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Tommy Bowden Audio (22:12)
What do you work on during the off week?
Bowden: I'd say things we need to work on would be turnovers offensively and defensively. Missed tackles on defense, drop balls on offense. Those would be the things we need to concentrate on.
How do you work on turnovers on the defensive side of the ball specifically?
Bowden: There are specifics. Lifting the elbow, face on tackle, grabbing the back of the ball, back side tackle, coming from behind, clubbing, ripping the finger, proper leverage, turning the ball in so we can get more hats on the ball, first guy tackles, second guy strips. There's a bunch of things you can do. But I do believe that turnovers kind of go in cycles. I think Oklahoma, who has traditionally been very good at turnovers, I talked to (Bob) Stoops yesterday just trying to call on some guys to get some ideas, and they are third. They've got three, we've got two. I just talked to several guys yesterday to get some different philosophies. I talked to Pete Carroll, Lloyd Carr, Michigan leads the nation in turnovers, and Sonny Lubbick. He's a defensive guy. But they all agree that turnovers come in cycles. I just want to make sure that from a coaching perspective, that we do our part. That's what I've got to make sure.
Given the "don't quit" attitude that the team has, are you satisfied with the effort of this team up to this point?
Bowden: Yeah, what I've got to make sure of, is you look at us and where we are say from 1-3 to 3-1, I think turnovers would be very significant. You could easily eliminate some those turnovers and we'd be 3-1. We scored maybe close to 30 points versus Wake, who hasn't lost a game since, we have close to 500 yards of total offense against Georgia Tech, we turned the ball over against A&M and Florida State. We could have one of those wins. Either by turnovers or by schedule. We could have scheduled a 3-1 record or if we had done that or not have turned the ball over, I think I would be crazy sitting there looking at offense when those things can be addressed. All of a sudden your team can have a totally different perception of itself. I've got to make sure our team understands that. Our schedule has been awful difficult. And the fact that's it difficult means the turnovers are going to be magnified. And then the drops and the missed tackles. Those things can all be corrected on the field during an open date. I've got to make sure that our team understands where the problems lie. Not major overhauling of offensive and defensive schemes. When you look our game offensively against Florida State, if you eliminate the turnovers, we probably perform better versus Florida State than Miami did, and they might be the best team in the country.
Do you think the guys understand that if you eliminate the mistakes that the perception is totally different?
Bowden: I've got to make sure they get the message. Of course they had yesterday off, and we'll meet today as a team and these are some of the things we'll address. I'm looking at some of the teams in the SEC and their opening schedule. We beat Wake and add some I-AA's or some lesser I-A's, even playing like that, we are 3-1. I got to make sure they understand that and that the problem is not a major overhaul. I don't know what's written in the paper, like boy you better go change your offense, or Clemson better go do this. I have to make sure that whatever is being said that they understand what we need to address, and I think that's the things I just mentioned.
It seems like the focus and concentration level of the team might be the one thing holding it back the most this year. Is that something that you can attribute to the youth on the team?
Bowden: The drops would be concentration or attention. Missed tackles would just be a matter of fundamentally not either wrapping up or not running your feet through or keeping your head up. Turnovers- again turnovers I think will come. I think that will come. After talking to those five guys yesterday. Lloyd Carr- he couldn't explain why he's got 19 turnovers and leading the nation, and Stoops couldn't explain why he's only got three. Offensively, I think that's a little different, I think there are some things we need to address with ball security. That's not a lot of it. When you throw the ball you are going to have turnovers and we have a fairly aggressive passing attack and I surely don't want Charlie to be scared. You've got to be smart, and you've got to be bold when we do what we do. It's a fine line, and that's the fine line between 1-3 and 3-1.
Calling other coaches- is that something you do a lot?
Bowden: Yeah. If I'm having problems with a quarterback. I think it's something important to do as a head coach. I've got to get on the phone and do some things too. An open date gives you some time to do that. I might call some offensive guys just to get an idea of some different approaches, and Mike's got plenty. When I go back and look at our offensive turnovers, like the out route that I called where the DB squatted. Or the ball bounces off Chansi's hands at A&M, and then the one we got blind sided on by a back sided corner. Those things I don't attribute to him. I've got to make sure I don't overreact. Just wait. Let me make sure that I'm doing everything I can do from my end coaching wise. Like hey, I want to make that I'm doing everything from my end.
Is it hard for you not to overreact?
Bowden: I think you just have to be disciplined and don't read what some people write. I think somebody asked me, "Are you looking to change your offense?" and I'm thinking, "We are a schedule away from 3-1, or we are a couple of turnovers from 3-1. Why would I address that because that's not the issue as you study it?" So I've got to make sure that my players, if things like that are being written, I have to make sure the players don't believe that. After 28 years, I've never been one to be real impulsive on reacting. When you start being impulsive to either what somebody writes or says, then I think you're in trouble. Now, I do think you have to go out and call and research (that you are on the right track). And that helps you not be impulsive.
What personnel changes are in store this week?
Bowden: We will put Barry Richardson, he's going to start now and Nathan Bennett is going back to starting. From film, we've made those two adjustments. Duane Coleman will be our starting tailback. He really hasn't been since he's been hurt. Then we just have to make sure about our rotation after that. We'll bracket Anthony Waters and Nick Watkins at linebacker. Curtis Baham will start in our three wide receiver offense.
What does Yusef have to do to work himself back into the rotation?
Bowden: Well, that game we played Saturday was a speed/quickness game and that was more of the other guys. If you remember the Virginia game last year Yusef Kelly was a factor. So this would be more of his running style. Last week, we had the two 12 second drives which took two possessions off the field and then all of sudden you get behind late, and then you can't afford to throw as many rushes up there. It was more of a Kyle, Reggie, and Duane game. This is going to be more of a Yusef Kelly.
Justin Miller, with his play making ability, would you now consider moving him over offense?
Bowden: Well you know that's something we might look into. He's still working to be a complete defensive back/corner as far as coverage and recognizing run support and things of that nature so there's still room for a little bit of growth over there. But he does have really really good running skills, so that's something we could look at. Chansi has been pretty productive and Airese when they've got the ball, but he does kind of wet your appetite a little bit.
Do you think that some of the criticism being handed to Charlie Whitehurst is unwarranted right now?
Bowden: Oh yeah. We could have scheduled a 3-1 record right now. Or, just a couple of dropped passes. Our offense is challenging, and we ask him to make some pretty tight throws and we've been just inches away. You look at that Florida State game, if Kelvin makes his catch, and we hit Chansi, and all of a sudden we are ahead maybe by 20 points. They have to adjust their whole gameplan. That's what they did last year. I don't know how much criticism he's getting, but I would think it would be unjust. There are some turnovers where he's carried the ball loose in the pocket that's he got to correct, and he overthrew a sprint out pass, but he overthrew it- everybody makes a mistake. Carrying the ball loose in the pocket mechanically- that's what he needs to address.