Dan Werner Q&A

Heading into the Virginia Tech game tomorrow, the play of Brock Berlin will be critical if Miami hopes to escape with a victory. We spoke with quarterbacks coach Dan Werner to get an update on the quarterback position up to this point in the season.

What is your overall assessment of Brock this season?

A quarterback doesn't have to win us ballgames and that was kind of our philosophy early. Being able to hand off the ball, play action, getting it to our guys in underneath routes and things like that and building on that to get to where Ken Dorsey was was a goal. It just so happened the second game of the season we got behind and he actually had to win it for us and he did. That got me excited but it's been a growing process ever since then and I feel like the first couple games there were four or five bad decisions that he was making and then the next couple games there were three or four and now it has whittled down to where he didn't make any poor decisions and he played a really good game last week. Hopefully that will just keep on going now.

Does Brock remind you of anyone you've coached in the past?

He sort of reminds me of Craig Erickson from the guys I've had in my time here. He's got that type of a live arm and not as tall as maybe a Kenny [Dorsey] or some of the other guys but he's also very underrated in his mental capacity where everybody thought of Steve Walsh as being a genius and Bernie as well. Then Craig came in and I think he was really underrated in that regard. He was really a sharp kid. He was very, very sharp football-wise. Craig came in as a true freshman and that's all we had so we had to sort of jam it down his throat and by the time he was ready to play it was almost the same type timing as Brock. Brock sat for basically a year and a half and got to learn the scheme and everything but actually he wasn't practicing where at least Craig was getting reps as a backup you know. I think when Craig finally got in he probably started gelling maybe a little bit quicker but with Brock I think the fact that he comes here and learns the scheme but isn't able to take reps for a year and a half slows that down a bit. He's finally getting into some games and he's doing some things on the field we want him to do and other things we don't want him to do but I think he's coming along real well. We would love to recruit a quarterback and throw him in there and all of a sudden he throws for five touchdowns a game but it's just not going to happen.

Do you feel Brock has handled the pressure of stepping in, especially after Ken Dorsey's success, as well as you'd hoped?

Yes, there is no doubt. I think he's handled it better than anybody could have because there has been a lot of tough times and it's crazy because here we are talking about tough times and we haven't lost a game yet. There are a lot of schools in our state that would like to have our record and probably our starting quarterback too. He's handled it well and the thing we tell him is ‘you've got to go out there and find a way for our football team to win.' That's what the quarterback's job is. And he's done that. Now there have been times that he has not looked pretty doing it but like I said there has been some times that he has.

Is there anything in the offense that you have held back or not opened up to Brock yet?

I'd say we're comfortable running anything in our scheme. I would say that we probably don't have as many plays in as we did last year simply because Kenny can remember a play back from when he was a freshman and it is easy to put in. So we had a lot of plays in each game plan whereas this year we don't have quite as many but it's all the same scheme and everything. It's not like we've cut anything back.

When Ken was here he checked off a lot and seemed to have multiple options on each play. Is Brock given that same freedom now?

We're doing the same thing. It really depends on the game plan. Some game plans you need that and some you don't. Some teams you know exactly what they are going to be in and you call plays and just run it. Other teams like to jump around and you have to have the ability to audible and he does have that.

Midway through his junior year where do you feel Brock is in his overall development compared to where he will be when he leaves here at the end of next season?

I would say about 75% but I would preface that by saying that he was at about 50% about three weeks ago. I mean he has come that far in that short of a time. If people would sit down and watch him on film right now he is looking off receivers, looking of defenders and he is a young quarterback. I say young even though he is a junior but he hasn't played much. He's really doing a good job of taking what the defense is giving him. You can tell that the game plan that people have come up with is that they do not want to get beat by the big play and so they are forcing us to throw it underneath and Brock is doing that now. Earlier in the year he was trying to force some throws in and he's not now and he's dumping it to the guys that are open and they are making plays. That's what got to happen as a quarterback and that's how Kenny Dorsey won 38 games here.

You mentioned he is looking off receivers and taking what the defense is giving him. What else has Brock done to improve in your eyes?

Those are the two big things obviously. The #1 thing about being a good quarterback is making goods decisions. Sometimes a good decision is an incompletion. If you have a guy covered you know throw it away so either we catch it or nobody does. Sometimes it doesn't look pretty but it is by far the best decision to make. I think some of the fans don't really understand that but that is how you win ball games. I think he's done that better and the other thing is just the total command of the offense and his leadership ability, which was good anyway. Now he is really starting to shine a little bit I think.

