Can you tell us about the different things you are working on with regards to improving your offensive huddle, so players can hear better? Well, did you ask Brian (Clark)? What did he say?
Well he said he couldn't hear because he was standing behind some of the offensive linemen and he said you guys had experimented with some different things but had not really decided what you were going to do. So I thought you might know. We're still experimenting. We're putting more time in this week to play around with it. Lord only knows if you can't hear in our stadium when our fans should be quiet when we're in a huddle and make noise when the other team is in a huddle, we're in big trouble when we head down to Georgia Tech for our first away game. I think it's something that we make more of than we probably need to. There are other things that are more important than a huddle.
Does some education need to be done with fans with regards to being quiet when you are on offense? Well, I really can't hear because I've got those (headphones) on my ears. I couldn't tell you that. You can ask our players that. From what I hear from opposing coaches, I feel that it's a very loud stadium. I would assume that it's when they have the ball. But I guess we can all get better at what we do. Our fans are super.
How big of a deal was it last week to not be able to go out and recruit? Did you place a lot of phone calls instead? Sept. 1 is the first time we're allowed to call the prospects, and then you can only call them once a week. We've got so many opportunities that we can get out before Dec. 1. We were going out a day or two, probably two last week. We'll be able to make it up. We're not going to lose anything, as long as the youngsters realize that. And we tell them that we can't be out to see you. We can't talk to them anyway, they'll just see us at places. It's getting to the point now that when coaches go out, it's like being in NASCAR. You've got Block S's all over your shirts and pants and your hat and your gloves and your whatever. We'll be able to make it up. We had a big talk in our hide away discussions on when is the best time to use your evaluations. Is it best to use it the first week they play? Or is it best to hold them back and use them when they are in a playoff game or state championship game? If you use them the first time around, you can't go back to see them. "Well, the coaches weren't here to see you play, they must not want to recruit you." It's not anything that we're going to lose sleep over. We're all in accordance with what the state wants to do. That's more of a concern over conserving energy than it is anything else. I just hope everybody else abides by it.
What do you feel like you got accomplished during the off week? I think we got a lot accomplished. We went back and worked on – as I told you people the night after we played – that we were going to work on fundamentals because it's still real early in the season. There are a lot of fundamentals that have to be improved on and those are things that you never stop working on. You just never have enough time. Without a game, you up the amount of time you do in individual techniques with your blocking, tackling, catching, stances and alignments – all the things that are so important to football. Penalties, just the silly things that happen. It was a week well worth it. We had some players who were banged up – nothing serious – that we held out of the physical part of practice. And the conditioning part of it – I didn't think I'd say this. I didn't know if we were in as good a game condition as we've been. Not that they are not in shape, because our players we can get in a cross country run with any team in the country and be right there with them. But I think there is a fact of only having two days of two-a-days – truly two-a-days where a youngster goes out in the morning and he practices his brains out, comes back in and takes a shower and eats lunch, then he lays down for three hours and sleeps, then he comes back and does it again in the evening. If you do that for seven, eight, nine, 10 or 14 straight days at some point like it used to be, your body gets really beat up and you really find out what you're like when you are tired. I don't know if our players really got an opportunity to get, in their jargon, to get blowed up really, really bad and to have to push themselves because everything was really tired.
What type of conditioning drills did you do? We hit more than what we would normally do on an open date. We had a scrimmage last Friday and the kids liked it. If we hadn't played our first game yet, that day there would have been a rehearsal scrimmage for a first game. We went out and scrimmaged the second half of practice on Friday and got a lot done. Very basic.
Do you think this weariness as you called it showed in the Virginia Tech game with them being able to run the ball on you in the fourth quarter? No, not at all. Not at all. The game is 60 minutes. If you flip it around, sometimes you people need to play the game from the fourth quarter, third quarter, second quarter, first quarter – you ought to look at it sometimes that way. Or the fourth quarter and first quarter. Then it's halftime and you play the third and the second quarter. Nah, Virginia Tech has got a good football team as you well know. They are the defending champions and look what they did this past weekend. I thought coming off the field at halftime, I was all over the defense. In the middle of the third quarter, I was on them. I thought they were beating us to death. And then we held them to 232 yards, which isn't a bad days work against a football team like that. I wonder how many times that will happen to them this year. I don't know. But I don't think that had anything to do with it.
