’’Tuesday’s in the books. Good tempo, good enthusiasm. It’s picked up more and more with the buzz and energy of playing better, but it’s also picked up with the weather. It gets a little cool out there at the end, a lot crisper. We had good tempo at practice, I was pleased with the way the kids practiced. We got a lot of work for a lot of guys. So we’re excited about that. Still have a lot of guys dinged up, but we’re looking forward to this opportunity to play the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.’’
On the status of WR Michael Chigbu:
‘’He’s got some knee things that are bothering him. We don’t know how serious it is. They’re investigating it. We don’t know whether or not he’ll be able to go this weekend. It may be a situation where he has to drain some stuff off of his knee. But we won’t know until, probably, tonight.
‘’So we’re having some receiver issues, obviously. Got a lot of guys dinged up there. Reggie (Davis), Jayson Stanley and Chig. We’re hoping that Reggie’s going to be able to go. He probably could have played in the last game. He was cleared to play. It was just a matter of whether or not we needed him. It was going to be an emergency situation only. We ended up being able to go without him. We wanted to give him another week to recover, which he has had, and we’re trying to keep him from getting dinged up again.’’
Will Reggie Davis be able to return kickoffs?
‘’Yeah, he wants to do it. We also want to get Mecole (Hardman) back there, so they both have been working there. We’re going to wait and see how Reggie does. Reggie is our returner right now, if he’s healthy.’’
On the importance of winning the turnover margin:
‘’That’s important every game. I do think that, anytime you’re playing a team that you may be favored against, that’s a big indicator of the game. That’s how you get in trouble, is the turnover margin. There are a lot of other things, too: penalties, busted assignments, missed tackles. But certainly, we want to win the turnover battle every game. My goal, I’m trying to figure out a way to create a turnover and a new way to prevent a turnover. So at practice, our first 10-15 minutes is, ‘how can we get an edge to create one?’ and ‘how can we get an edge to prevent one?’ And everybody’s looking for that.’’
On the trick play pass to Jacob Eason in the Auburn game:
‘’We watch film, and I’ve watched seven teams complete that pass. So like, we might be watching Mississippi State play Kentucky, and Kentucky would complete that for a two-point play. And then I’d watch another team play Nicholls State and see them complete that pass. So I’ve seen it seven different times completed this year.’’
Do any trick plays stand out in your mind through your career as a defensive coordinator?
‘’Yeah, the last play of the Auburn game in 2013. I consider that to be a little bit of a trick play. Auburn hit us on a wildcat pass, where the back threw it back to the quarterback and the quarterback threw it for a touchdown pass in 2009. Trick plays tend to stick in your memory. You try to prevent them by staying home and being disciplined. But they happen a lot. We got hit on another one by Auburn on a sprint-out, throwback to (Philip) Lutzenkirchen that probably cost us the game the year they won the national title. So I remember a lot of trick plays.’’
Are the trick plays called last Saturday indicative of concerns for red-zone offense?
‘’No, that doesn’t have anything to do with it. One of them we were trying to be aggressive and thought it was there. We really thought everybody would sell out on the run with Terry (Godwin), and it didn’t happen. He didn’t make a great decision with the ball, but I just thought they were good plays. It wasn’t like ‘we’re struggling in the red zone. We’ve gotta trick ‘em.’ That wasn’t the case. We just thought it was a good play call, and it didn’t work out.’’
What does Roquan Smith do so well and what does he need to work on going forward?
‘’He plays really hard, he’s really fast, extremely athletic. I mean, when you say the ‘New Age’ linebacker of speed, athleticism that can play spread, he’s cut right out of that cloth. He can run, man. He can close. He’s getting more and more instinctive. If he could work on anything, it would be his block protection and strike because he’s not huge. He’s got good size, but he’s not huge. And he cares a lot about the game. The guy practices so hard. I mean, you worry about him giving out in practice because he just practices so hard. But he gets return on that investment because he plays well in the games. I’m proud of Roquan. He’s done a really good job for us.’’
Is there anyone you could single out for outstanding play on the “looks squad” or scout team?
‘’Look, I know you guys want to write a story about one of these guys that’s not playing and just anoint them to be the next coming, because everybody does that in recruiting. Just like all the guys in recruiting are going to be the savior. I just don’t think that’s the best thing for the kids. I don’t think that’s the best thing for him, because then he gets more pressure on him. Every guy that comes into our program has immense pressure on him to be what the recruiting sites said they were, what the media sites said they were. But do you want me to give you a name? Chauncey Manac. He’s busting his tail. He’s extremely athletic. He’s working hard. He’s gonna be a good player next year because he’s a little bit different than what we have. He’s got a quick twitch, he does some good things. Offensively, most of our offensive freshman are playing, so it’s not like they’re over there with us. On Monday night, we’re doing ‘opportunity work.’ We’re giving Chris Barnes, Solomon (Kindley) and Ben Cleveland opportunities to go out, put their pads on and go practice. So we’re getting to see those guys. But it’s hard to say because they’re going against some pretty good players on our scout team.’’
Do you think Kevin Butler has made a difference with the progress of your kickers?
‘’Absolutely, he has. We had a situation at Alabama. We had Chris Samuels who came back. He was an All-Pro lineman and he was like an extra coach on the field because he was a student assistant. KB’s been awesome. I mean, he’s been good for me. From a kicking standpoint, he’s been good for Rodrigo (Blankenship), for (William) Ham, for Marshall, all those guys. Just the confidence he provides. It’s almost like the perfect setup for the year of new specialists, to have him involved. It’s been really good.’’
For example, did you lean on Kevin to decide to try the 49-yard field goal (vs. Auburn)?
‘’Well, I don’t like making decisions in the heat of the moment like that. To me, that decision is made in pre-game warmups and on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I go and talk to several people: James Vollono, Shane (Beamer) and Kevin (Butler). We have a meeting and we say, ‘this is his yard line here. This is his yard line here, based on the wind. And that’s the yard line. When you start making those decisions, it changes. So that was within his yard line and we were going to stick with that, or go for it, or punt. I don’t think you always make good decisions when calmer heads don’t prevail sometimes.’’
Is the team wearing black jerseys this Saturday?