We're certainly hard at work this week trying to get focused, get ready to play a Boston College football team. We know it's an extremely tough place to play. They have a really good home-field advantage up there in Chestnut Hill. We're working hard to have continued success that we've experienced three out of the last four weeks.
Coach, how much of a change of (James) Washington's success this year is
taking the opportunity he's had at running back?
I think more importantly he's healthy for the first time. Each of the two previous seasons coming in, especially last year when we were counting on him, he ended up spraining his ankle in pre-season camp and wasn't healthy until November of last year.
I think he's worked hard in the strength and conditioning area to make sure he would be healthy going into this year. Certainly given the opportunity to succeed, he's made the most of it. So I think it's a combination of both of those things.
He's developed into one of Mike's favorite targets. How does that help both Mike and the offense?
Well, I think it's important for us, especially our running backs, that they can catch the football. It's one thing they have to be able to do. We work hard, especially when people back up, if they're going to dump the ball off to a running back, they're going to have to be able to catch it and make something out of it.
That's part of his game that he works hard on. Mike, certainly can trust him now to be able to catch the ball. He keeps making catches and making key downs for us.
What have you been most encouraged by over this last four-game stretch here?
Well,we finally started to get healthy. We went through the stretch, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, where we had 12 guys out that played a lot of football for us. We started to get healthy at Central Michigan. From that point on, we played pretty good.
The first half of Florida State was not a good defensive effort, but certainly the second half from Central Michigan, second half of Florida State, Virginia, and certainly the North Carolina game, our defense finally started to get healthy again and get guys back playing much better. I think that's the best thing we've been doing now.
Then we haven't been turning the football over. If we play good defense and not turn the football over, you have a chance to win all the time.
You say this is going to happen as soon as we get healthy. Did you see this coming once the injury problem went away?
I didn't know we were going to get healthy. Certainly we knew in order to have any success, we would have to get healthy and get guys back. D.J. Green is out for the year, (Jeff) Rieskamp is out for the year, two guys important to the defense. Other kids now have stepped up and played. We have to continue doing this, especially this week going to Boston.
I'm doing something on ACC tight ends. I was wondering about George Bryan. His numbers are a bit down this year. Can you talk about how he's played, what you see from him?
Well, I think he may have pressed early. The other thing he was probably frustrated early. Coming into the year with a new quarterback and new wide receivers, defense rightly so said we're going to have to take George Bryan out of the game, they won't have anybody to throw you. In a lot of cases, first five months, he was double and triple teamed.
Now that we've established the fact that T.J. Graham, Tobais Palmer, Bryan Underwood, Jay Smith, some of those guys can catch it and hurt you. They've had to cover other guys, it's allowed him a little more freedom to get into the passing game. He's done a solid job blocking in the running game.
His game is back to where it should be and where we need it to be in this crucial step in November.
Tobais Palmer had a big game Saturday. Talk about his development this season.
He was a guy certainly we were counting on coming in. He came in, we redshirted him last year even though he spent a couple years at Georgia Military. We thought it would benefit him because he was a running back, coming out of high school and junior college. Made the transition to wide receiver. We used that year to coach him, give us an extra time to get him ready to go.
He's been an integral part of any success we've had because he's learning more and more each and every week what it takes to be a big-league wide receiver.
Your history has been that your teams seem to get better as the year goes on, especially after that bye week. What is it about the bye week and second half the season that seems to bring out the best in your team?
Well, I think a couple years it's had to do with injury problems the first half of the year, trying to get guys back in the lineup and healthy, then we were able to get back to where we wanted to get to. Certainly I think everybody that plays this game tries to get better each and every week.
We're such a fundamentally sound oriented staff, sometimes those things take weeks to kick in, especially if you're not a veteran team. We haven't been a senior football team yet since I've been here. You got a lot of young kids that maybe they're playing for the first time, learning. They will get better as the year goes on because it's important to them and they want to be good.
When you have a bye week, do you concentrate on fundamentals? What exactly do you work on during those weeks?
The bye week we always go back and work on fundamentals. It's similar to a spring practice or pre-season camp. We go back to coaching everybody. Everybody gets the same rep from the first group to the last group. We try to make the whole football team a more sound fundamental football team.
Tom, one of the defenders who has been really steady for you all year and had a big game against North Carolina, Terrell Manning. Talk about the way he's performed for you this year. I guess he sort of slid into Nate's old spot.
Terrell is playing the same spot. Nate played there two years ago. Last year Nate moved to the middle linebacker. Terrell has been the weak side linebacker for a little more than two years now. He was the most experienced player coming back, the three linebacker positions at his position. He had to play well for us. It was tough for us when we lost him for the Cincinnati and Georgia Tech game, but able to get him back there for the Central Michigan, from that point on, with getting other people back, the defense has been much better.
I think the thing that happened Saturday, with (J.R.) Sweezy getting back, (Thomas) Teal getting back and playing, we had some guys up front now that could keep the offensive linemen off the linebackers. Audie Cole and Terrell Manning could run and make plays on Saturday, which they both did.