"We're all disappointed that, this early in the season, we already have two conference losses; by the narrowest of margins, but they're still losses. We've got a lot of room for improvement, we've got a lot of things to do, and we've got the second part of the season coming up.
"We had a good practice today, a good start to it, but we've got to have a sense of urgency. We can't have any more setbacks or we won't have any opportunity of getting to Atlanta. I know that it is a long shot, but one thing that we want to do is that we want to play better as a team. We want to get more focused, have more of a sense of urgency, we want to cut down on mistakes and do the things that we need to do to win games.
"We do have an injury problem with guys who are beat up. In the middle of the season, we do need a week off, but that doesn't come until next week so we'll have to work through it. Most guys will play, but it will be tough getting all the guys out on the practice field at the same time.
"Arkansas, a team that struggled early, has played better recently. I thought they played one of their better games last week. Obviously, a transition in coaching staff is always going to bring something like that around, but knowing Bobby Petrino, working here for a while and knowing his temperament, they'll come in and continue to improve as they did last week against Florida.
"They have an offense that is very familiar to us. They take advantage of what you give them. They'll be well-coached and well-prepared, they'll do a lot of different things, and they'll be well-prepared for anything that you do on defense. I know that we have a good defensive football team, but they will have a plan for it and so we've got to be ready to do a good job in a lot of different areas. They've got a good center, a quick running back and an experienced quarterback. They do have other good players, but you can tell the struggles of putting in a new offense. And we can understand that as we're going through our own struggles.
"Defensively, they have done a lot. It looks like they've cut back. They try to pressure a lot and they try to do things from the secondary and from the outside with their linebackers. They try to make you have mistakes and you can tell that they've improved. They're an improving football team that's learning their system and we've just got to be prepared.
"We do have this game at home, which will be an advantage for us, but two teams that will be playing for a win will be playing here at four o'clock on Saturday, and the only thing that we can try to do is to control ourselves and try to get better.
What do you want the identity of the offense to be at this point in the
"We're still going to run the spread offense. We went to this, but we'll tweak it every week. Last week, we made a small change in some of the offense that we did. It worked early, but then they (Vanderbilt) made adjustments and it forced us to do other things. When we go to something and then we go back to the spread, that spread has got to work. I look at half the teams in the top ten and they run the spread. I've talked to the coaches and they've all had the same problems when they put it in. We knew we'd have problems going into this, but obviously a lot of people didn't expect a lot of the struggles, outside of our football team. But what is really important is that our players within our football team understand what we're trying to do, and they do. We're going to get better at it; we're going to make a little tweak here and there. Our personnel has got to adjust as we go, but that's everybody's program.
"We're not pleased with what we did on Saturday – 200 yards of offense is not going to beat many people. We've got to play with more of a sense of urgency. We are our own worst enemy in terms of penalties. We have cut back on the turnovers, but we have got to be a better machine in terms of more consistency. It's going to come, it's going to happen. We're all waiting for it to happen and it needs to happen like it does in practice, but sometimes we just haven't carried it from the practice field to the game field on Saturday nights, and that's just the problem when you run something like this. But we are a football team and we want to throw it, we want to run it, we want to be physical, but we also need to finesse people, as we did in every offense that we've had in the past ten years. It's just that we're going in a different direction in terms of how we are going to achieve our goal."
Did the players respond well to today's fast-paced practice?
"Yeah, it was very good. I thought our offensive side of the field felt like our defensive side, in terms of coaching. Sometimes the coaches have to pick the mentality up and you've got to ask for more. We've done that each week, but sometimes you've got to understand that the players are trying to learn. Now, we're not going to add a lot more, we've just got to be more demanding in terms of practice and the little things that we do and it was definitely there today.
"Coaches hate losing. We've all been sick to our stomachs for the last three weeks of how we've played in terms of offense, even in the Tennessee game. We didn't play that well, but we somehow managed to win that game and we didn't manage to win the other two. But, we can't worry about that, we've got to worry about what we do in practice, as we did today. I thought our players were very focused and we had a long discussion at the end of practice about consistency and about doing things right as an individual and carrying it on towards the team, and if we'll do that, then we'll get a lot better at this. We could be running the wishbone, but it isn't going to make any difference unless you can go out there and execute it."
What were the circumstances around the hiring of Bobby Petrino?
