Excited to be in our bye week, and working on getting our team healthy and spending quite a bit of time working with our developmental players, the red-shirt guys, and getting our quarterback Brandon Mitchell back with us now, so it's been fun to see him out there for two days throwing the ball around.
He's had good energy and good tempo. We had 11 starters that were at one point out of the last two games, so we're hopeful to get several of those guys back here in the next 14-day window before we have to go down to Florida State and play.
With all these high-scoring, diverse offensive styles out there today in college football, how difficult is it to build a dominant-type defensive team?
You know, I've never looked at it from that standpoint. I feel like you're still coaching the same things, just in more spaces. I think your packages have to be extremely flexible or you're unsound, and my upbringing is not to do a lot, to do what you do well and be able to adjust.
Maybe because of just how I cut my teeth defensively, I don't look at it as that much more different. You're just trying to leverage the ball, tackle and do a lot more things in wide-open spaces. But obviously when the play count goes up, there's a chance if they snap the ball 30 more times they're going to score more points.
3rd down defense is a huge deal, getting your offense the ball back, and I still think time of possession, although some people argue it's not a big stat, it is a big stat if you want to have a good defense. I think that's something that's important.
How much is depth a big factor now with the up-tempo styles that you see?
Yeah, it's critical. It's critical. You have to have depth, particularly on your defensive line. You have to have depth defensively. You've always tried to recruit depth from a secondary and linebacker standpoint because they're usually the guys that help you on special teams.
But from a D-line standpoint you're probably traveling one more tackle and two more ends maybe than you're used to when you're playing a team like that.
Just wondering if you had an update on how Pete Thomas is doing.
Yeah, Pete is doing better. He was pretty sore the day after the game. Today he said he felt much better. He's just trying to get the swelling out and range of motion back.
It's his non-throwing shoulder so it doesn't impact him greatly from a functionality standpoint, it's more just about landing on it. We're trying to make sure he gets as much rest here in the 14 days that we have. I think by next Tuesday he'll feel really good.
But all we've done with him since the game is rehab it just to try to get the swelling out.
You mentioned you guys have been hit hard by injuries. Who do you anticipate being back for you next week?
Brandon Mitchell will be back. Rashard Smith will be back. We're hopeful that Cato-Bishop will be back at defensive end.
Valdes and Matt Dayes are back to 100 percent, and they weren't in the last game but they played. Those things will help us. Joe Thuney will be back. He couldn't play in the second half of last week's game, so we'll have our starting left tackle back again.
Those are quite a few for us as far as playmakers and line of scrimmage part of it is very important.
Obviously injuries impact any team, but how hard has it been for you the last couple weeks with so many of your key starters out?
Yeah, it's been hard. We didn't have a lot of skill when I got hired. We were short in those positions, and we recruited a lot of guys, but they're young.
When your key players, for us, our starting left tackle has been out since the second game, and his backup is a guard playing tackle, and then he went out so we're down to our third tackle, played most of the games with Pete at quarterback, and he's doing the best he can, but when you lose your top target at receiver and then your next target at receiver and your two tackles, it's hard.
We still had opportunities to win games, with that being said. It's just like I'm telling my players, when you're in there you've got to make plays, and we've got to make more of them, and it'll help a lot getting some of these guys back that are used to making plays.
With Brandon Mitchell back then, do you anticipate him being ready to go for Florida State? And if he's ready, will he be your starter?
Yeah, he will be if he's ready. He'll be the starting quarterback.
Is he just now being able to move around pretty well?
Yeah, he's practiced the last two days and looked really good. We're still not doing everything because we're not out there very long. We've had shorter practices here just trying to get our legs back but still get a head start. But what he's done, he definitely took advantage mentally of his time off, and he's very crisp and has a lot of bounce to him.
It's looked good, and I know the next 10 days will only help him get even more adjusted and ready to play.
You had a freshman corner, Jack Tocho, who had a pair of interceptions, then he got hurt. What's his status?
He'll be back, yeah. He separated his shoulder. He's doing a lot better. He'll be fine.
How would you evaluate his first starting performance then?
I don't think he could do any better. He broke up the first throw and intercepted the next two. The only thing that would have been better is not getting hurt. Jack has done a great job all year in our nickel packages.
He starts on every special team. He's a 4.0 student from Independence High School, which is a state championship level program, and we had high expectations, and he's lived up to them