worked on from April through now, you just kind of put that all aside and you’re doing something totally different. I could see as a defensive coordinator his concern, but I think after yesterday, seeing how the kids practiced and how they responded to what we’re doing, our gameplan, and obviously how we’re gonna handle Air Force, I think he feels a little more relaxed. Not totally, but you know coach Brown. He’s not going to totally relax.”
Does he ever relax?
“Little bit. Little bit. Now and then.”
What can you actually do to prepare for those few plays that they do pass?
“Well, we’ve just got to have—whatever defense we’re in, do your job. Have great discipline, whether it be in man—you’ve got to have great eyes—or whether it be keying a certain position on offense and still having great eyes, it’s just all about discipline. Those are the things we’re pounding in this week.”
Are there any tells that a receiver will give as they’re setting up in that flexbone?
“Ah, if there is I’m not gonna tell you. But, you know, formations help. Formations help determine it and that’s in any offense; certain alignments, certain splits, certain backfield sets. Formation helps figure out some of the issues.”
MGoQuestion: Looked like Cincinnati ran quite a few picks or near picks on the outside. How tough is that for a defensive back to defend and how are they supposed to go about doing that?
“I thought they handled it pretty well. The worst one we did with Tyree and I think it was B-Wat down in the end zone and they scored, I don’t think we were really alert enough. But yeah, there were a lot of picks and hats off to coach Brown, he kind of changed some calls in there to lessen that, if you will. We went into another concept, which helped.
“But yeah, we’re a man team, so we’ve got to learn how to handle that. For the most part, though, we handled it pretty well. Just that one touchdown, we have some things at our disposal that we didn’t use that we could’ve used.”
The PI on Lavert: was that a good call?
“Obviously I’m gonna be biased to Vert, but I really did not see it. I just didn’t see it, unless he felt that when he turned he got his shoulder into the guy, but he got his eyes back.”
Do you punish a kid for that?
“No, no, no, no, absolutely no. We don’t punish a kid if a guy catches a touchdown pass. You talk to them about it but you’ve got a whole game to play and we’ve got to go play the next play. Again, I’m biased to him; I didn’t really see it.”
Punish may be the wrong word. Does he get marked down for that?
“Unfortunately that’s two minuses. Two points, I should say. Minus-two.”
We talked about consistency the last time we talked to you a lot. What are you still looking for in that area from the corners?
“From our guys it is definitely at the line of scrimmage in press. Just being more consistent, more controlled, more quiet, more confident, and then obviously at the end of it, just being productive with what you’re doing. I think from last time we spoke they are certainly making strides and steps toward that.”
A lot of that is that initial buildup between—
“Yeah, it’s just the initial right off the line of scrimmage. That’s where it can be won or lost. Even if you lose it there, if you’re calm and cool and collected about it, you can still gather yourself and get yourself back in the play instead of scrambled eggs up top, you know what I’m saying? Just trying to keep everything cool and just be within yourself.”
Brandon seemed like he worked himself back into a couple plays after that’s happened for pass breakups.
“Brandon Watson, yeah, he leads the secondary in pass breakups, so he’s done well. Just got to keep building off it.”
How long after you made those comments did the players—and you wanted them to read them, you said—
Did we do a good job?
“You guys did a hell of a job. Thank you for getting that out there. They understand. We talk about it. In our meeting rooms, we talk about it, so they understood my angst and hopefully their in the end. It’s their team, it’s our team, and it’s their future, so just trying to help them along.”
They all said something clicked, the entire defense, that week before game week. Did you notice something? What was it?
“I just think what clicked is they saw Saturday was gameday. We were—camp was behind them. I think that’s what clicked. Even for me as a coach, I was excited: hey, finally, we’re getting into a routine of game week. I think that was, for all of us, just the excitement of you’re going to go play a game, you’re going to go play another oppnent, it’s going to be fun. I think that was the big click.”