"He had worked with some of the coaches on staff, Don Dunn and a list of guys. We felt like with the type of personnel that we had on the team at that time, we needed to run that type of scheme. You know, they run a little bit of spread, they run a little bit of two-back and one-back. Everybody is pretty much the same, it just depends on what you want to base it out of. Bobby had been in the college ranks and had bounced around. He had been in the pros for a little bit, but he had decided that the wanted to get out of pro football at that time and get back into college and it worked out pretty good for us. He did a good job with a lot of good players."
Would you rather have your players keep their frustrations private
rather than be vocal about it in public?
"I don't read all of it, but I talk to them all. I don't know who said it or didn't say it, but I want them to express their feelings, but they also need to understand, as we go through this, that the offense isn't going to change with whatever we do. We ran a lot of things that we put in last week to help them and we didn't do it very well, and so we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror. When it all comes down to it, everybody has got to be on the same page. That's what you do when you have struggles; you have to talk about it and understand what your troubles are: where you make mistakes, what you need to improve on, is it tempo, is it more concentration. All those things have to be there.
"But they're disappointed. We got beat by a team that we should have beat, to be honest with you. The way we started made it even more tough to swallow. We came out of the shoot, as we did last year when we led 21-0 in the first quarter, and they implemented the same quarterback that they put in the other night. He played well last year, but we had a good enough lead to hold it off. We're just not good enough yet on offense, no matter what we do, unless we're all on the same page. And most of that is frustration. They come out to practice and they'll practice hard, but they know that everybody has got to be on the same page and we will be on the same page.
"This is what we're going run. We're going to run it, we're going to keep running it and we're going to get better at it. Sometimes people will say, ‘Why don't you go back to doing what you did?' Well, if you do that, then you are asking for major disaster. The light is somewhere at the end of that tunnel and we're not close to it yet. We lost two ball games by a total of six points to two teams that haven't lost a game. We're not panicking and they're not panicking, we're just frustrated and they are too. But we knew going into the season, and I prepared the team for this, that we would have growing pains. It's just at times, when you do get so close and you're not successful, it makes those growing pains a little bit harder to take."
What has Tony Franklin done this week to change things up?
"Well the last couple of weeks, Tony has taken a more hands-on approach. He knows a lot of the little things that he wants to do. Of course he lets his guys coach on his side of the ball, but we're making the same mistakes. Sometimes when the guy calling the play and knowing the offense can go over those fine details face to face with a receiver, offensive lineman or running back, that's how you do it. That's how I did it when I was a defensive coordinator. I coached every position. You have got to do that. Especially when everybody is learning, and we're making mistakes and making the same mistakes. We have all got to be on the same page with the guy that is calling plays. The guy calling plays is the guy that is most important because he has got to make the decision of what is going to work during the game. If we are making a mistake in a route, the assistant coaches know there are no ill feelings. We have got to all do it together. I've seen Hugh Nall say something to the quarterbacks about ‘we're going to block here and the hole's going to be a little wider. You can't run here.' That's the way you should coach. Don't worry about stepping on anybody else's toes. Get it done. That's what we are doing and that's what we've been doing. It hasn't really changed. Tony was just a little bit more vocal today in some of the things we were doing in terms of throwing the football to try and make us better."
Is the quarterback situation the same?
"Yeah but there is a lot of competition. I'm proud of both of them. They both have their nose to the grindstone and want to play. Neither one of them played very well last week. When you have 200 yards on offense, you have to start at the quarterback position because they are like the head coach. They are responsible for that offense going once you turn the lights on and start snapping the ball. Both of them can do it. They will improve. Both of them get the same amount of reps in practice. Both of them will play. It really doesn't make any difference who goes out there first. If one of them is getting the job done, they are going to be out there. If one of them is not, the other one is going to be out there."
Is it a possibility that Kodi could go out first on Saturday?
"Yeah it could happen. It just depends on the game plan and how they practice all the way through Thursday. The main thing is that both of them stay focused and both of them practice like they are going to be the starter. They have pretty much all year long. It's just one of those situations where you only have one quarterback."
How does your relationship stand with Bobby Petrino now?
"It's good. Obviously at that time, I was a little confused as to what was going on. Just going through it over the last four or five years as this happened; you know this is a business. Bobby is a good football coach. He was at a great place at Auburn. He realized that. I guess he felt like if there was going to be a change, why not him. That is all passed. He's got a good job. I've got a good job. We both have to work hard at what we are doing. We'll both cross paths much more now than we did obviously when he was at Louisville or Atlanta. We'll have meetings together and recruit against each other. His family and my family were real close when they were here. It's a good relationship. It's like any other coach. We are going to be very competitive and try to beat each other every year."
