Barnett Sept. 20 Press Conference

Colorado head coach Gary Barnett met with members of the media Tuesday afternoon for his game week press conference. Inside, Barnett talks at length about playing Miami and the challenges the Hurricanes present for the Buffs.

Opening Comments
Gary Barnett
This game is a big opportunity for our program. It's also a game that our players have been looking forward to for a long time. When we first put the schedule board up a year ago, it caught their attention.

I think Miami is a storied program that is one of the standard bearers for college football in the last 15 years, maybe longer than that.

Playing it down there adds a little bit more for our players. It's in an atmosphere and an environment that we don't experience very often – I mean the type of heat and humidity. We don't really get a chance to prepare for that kind of thing very often.

What we expect from this game is a very physical game.

Having two weeks to prepare is good and bad. It probably gives you too much time to look at too many things. I think you can try to do too many things. One of the challenges is to try and narrow it down a little bit.

Looking at Miami this year, they've had to play two very emotional, very physical games against two really good defenses. They've matched, of course, defensively both teams very easily.

They're a team with a good young quarterback that's learning their system. But they've got the great running game that they've always had.

What we see as we watch film on Miami is just how physical they are in their offense. They've got a couple big play guys at the receiver spots. When Kyle Wright has had time to throw, he's been able to get the ball to them and make big plays. They've struggled a little bit in pass protection, but I think that's because they've played against two fast, aggressive defenses that have done a really good job against them. In the end, though, last week they were just able to pound on Clemson and get the ball in the end zone and get the win in overtime.

We talk about our schedule being difficult, but when you start with Florida State and Clemson right out of the chute, that's a heck of a schedule. Their players and program have really met the challenge. You look at the Florida State game, and they're just a play away from winning that game.

No question the biggest challenge we've had this year. Playing Miami, for us, is a lot like playing Oklahoma, playing Texas. Same kind of athletes, same kind of speed, same kind of physical play. It's not like we don't see a team like this every year.

We take a much-improved defense into Miami; improved over where we've been the last couple years. I think that offensively our challenges are going to be to find a way to move the ball against this kind of speed. We're a little hamstrung in that we probably won't have Brian Daniels. We've got a couple other guys banged up in our offensive line, which was already thin. We're going to have to just make the best out of it we can. We've got to find ways to move the ball.

In a game like this, what Miami does is they force you to make a lot of mistakes on offense. That's our challenge, to not make mistakes; rely on our kicking game to help our field position. Not be afraid to use our kicking game and take advantage of opportunities that we do get. If we do get in the red zone, we've got to come away with points. If you do get down inside the 10, you've got to find touchdowns instead of field goals, and you've got to stay away from 90-yard drives and situations that play into their hands.

We haven't done anything special for preparation. There isn't really much you can do. Over the course of the summer, we worked in as much heat as we could. Fortunately here we did have a lot of heat. We worked as many guys out in the heat in the afternoons to sort of get ourselves mentally ready for this experience. We turned up the heat in our weightroom on Friday mornings to try to get that going a little bit.

We've talked to the players about hydrating. We play at 10 o'clock our time, body time. It means we get up at 5 o'clock in the morning our time to get ready for this game. We've done this a couple times in the past and the guys have responded pretty well. So we're trying not to make a big deal out of all that.

This is one of those games where you just tell the guys what time the bus leaves, and they're going to be anxious to play and ready to play.

We're taking a veteran team down there for the most part. We've got a couple of guys that haven't played much for us. A couple guys in the offensive line. Just about everywhere else, though, we've got guys that have played in big games. So I feel good about experience and the veteran nature of the team that we've got going down there.

I'll go back to what I said in the beginning, I see it as a great opportunity for us. Hopefully, we've used the two weeks as best we could to prepare for them.

Q: The Miami speed you talk about – is that the toughest thing to prepare for?
GB:
There's no way to simulate it in practice. We ask our scout team guys and everybody else to just play a little faster this week. But it's still the hardest thing to get ready for, the speed that a team like Miami brings. Especially on defense and in their receiver positions. Sinorice Moss is extremely fast.

Q: You have altitude on your side when you play at home. And the heat and humidity is in Miami. Is one of those a bigger advantage to the home team?
GB:
I don't know that any of us really know that. If you talk to distance runners, they tell you that going to even humidity at sea level, you have an advantage training at altitude. But recently we've seen an example where not everybody believes that (Denver Broncos loss at Miami Dolphins). So I don't know.

We've done extra conditioning. We haven't done humidity. We do plan on playing a lot of guys. If you watch Miami, they do play a lot of guys down there. We're going to try to get everybody that we're taking to this game to be in the game some way or another. So we will try to be cognizant of everything that's going on.

Bottom line is we're preparing to play them. There isn't much you can do about where you're going to play.

Q: How often will you try to offset their speed?
GB:
There's a number of things you try to do. You try to create the best angles that you can in blocking schemes to avoid the speed that they use to get off blocks. You try to take advantage of their speed. There's certain things that speed does that lets you, offensively, take advantage. Not a lot, but a few things.

It's funny, you usually watch guys against a team like this throw screen passes. But they run the screen pass down from behind. That's how fast they are. You don't see a lot of people trying to screen them. Except in blitz situations.

Mostly, you try to play your game; you try to get better at what you do. We have a lot of things in our playbook that we haven't used, that we worked on in fall camp that we bring out, trying to be different than we were in the first two games. And then there's a part of you where you have to be the same because that's what you do well. So it's a balancing act on offense.

The most important thing is you've got to avoid negative plays. That's what a defense like Miami's does – it takes you out of your rhythm and puts you into second and longs and third and longs. Against a defense like this, if you get in those situations, you've got a real issue. You've got to avoid the big mistakes.

