Mark Richt

QUOTABLES: Mark Richt

Miami head coach Mark Richt fielded questions from the media about the Hurricanes as they prepare to face NC State.

OPENING STATEMENT:
I can't think of a day that was more beautiful than what we just experienced this morning at practice -- sunshine, low 70s, a little bit of a breeze. We couldn't have had a better day to get out there and work, and the guys, I think, enjoyed it, and we got after it pretty good.

So I think the team's in a good spot right now as far as their attitude and effort and their spirit, and we're looking forward to this weekend's game.

Good afternoon. What have you seen improvement-wise in your offense these past few weeks compared to the previous four weeks or so?
Well, we blocked better. We executed most everything better, and we started a little faster. We didn't get behind. Obviously, the first drive of the game, we got behind against Virginia, but we came right back and scored and then took the lead.

So we didn't play the whole game from behind and kind of getting off track a little bit with the score, getting off track with third and long situations and things of that nature.

We converted a little bit better on third downs the last couple games, and we've hit some shots. We've hit some -- we've hit a few more explosive plays, especially in the Pitt game, that have helped us.

Tight end David Njoku seems to be getting more involved in the passing offense. Just wondered if you'd talk about the way he's come along.
Well, he is an interesting guy. I think Miami signed him maybe as a receiver, and then they tried him as a defensive end when he first got here. Ended up redshirting, I think, his freshman year. Played some last year, and then this year's his third season, redshirt sophomore.

But tall, obviously, this long, athletic guy who is a hybrid tight end receiver, very smart. Got great ball skills, body control. So we're finding out that he's kind of a tough matchup for a safety or a corner or a linebacker. He's one of those guys that play the tight end position that creates problems.

We always, from the very beginning of the season, have used both of our tight ends as receivers at times, but he's more of a hybrid receiver/tight end, and Herndon's more of a tight end/H-back kind of guy, and he's got some ability to flex out too. So we've got two tight ends that are pretty special, and we're just trying to find ways to keep them incorporated in our system.

Sounds like David is really just scratching the surface as far as learning the nuances of his position and what he can do there.
It's true because he's learning more wide receiver type skills. I mean, I truly believe that you could play him as a split end, not just a slot receiver, something like that. I think he could be legitimate at really any wide receiver position across the board. It's just a matter of learning what to do and then how to do it.

You reached your Bowl eligibility last week. NC State is still trying to do that.
Very important.

Yeah. Do you notice any difference in teams in that situation, when they're one game away, and the way they approach games and that sort of thing?
I think it makes it easier to motivate your team. Like to me, there's two things going very positive for them from a psychological point of view. One is that what you just mentioned. The opportunity to become Bowl eligible is important to coaches and players, very important to fans obviously.

And then they also have their Senior Day. It's the last time these guys are going to put the pads on and play for the Wolfpack at home, and that's an emotional time for those guys, and they care very much about that last game. I know they do. Then what happens is their teammates care about it too because they want to send their seniors off in a good way.

So there's a lot of motivation that's kind of naturally built into this thing for them, and we have our reasons to be excited too now. But two of those reasons right there, I think, play to their advantage.

Coach, I know we've talked a lot about Brad Kaaya throughout the year, but his play of late has probably been the best of the season. Can you talk a little bit about that.
Yeah, when he gets time and space in the pocket, he's as good as anybody I've ever coached. And there's been -- but there have been some moments he's missed a guy here and there. Everybody's human. But I think the better we run the ball and the better we protect, obviously, the more comfortable he's going to be back there and the more strikes he's going to throw.

If we can keep that going, the combination of some legitimate running game and play action pass and the ability to give him the time and space that he needs -- we've got enough skill guys out there for him to find those targets and put it on them.


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