What happened last year during the hunting trip that started the rumors
of you going to Arkansas?
"Every year I go on a hunting trip and I tell everyone that. It's either duck hunting or deer hunting. Most of the friends I grew up with live over in that area. We all get together after Thanksgiving. It's time to blow off steam. They (Arkansas) just happened to have a job open last year. I wasn't looking and I'm not looking. That's just how rumors get started. It is ironic that I go over there every year and it was reported that I was over there in Arkansas. It sells papers I'm sure. It gets people to turn on T.V. sets. Bloggers had a good time. All the talk shows really had fun. There has got to be more to talk about than a guy going duck hunting or deer hunting. I will be going back this year. Go ahead and print it now so it won't be a surprise."
How has your career changed since 2003 when Petrino left?
"We got to a point where our players were better in terms of more players and our coaches have done a good job of recruiting. Jason Campbell was growing up. He had gone through growing pains like we are going through right now. We had Ronnie (Brown) and Carnell (Williams). We had a pretty good football team in 2003. Things just didn't click. We came up short in a few games. We started off the season playing the National Championship team here on campus and I think we hit a spiral. Then we went to Georgia Tech and didn't play very well. We had a good team that just didn't gel as a lot of teams do sometimes. They just don't come together quite as quickly as you would like. The next year it makes a pretty good storybook ending in terms of going 13-0 and probably having the best team in the country along with USC. We knew that. We knew going into the season we were going to have a tough time. We have won 50 games since, not including this year, so it's been a good run. We hope to keep it going."
Is the hurry-up offense from the bowl game something that you can turn
to this season and why haven't we seen much of it?
"It's pretty much the same thing, the only problem is you had a Clemson team that didn't know what they were doing in terms of defending our old offense and the new offense. We had them in a log jam so to speak in being able to practice what they were getting ready to play against. We had a fifth year senior quarterback. I don't care if you've played in that offense one week or nine practices. He did it pretty well. He threw the ball down the field and made good decisions. He was like an old pro out there. He had been through a lot of battles. We ran a lot of the spread anyway. It just wasn't as fast paced. They (Clemson) did get tired but for some reason this year we haven't had the consistency to be able to have those seven-, eight-, nine-play drives. We've had very few of them. That is what you have to have. We only had 65 plays last week and that's against the norm. For us to be able to keep somebody out there in that fast tempo and be able to make this offense work in terms of what we would like, you've got to be out there 80 plays. I think we had 50 yards that last three quarters pretty much. You're not going to beat many folks doing that. We've just got to get better."
Why is this offense so complicated now when at the beginning of
two-a-days many of the players mentioned how this is an easier offense?
"Well for some guys it is easier. For some guys, probably the offensive line, it's easier. Maybe for tight ends and receivers, it's tougher. They've got to run routes and they've got to change their route depending on coverages, and more of them. Then you have two new quarterbacks back there that are going to be good in this system but they make more mistakes than anybody, bottom line. I'm not pointing at them as the two guys that have caused us to lose two games. Everybody has thrown in their work towards that including me, including Tony. We've all done that. We're searching for the right combination. When you're doing that, sometimes you overload. Even though you might have dropped stuff, you still have stuff that you have learned that might be in your mind as to whether I do this or that. It's a tough transition. It's been tough but again we are not abandoning it. I'm sold on it. Our recruits are sold on it. Our players like it. It's going to be a lot better obviously and help a lot of people when it starts working a lot better because we are just absolutely sick about what has happened about putting our defense out there in tough situations. They have done a good job. Our defense has laid it on the line and done a great job. We've talked very little about them this year."
What do you say to Coach Rhoads?
"That is the first time I have heard Paul Rhoads' name in here in weeks. They can do better. Last week we should have won that game 13-0 to be honest with you, the way we stacked up and the way our guys were playing. The problem that happened in that game to defend the defense, and we don't make excuses, but about three-fourths of our guys the second half were second team defensive guys. They played well. They just didn't play well enough to keep them out of the end zone. We are learning a lot. Defensive players are learning. The special teams were much better obviously except for the extra point. It seems like every week one thing will happen that you just don't expect. That happens when you have inconsistencies in a lot of areas and guys that are trying hard and playing hard. We are getting better. We are going to get better. I think we will play much better the second half of the season. We have got to have a little luck. We have got to get some guys back on the field that are hurt. We have got to keep a positive attitude because things are going to get tougher. We have three home games and three road games out of the six. There are some very tough ball games down the stretch but we could make a difference in this conference if we'll just step it up a little bit."