On the visibility for the Colorado program, playing Miami on national TV
GB:
They all have the same value for us, as a team. Now, publicity wise, nationally, all that sort of thing, it is different than, obviously, New Mexico State. But for us, it is the same value – one win or one loss. You've got to keep that a little bit in perspective.

I think one of the challenges for us was keeping our kids (from looking ahead to this game). Because when we met on August the 3rd, our first night, when we went over the schedule, the buzz was all about this game.

But we prepared really well. We had three good days last week with good focus. Yesterday we did. The game has their attention. They really want to play well down there.

On potential positive of playing in Southeast with regards to recruiting
GB:
That's not an area we spend a lot of time recruiting. We don't see a lot of value in that. Although we are in Florida this year more than we've ever been. We'll have some coaches go in early and recruit. I don't think you really know the value of that stuff until later on. It's nothing we think about in our preparation. We don't think, ‘We've got to go look good so we can recruit.' Everybody just pays attention to the team we're playing and the game itself.

Q: There was a memorable incident (a brawl) that occurred the last time these teams played. Did the video department pull that video out?
GB:
We actually saw it during camp. I think that weekend (in 1993),there was about three fights. The NCAA changed all the fighting rules right after that game. Barring the game last year (South Carolina), there hasn't been that kind of fight, that kind of outbreak since they changed the rule. But the players saw it.

Q: Most years, CU is better at the end of the season. Does this game help team development? And can you get to where you can play better in September?
GB:
You do want to be playing better at the end of the year because that's where you make your mark, you put yourself in a position for league championship. Games like this tell you right where you are at that point in time. These games can go a long way in getting you ready.

Our next three games after this one are pretty critical for us. Every game is critical for coaches, but you look at the quality of opponent we're playing (Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas), all three South teams in a row. This game is gonna be a good mark to see where we are going into that.

You'd like to go in and be able to play it with all your players. I don't know that we'll be able do that. But it will show us where we're at at this point in time.

Q: Last time you played in the Orange Bowl you kicked to the Rocket. What's your philosophy about kicking to Devin Hester?
GB:
I'm going to avoid it if I can. It's a 100-yard field. You can't kick ‘em all outside of the boundaries. No one wants to kick to him, but sometimes things aren't as controllable as you'd like them to be.

Anytime you've got a big-time guy like that you try to keep the ball out of his hands. And Hester's no question a big-play guy. If you saw him last week, they played him on offense and threw him the ball. On punt returns, he's awesome.

Q: Was there a marked improvement between the first and second game for Kyle Wright?
GB:
I think so. But two similar defenses. Clemson's defense is almost as fast as Florida State's defense. But I could see a difference in Wright. He really throws the ball hard. When he has time, he's really accurate. He's a young player who's got a lot of talent.

What Miami's done is a good job of is protecting him a lot — more at Clemson than at Florida State. They protected him with formations and calls, run actions, those sort of things. If you watch the Clemson game like we do, the last probably 20 plays, 15 of those they lined up in unbalance and just turned around and hand the ball to Tyrone Moss, and just sort of protected Wright. Eliminated all their negative plays.

Q: You talked about having a veteran team. But what about a guy like Hugh Charles? How do you make sure he doesn't explode before kickoff?
GB:
There's not much you can do, really. I read where he had to go spend some time with his mother and his grandmother before the first game. I don't know who he's going to spend time with before this one. He's got two under his belt and he's a competitor. He's a young guy, both of those guys (Byron Ellis) are. There's not much you can do, you've just got to count on them going in there and settling down.

Q: Does he have enough speed to get to the corner vs. Miami?
GB:
You hope that you can get that loose. At least you know you've got a better chance with him if you can get him outside. Most people don't try to run outside on Miami because you're playing into their hands. It's always been a better play to go right at them.

Q: How does your secondary match up with their receivers?
GB:
We don't have great speed in our secondary. But we've been really solid back there and we haven't made a lot of mistakes. The way we're playing right now is considerably better than we were a year a go. Our matchup with their speed isn't great, but not very many people really match up with Miami at the receiver spot.

We're going to have to find ways to double some people, find ways to avoid as much man coverage as we can. When we do, try to create as much help as we can for the players who have man.

But I like our matchup a lot better this year than I would have last year.

On the amount of Division I college football players that come from Florida vs. Colorado
GB:
Florida signs about 300 Division I players a year. Colorado signs probably 20 to 25. As far as national recruits, Colorado is gonna have six or seven, Florida is gonna have probably 150, maybe closer to 200. There's a big difference in high school, just numbers. The state's bigger, a lot more people play football down there.

Q: Does that make you envious?
GB:
Well, you don't have to fly a lot of places (to recruit) when you're down there. I think the biggest advantage is kids don't have to leave home. Here, probably two-thirds of our players have come over 1,200 miles. And they have all the things that come with adapting to being a way from home and being in a completely different environment. That's the challenge you face.

Q: How does that 150 number compare with Texas and California?
GB:
I'd say very similar to Texas and California. Those three states are the three that have the most Division I signees per year.

Q: There's a lot of talk about the heat and humidity factor, their team speed. Is this a winnable game for you guys?
GB:
Oh sure. Sure. Anytime you're in a game like this, you've got to play well to win. Heat and humidity shouldn't be the difference in the game. It's gonna be how our guys play them, and how their guys play us.

Q: Is this one of your best conditioned teams?
GB:
It feels that way. We've conditioned every day last week, and will condition every day this week. We played the first two games as if we were in really good condition.

We didn't just all of a sudden realize we were playing Miami. We worked on this all summer and planted the seed in players' head that we were going to be in condition to play there, so that it's not an issue.

Q: What's the situation behind Joel Klatt? Is there a thought of using Bernard Jackson as a change of pace?
GB:
No. Joel's our quarterback. James Cox is our second quarterback.


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