What are the keys for Brock to get to the next level in his development?

I think the big thing is making those decisions but there are so many plays during a game where it is an easy throw. We've got a comeback called and we've got the perfect coverage when you look out there and see it and make the throw and it's just an easy wide open throw. Then there's other plays where everybody is covered and that was a thing that I think Kenny was so good at. When everybody was covered and he would have pressure he would slide off and buy himself some time and find a receiver. That to me is taking that next step. I think that is what Brock has to do. I think he did that a couple times, the one time on the touchdown pass to Jason Geathers last game. That was his fourth progression and he slid up to buy some time and hit Jason and he ran it in for a touchdown.

How much of Brock's "struggles" this year have been due to the young receiving corps and perhaps some issues with their development?

That's going to happen no matter how long they have been playing together. I heard someone say that the quarterback never really deserves all the praise he gets or the complaints he gets and that is true. When Kenny was young he had Reggie [Wayne] and Santana [Moss] running around out there. Two first round draft picks. He would make some decisions that probably weren't that good but those guys would go make plays for him. By the same token there were times that he may make a good decision and the receiver doesn't do exactly what you think he is going to do or what he is supposed to do so it goes both ways.

Recently Kellen Winslow has been much more prominent in the short passing game then earlier in the season. Is that something that has been an adjustment to help Brock?

The plan all along has been to get the ball to our playmakers with Kellen obviously being one of them. It just so happened that a couple of the games they took him away. That is part of being a quarterback, you have to understand that you don't throw to a guy that is double covered. The last few games for whatever reason they weren't double covering him and we were able to get him the football.

Was there ever a point in the Florida game that you or Coach Coker thought about putting in Derrick Crudup to try to get something going?

That is basically coach Coker's call. In my mind Brock was the guy and I just wanted to talk to him about what we needed to do and what adjustments we needed to make and things we had to get done. If coach Coker does make that call then we would do it obviously and I would switch my attention to whoever goes in.

We've seen very little of Derrick this year. How has his progress been?

In practice he has done everything we have asked of him from the first day I came here until now. I'm very pleased with the progress he's made over those couple of years. The key is once you get into a game in a pressure situation you never really know how a guy's going to react until it happens. Some guys step up and I'm hoping that Derrick's one of those guys that would step in and all of a sudden flourish. You just never know until it actually happens.

How has Kyle Wright progressed in his first year here?

I think he's everything you would look for in a quarterback. He's got it. All the way from his leadership ability to his arm strength to his athleticism to his height. He's got it all. He's smart and right now he's just wowing them on the scout team but the thing you have to understand is they hold up a card and it says ‘here is where you are going to throw it.' Obviously in a ballgame that doesn't happen and that makes being a quarterback a lot easier. It's when you have to make the decisions that it gets hard. To this point he is exactly what he had hoped for and more.

Any final thoughts on the quarterback position or the team in general heading into the VT game?

Last year at this time there were grumblings, I don't want to say people were upset but grumblings, about Kenny Dorsey. And now that he is gone everyone is singing his praises. I just wish people would be happy with what is going on right now (laughing). This is a run, the last three years, that may be the best in college football history. I wish people would be excited with it and enjoy it because this is something that may never happen again. Last year Kenny would do everything we asked hi to do and he was winning ballgames and I would still hear complaints about it. Now I hear complaints about Brock and it's a shame because these guys are still young men and there is there watching film all day long, going to class, coming back and lifting weights. They come in to my meeting, go to practice and come back and go to more meetings. They are doing everything they possibly can to help this program succeed. They are doing that. I just think we should be giving them a lot more credit.

Do you get a sense with Brock or did you with Ken that they are aware of the high level of criticism from the fans?

I'm sure just in human nature no matter how strong of a personality you are if someone is saying something bad about you it bothers you. But I think both those guys are very strong willed and are doing everything they can to help this program succeed. It would be one thing if we were not succeeding. Then they might be thinking ‘hold on, maybe I'm not doing the right thing.' But we are winning and that is what we ask them to do so I think both of those guys have sort of let it go in one ear and out the other and just keep on working hard. They know if they just keep on working hard and do the things they are supposed to do they are going to be successful.

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