LEXINGTON, Ky. --- This edition of "Coach's Corner" features the thoughts of defensive coordinator John Goodner on his unit's performance against Ole Miss and its preparation for South Carolina:
BBD: Your struggles on third down have been well documented. Are you making any adjustments personnel-wise or in your approach to remedy that?
"We're going to have to change our approach. You look at Louisville (6 of 12), Ball State (8 of 19), we were pitiful on third-down conversions, couldn't get off the field, Ball State especially. Florida, we were a little bit better (6 of 14). We kind of put a little more coverage package in and backed off a little bit. For the most part, Florida for about three quarters, we were able to cover them and get ourselves off the field. This (past) week, we tried to cover them and went after them early, and we got burned a couple of times, so we kind of backed off a little bit. But you look at film, and we're that far (showing his thumb and index finger close together) from making the plays. We had 14 third-down conversions that were seven yards or more. I think we converted on five. You're not going to beat many people if you have them in third-and-eight that many times and only get them off the field five times. You've got to do a helluva lot better than that. That's just terrible."
"The thing we've got to learn how to do, and the thing I thought we did against Florida, is to play more aggressive. We've got to get our DBs more aggressive."
"But Mississippi did some good things. They made some great catches early on, and kept us off-balance. David (Cutcliffe) and those guys did a great job coaching and getting a gameplan for us. I give them the credit. But we've got to be better."
BBD: How have you handled the struggles personally, some of the criticism you may receive?
"We've given up a lot of yards, and we're probably getting a lot of criticism. But I pretty much control my own environment. I come to work about 6 (a.m.) and go home about 9 (p.m.), and in between I sleep and eat and come back to work. The people I'm around are players and coaches. I just try to control my environment. I'm a positive kind of guy who wants to stay positive. The only chance you've got to stay positive is to control your own environment."
"I don't want to say it doesn't bother me. Any time you're not playing well it damn sure bothers you from a coaching point of view because you want to get better for your kids. But not from anything outside. There's plenty of pressure already. I don't have to worry about the outside stuff."
"There's not much more that we can do right now (in terms of strategy and personnel). We've just got to work get better at it. It may sound stupid as hell, but we're really not that far away from being pretty compeitive. We've just got to make some plays when it counts. Third-and-8, you've got to make a play. Third-and-13, you've got to make a play. And we've had teams in that situation a bunch of times."
BBD: How has Chris Gayton held up since moving inside?
"The big thing we've got to do with Chris is to play Mo Lane more. Not that Chris is doing a bad job. But to keep both Chris and Mo fresh. Chris just can't play 80 plays against a team that's running the iso with a 245-pound fullback and that kind of stuff. You just get beat down. I told Mo and Chris both we're going to start rotating them a little bit more, keep them both fresher."
"Chris gives us some things that bigger linebackers can't when it comes to coverage, but when it just comes to that pounding game, he's not a very big guy."
BBD: One question I hear posed quite a bit by the fans is, with the depth situation at inside linebacker, has the staff ever considered using Otis Grigsby there?
"The problem we have there, and I don't want to downgrade our defensive ends, but we just don't have much depth there, either. It's kind of like sticking your fingers in a dyke. Otis can be a great defensive end. When he's been on the field, he's made some plays. We've got to play him more there."
"But that is a suggestion I've heard before. It's just hard to make that move in the middle of a season because you're starting from scratch on coverages and all that type of stuff. He could probably do a good job against the run, but he'd struggle with the coverages you need to play linebacker. That would be hard to do. If we had done that in the spring and repped him a little bit, maybe it would be different. But back in the spring we didn't know we were going to be facing some of these problems (Ryan Murphy and Chad Anderson ineligible, Ronnie Riley injured.)
BBD: Another question I've be getting of late deals with your coverage packages. Teams have had a lot of success with the "press" coverage against UK. Is that an option you'd consider using more to help your defensive backs?
"You would like to be able to do that at certain times, but you can't disguise it. They can pretty much see what you're doing, and the kind of people we've faced so far, can do some things against that."
"It's pretty much coach (Rick) Smith's philosophy the way we play the corners. We press and we bail some. We don't just play a lot of up-on-the-line, press kind of thing, especially in a third-and-long. And I hate to keep repeating myself, but our problems haven't really been with the type of coverage. We've been in position to make plays. We just haven't made them. It's as simple as that."
BBD: What have you seen from South Carolina on film, and how will you prepare for that matchup?
"They run the spread offense about 60 percent of the time. When you first look at the spread, you think they're just throwing the ball all over the place, but that's not the case. They're a lot like Clemson. They've got a pretty good running game out of it. They run the draws, all that other stuff. They give you a lot of problems in preparation. You've got to prepare for the run as much as the pass, maybe even more. Then, on top of that, they give you about four other personnel groups. They give you "H" personnel one time, then one tight end, three wides, then two backs and two tight. They like to run the option with that down around the goal line. So they give you a lot of problems preparation-wise just from a time standpoint. You've only got a certain amount of time each day, and it's hard to prepare for all of that they way you'd like to."
"The biggest thing is to be lined up right. Be where you're supposed to be, and give yourself a chance to make a play."
BBD: They sound a bit like some of the other teams you've faced this year.
"They're a lot more versatile. They give you four wides about 60 percent of the time, but the rest of the time, it's anyone's guess. From that standpoint, they're a pretty challenging offense... That's the thing about coach (Lou) Holtz. He always has a little something extra you haven't seen."
BBD: How does Phil Petty, compare to some of the other quarterbacks you've faced this year?
"I tell you what, this kid gets the job done. I watched the Georgia film, that last touchdown at the end of the game, they've got eight guys hanging all over him, and he kinda sidearms the thing and they catch it. This kid makes plays. When his number's dialed, he answers. He's not the prolific passer, maybe, that some of these other guys (Dave Ragon, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning) are, but as far as a winner, I don't know if we've faced one any better."