"What we lost last year was about 80 starts in the offensive line and we brought back about five or six. So I'm kind of taking the growing pains with the offensive line. You know, in the years to come they're gonna be a pretty dominant group because of the experience they're getting now, but it's kind of one of those things where they threw them in to a trial by fire a little bit, you know. They do their jobs, and it's one of those things where when they do get beat it's usually mental, or an error that occurs with lack of focus or something like that. That's something that comes with experience."
THROW STATS OUT AND DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE A BETTER QB?
"Oh, I think so. The mental aspect of the game -- I'm more mature. I'm able to handle adversity a little better as far as, 'go on to the next play.' Physically, obviously each year you get bigger and stronger, but that just comes with it. God gives you an arm and the ability to throw a football, but the maturation of a quarterback comes with the mental part of the game. The more games I play the more things I learn about myself. It's one of those things where a year from last year I think I do come across a little better as far as being a leader on the field and off the field.
HOW DID YOU HANDLE ALL THE PRESEASON PUBLICITY?
"I just rolled with the punches. I'm a guy who has to see it to believe it as far as what everybody says. I really don't read all the press clippings. It's one of those things where you're good today but you're bad tomorrow if you don't keep producing. It's one of those things whereas far as the NFL goes -- until I see a contract in front of my face I won't believe it, so you just keep working as hard as you can, and if people want to write nice things about you [or] write bad things about you, you can't let them sway your opinion of yourself."
FSU'S CORNERBACKS HAVE BEEN UNDER SOME SCRUTINTY. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS FROM WATCHING THE TAPE?
"I don't know about scrutiny. They're probably the best corners I'll face. They're aggressive, they'll get in your face, play a little jam technique and press you up. They really challenge the receivers. It's one of those things that Florida State is a team that physically is very talented. They're able to line up in a certain defense and they don't try to trick you. They go out and usually they're better than their opponent and they go out and play that way. From what I saw of the corners I really haven't seen them play bad. I don't know about past years."
WHAT WOULD A WIN MEAN?
I'm a person that puts things into perspective. Just because you win one game doesn't make a season. Just because you lose one game doesn't make a season. It's one of those things where if we came away with a win that'd be great. Great for the community. great for recruiting, great for all of that. But it makes us 3-and-2., so it really doesn't change the landscape of how we are. And we still have to go out and win more football games, so it'd be a great thing for people outside the program, but for the people inside the program we have goals we still want to accomplish, and things we still want to do."
TAKE ANYTHING FROM THE GAME TWO YEARS AGO IN TALLY? COMPARISONS OF FSU THEN AND NOW?
"Yeah, it was a great learning experience. First road game _ at a stadium like that. I'll never forget it. We played a defense that was tabbed with all these first round picks and all that. They had great players in Jamal Reynolds and [Tay] Cody as a corner and [Derrick] Gibson as a safety and all that.I also saw some of the young guys, the Docketts and the Popes who are now the stars of that team on defense. It was a great thing. It was one of those things where it was tough to get out of there with a loss, but we really, after that game turned our season around. Obviously the score didn't indicate that we played that well against them, because we didn't score on offense, but offensively it gave us a little piece of mind that we did hold up protection wise, and we did move the ball, for the most part. We just weren't able to execute in the red zone area, but it definitely rewarded us for the rest of the season, we ended up being very successful that year. We're at the beginning stages of breaking down film, but as far as I've seen, Coach (Mickey) Andrews is a guy who's been a great defensive coordinator. Obviously, that program has done so well. He's a guy who believes in his system, his system obviously works. I'm not sure how much they'll change from my sophomore year to this year. Obviously, they had a pretty good game plan if they shut us out. Overall, it's just a great challenge to play against that defense to see how far you've come, where you're at."
WOULDN'T A WIN OR PLAYING WELL HAVE SIMILAR EFFECTS AS 2000?
"Obviously that could happen. Anytime you play well you build off those things, but you have to be able to take the positives and the negatives out of a game and keep working on the positives. For the negative things you definitely have to take away and try to work on. Any positives we get out of this game we're gonna try and have it propel us, but any negative we're gonna definitely work on. You just want to go out and play and leave the talk on the field."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE HELPED LOUISVILLE MAKE PROGRESS IN YOUR CAREER?
To be honest with you, that's my number one goal. It was never to break any records, it was just to try and win football games, and help put the team in position to win football games _ get the ball to playmakers and stuff like that. I always said I wanted to come back 20-30 years down the road and come back here and say, "Hey, [look] how far the program got' and say I was there at the beginning. It's one of those things that was intriguing about coming to Louisville, is with football, the position the program was in, some years we were good and some years you just never heard about us, so we kind of built a stability with the program. When Coach smith first got here -- the guys who were here say the same thing, they started it, I'm just hoping to carry it on a little bit."
FSU IS RANKED 104TH IN PASS DEFENSE. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THAT, DOES IT MAKE YOU MORE CONFIDENT?
No, because, see, I don't look at statistics. They usually lie. Who knows, maybe they got those yards against the second-team, third-team defense when they were beating a team pretty well, I don't look at that, I watch a film and I break down a certain situation -- third down, how they hold teams. You know, what they do. Statistics are statistics, they're nice to look at. Obviously people judge players and teams by them, but as far as what I look at in a team, that's not what I look at. And I don't think if you're a player, I don't think any player on this team says, "oh, they're so-and-so ranked defensively or offensively.' Different teams match up differently with different teams. So I've never looked at something like that and thought it was an advantage or disadvantage.
BASED ON STATS, YOU'RE OFF TO A SLOW START. HAVE YOU HAD TO DEAL WITH A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT IT?
"No, not at all. Usually people who ask me questions have been at the games and have kind of seen how I play. If you've never seen me play and you look at the stats I'm sure they're not eye-popping or anything like that or what my stats have been, but I'm a little different this year. I'm actually running the football a little more effectively. We're making bigger pass plays, we're doing different things inside the red zone than we have done with the previous offensive coordinator -- there is a different offensive coordinator, so it's a different philosophy. I'm a player that, maybe you'll see Thursday night, it's not go back there and just try to complete every ball. If the first, second, third option's not there, hey, take off and run, and if I make something happen I make something happen. I don't think I'm gonna be judged on stats this whole year _ it's if I win football games, stats usually come with them, but this year it's a little different, a play here and there, a guy scores, the stats are different and you guys don't ask these questions. But that's the way it is. I understand the nature of the beast and how it is and everything. I'm a guy who knows that a quarterback gets way too much credit and too much blame, so I just try to stay right in the middle of everything."