Fitzgerald, Williams Handling Roles Well; Coach Hopes to Play Tiano this Weekend

After three games how would you evaluate quarterback play? “We still have got some work to do. There’s been obviously some good and some bad. I think just to continue development of that position, it takes a long time. And you have to keep coming out and having a consistent performance in practice, in games. Just understanding the mental and physical strain it takes to be successful at this level.”

After the LSU game Coach Mullen said Damian Williams’ play did not change things, it is still Nick Fitzgerald’s starting job. Do you feel that way? “Yeah, absolutely! (laughing). Yeah, Nick’s our guy. And we’re moving forward and trying to get a win in Boston this weekend.”


Did you have a conversation with Nick after that fourth quarter? “Yeah, absolutely. In my room it’s constant conversation with our guys. It’s my job to help continue to develop those guys and get a consistent performance out of them each and every week. And I definitely had conversations with both of them.”


What did you see out of Nick? “Just a little bit of up-and-down. I thought he made a couple of good plays. And there obviously was a couple of throws that you would like to have back, probably just a couple of inches off or a yard off that had the potential to be some big plays.”

“So I did think he handled the environment well. That’s obviously a real tough place to go and play, I think he managed the game well and did some good things and some stuff to build on and as we move forward and get deeper into his career.”


When you evaluate someone like Nick does it change comparing to Dak Prescott? “Yeah. I think you can compare it to probably when Dak was at that age. But to compare to a guy that was in the program for five years and compare that end result to somebody starting their first SEC road start, I think there’s definitely a sliding scale in consideration.”


How has Damian handled being the backup? “It’s all about preparation. My conversations with him have been no different. The reason I love being around this game and being around these young men so much is that you learn so many life lessons in this game as well.”

“And one of the most critical things that you can do is always be ready when your number is called. Because who knows what the situation may be, what the circumstances may be? But you owe it to yourself, owe it to your teammates to always put your best foot forward in your preparation, the detail of your preparation. So when you go out there and your number is called you’re ready to perform at a high level.”


Is Damian’s age or experience a factor in how efficient he is in hurry-up offense? “Yeah, I just think he’s really, really comfortable. He’s done a good job preparing himself, getting ready to play. That’s what we ask of those guys, everybody in our room every week. So he’s done everything we’ve asked him to.”


Fitzgerald had success against South Carolina running the ball. Was it something LSU did to take that away? “Yeah, we obviously didn’t get a chance to let him shake loose as much as he did against South Carolina. For multiple reasons. Obviously they have an excellent defensive team and defensive staff, and those guys did a nice job with the game plan.

“And they were going to make you throw the football. So we just have to stand there in the pocket and be able to make some throws and take what the defense is giving us.”


How has Nick Tiano progressed the last couple of weeks? “He’s continued to develop. His mindset, and like I told all those guys everybody in that room has to prepare as if they’re the starter. That’s my expectation for them moving forward, that should be their expectation of themselves moving forward. In order to be the best player you can possibly be you have to take that approach. Anything else obviously isn’t tolerated.”


Ideally you wanted to get him in in the first game. Do you think there will be an opportunity this week? “Well, we always love to get guys in and get guys rep to see what they can do in a live game situation. Because as much as you do at practice there’s no substitute or no way to simulate that action in a live game setting. You have to do it when it’s for real.”

“So hopefully at some point we can get him on the field and see how he handles a live situation.”


How do you balance that with a guy like Fitzgerald who is still learning the ropes, and getting a young guy reps? “Nick Fitzgerald is in his own right a very, very young player and needs reps. But at some point you have to get guys in the game and see what they can do.”

“And this has kind of been Coach Mullen’s philosophy for a really, really long time. I remember him putting me in the game very early in my first game (at Utah) as a true freshman. Because if he ever has to go into a game you don’t want that to be his first opportunity going into a game. So we try to introduce it to him and force-feed them early on in their career, so when they get their opportunity they’re ready to go.”


You said Fitzgerald was just a little off, is that encouraging because you can fix those things? “Yeah, if you watch the tape, generally the ball is going to the right place. I think he made good decisions with the football.”

“Now, we have to clean up and execute better. In my opinion that’s stuff that is correctible as you move forward, as you continue to develop as a player. And he obviously has a lot of personal pride, and wants to perform well and play to the best of his abilities. It’s our job to get that out of him.”

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