You have found a way to get your young guys involved more in practice since you do not have the extra practices for a bowl game. Can you talk about that?
“Yeah, when we come in on a regular week on Sunday, the first thing we do is stretch and then we run them and that’s all the travel team. We get them out there and they run 10 or 12 100 [yard dashes] to get their blood flowing and try to wash all that lactic acid out so they’ll be better on Tuesday.
“While they’re running we take all the guys that aren’t playing and we get 20 reps of scrimmage with them and so they’re still hearing the snap count and hearing the plays, having to get lined up, run the offense, run the defense, run the special teams and they’re doing about 20 plays on Sunday and then we do the same thing on Thursday with them so they’re getting 40 plays a week that they wouldn’t get. I think it’s going to help us when we get to the spring.”
What is the “Heel Bowl” and what are you trying to accomplish with it?
“On Tuesday of last week what we did was practice for about an hour of fundamental work and then basically all the travel team went over with Coach [Lou] Hernandez and they conditioned and on the other field we took everybody else and we had the ‘Heel Bowl.’ We scrimmaged live for about an hour and got a lot of reps in, got to see a lot of young guys compete and get after it and, again, that’s just another form of keeping those guys involved in what we’re doing so that the transition will be easier for them when we get to spring ball.”
On the need to make the most of each possession against Georgia Tech:
“We’re going to have to play much better than we did the last game we played. I can assure you that. We made way too many mistakes to be successful this Saturday. Our margin of error offensively has gotten must smaller, because of what they do on offense. We’ve got to do a great job of keeping our defense off the field. Where we’re getting probably somewhere between 15 and 18 possessions a game, Georgia Tech opponents are averaging 12 to 13 possessions a game so you can’t make mistakes. You got to take advantage of the possessions you get and you’ve got to end up in the endzone.”
Do you know if Eric Ebron is going to play on defense again this week?
“I do know. I’m not going to tell you. He may. He may not. How about that? If we need him over there we’ll use him. If we don’t, we won’t.”
On the defense ranking in the Top-5 in the country in tackles for loss:
“We’ve been very thin in the defensive front all year. I think Vic [Koenning] and Dan [Disch] have done a great job of scheming things up to get some pressure on some guys when we need it and you would love to be able to say you’re going to do it with the front four, but we haven’t been able to do that and a lot of that has to do with depth and we’ve been beat up there, but these guys have kept playing. They’ve fought, scratched, clawed their way to making a bunch of plays up there.”
On the passing of former Texas head coach Darrell Royal:
“Growing up in College Station, the great rivalry that Texas A&M and Texas had all those years and Coach Royal, when he was there, was on the top end of that rivalry many times and what a great coach he was. We will miss him, but his legacy will live on forever there at the University of Texas.”
Do you think the discussion about Gio Bernard’s future plans could be a distraction for him as the season winds down?
“Knowing Gio, I don’t think so. Gio and I haven’t even talked about it at all. He’s not any different than he was before the game or before the second game or before the third game. He’s the same way. He’s practicing the same way, so I don’t think it will play a factor in the way he plays at all.”
Do you prefer a quarterback to be more of a pocket passer or someone who is more mobile and can run?
“That’s a good question, because I’ve had both kinds. I’ve had guys that can run. I’ve had guys that were more pocket passers and we’ve had success with both and so I don’t know if I favor one over the other. I think it would be good to have a guy that has a tremendous arm and can make great decisions and can run also, so let’s just put it all together then. Let’s have it all. While we’re sitting here dreaming, we might as well get it all.”
Do you feel like you have a true home field advantage since you are undefeated at Kenan Stadium so far this season?
“We are trying to establish a tradition here that it’s going to be difficult for teams to come and play in the Tar Pit and our home field is our advantage. That’s our edge. Our fans, the noise level in there, we have to make it an intimidating place for the other teams coming in and that’s something this senior class has really taken a lot of pride in establishing that and leaving that legacy.”
How do you try and protect against the cut block?
“You got to play with your pads down and you've got to use your hands. You got to do a great job with it and the thing is you can’t worry about it going into a game. You just got to play. You got to play hard and understand that it’s going to happen and be prepared for it and we worked drills on it for the last two weeks so our guys are either going to defeat those blocks or we’re going to get put on the ground. Hopefully we defeat more of them then they defeat us.”
Is it better to attack the option offense by blitzing or by reading and reacting?
“Your blitzes are very limited because of what they do. Everybody has to have their option responsibilities on each and every play and so that limits the amount of blitzing you can do because if you blitz and somebody is not where they need to be as far as in their option responsibility, they’ll make you pay.”
Would you be open to playing a Thursday night game in Chapel Hill?
“Sure. Why not? That’d be great. I’d love to do that. I’d love to bring a national TV audience into Kenan Stadium.”
How did you get the nickname Mookie?
“I got the nickname Mookie from my mom when I was young. I think she said I used to watch the movie "The Jungle Book" and I used to act like Mowgli so she named me Mookie.”
Has it been tough to move from one wide receiver spot to another spot this year?
“Not really. Learning one spot is the main thing. Coming in and learning the new offense, but I’m capable of playing a lot of variety of different positions and fortunately I had to move over to the other side, because of injuries, and just step up and make plays.”
Have you noticed the high-tempo of the offense taking a toll on opposing defenses?
“Oh yeah, most definitely. Especially in the fourth quarter we see them with their hands on their heads trying to call timeout. They don’t know what’s going on and that’s when we go over top for a touchdown.”
When you have the two-point conversion set up, how do you make the decision to kick the extra point or go for two?
“I've got to read the defense and if the defense gives us the right look we’ll run the two-point conversion, but if not I’ll call them in so we can just kick the extra point.”
What has helped you be more consistent this year punting the ball?
“Our strength coaches are helping me a lot and I know that I’m in better shape than I was last year which has given me more flexibility and I know that the different types of punts we have help my average, because some punts you want to kick it so I can get the roll so it brings up the average and I know my punt team is a lot better at covering than they were last year.”
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