It's been since the Wake Forest game since you guys won at home. How surprised are you at that? I'm disappointed, very disappointed. Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Circumstances that you guys can go look up. Great teams. Y'all wanted us to play that great home schedule, and there wasn't one game that we didn't have opportunities to win and for whatever reason we didn't. But this is not last year's football team. This is a different football team than last year. I'm not going to let perception affect this football team. This football team is not an undisciplined football team. This football team, in that 60 minute game against Virginia Tech, was pretty good. They didn't quit. I think we've got a chance to be a real good team. But again, we're not an undisciplined team. I don't know how many teams in America are asked to take their hats off when they go into a building in the year 2005, and they do. I don't know how many teams in America are asked to shave their face during the season. So that's perception out there. I don't know how many teams in America are asked to take their locker and straighten it out after every practice, that they leave here, which is a discipline. I can go on and on and on. And the seniors have just an outstanding job. That's why I say this is not last year's football team. It's a new team and it's a daggone good team.
Does that have to do with experience with how the discipline is better? Whatever it is, I think experience always helps. I don't think there is any question about that. But when you really take a football game, and if I hand you that film of that football game and say, 'You analyze this. Every play. Every player in every play and give me a grade.' And I stop there. Next question.
Do you feel like since the VT game you've made progress in some of the problem areas like penalties? You know I thought we had addressed that before the last game and we won't know until we play this game on Saturday. But again I'm going to repeat this. And I'm glad two of them (senior leaders Brian Clark and Oliver Hoyte) are sitting here – they are two of our better leaders right there. I am not going to let perception affect them.
What impresses you about Eastern Kentucky? You know, we just got the film late last night and you know what, they have moved the ball. They averaged about 390 yards a game I believe. And they moved the ball on the two teams that they played and both of them were pretty good football teams. They've got I think around 13 or 14 starters back. They lost all their people in the kicking game – the long snapper, the kickers, things of that sort. The only person they have back in that vain is the returner but they'll fight you to the end. And they are going to come in here, and we talked about this last night as a team. Don't think you're going to walk out on that field and that team on the other side of the field is going to lay down for you because that is not going to happen. You need to be ready every week, no matter who you are playing.
Can you tell me what is the perception that you are guarding against? Perception. Perception. Write what you will. I just mean perception.
Does this offense make the receiving corps as a whole happier because it involves a lot more guys? Ask Brian Clark (sitting in the interview room). He caught three of the first four passes and then didn't catch another one the rest of the game. We said, 'We're going to take care of you old man, now that you're married' and made him real happy for a couple of plays. Again, and we talked about this all the time. The word is team. And you've got to have a bunch of unselfish people to have a great football team. You've got to have a bunch of people who will sweat and bleed in practice every day for one another. And therefore, it's not whether I can trust you, my teammate. It's whether you can trust me and I'll know you'll do that if I'll work harder than you, and you see that. I think that's so important. When you are talking about, are they concerned? Everybody wants the football. Everybody with a football in their hand, they are happy people. You know what's impressed me as much as anything about our receiving corps? It's that, without the football they might be the nastiest group of players on our team. We're going to get some long plays, some long runs – in a running situation and in a short-passing situation because our wide receivers will block you. They'll hack you up. They see the importance of it. And some of them like to do that as much as catching the ball. They say, 'Hey, run that one back coach (on film). Look at that one. Is that what we can an intimidation?'
Whose idea was it to donate the players' per diem to hurricane relief? The seniors. I think maybe Brian was behind it to begin with. He asked me about talking to the others, and I said sure. It's your call.
Does that make you proud? Sure it does. These are the young people who are going to lead this country in years to come. You know what, I'd be proud to be alive when they are leading this country. They may send me to my grave before that, but in the meantime, I would be proud to be alive for these people to lead this country. When I say these people, I'm talking about all of them across the country. I'm not just talking about mine in particular but those are the ones I know the best.
Can you talk about TJ Williams as a weapon in the passing game and on his progression since coming here? Every since I've come here, when I hired coach Chow, I told him one of the biggest reasons I hired him – first, he's a friend, a very good friend – I said I like what you did when I had to coach against you. If we doubled those two (wide receivers), you threw it to the tight end and the backs. And people forget to cover tight ends. And sometimes they forget to cover backs – fullback in the flat and things like that. They forget to do those things. They are all concerned about the receivers. I said, 'I want to throw to the tight end and the running backs.' These guys (receivers) are going to get their catches, but when you start having to take away the tight ends and backs, the receivers are being single-covered. And it makes it a lot easier. I think the tight end is a great weapon, but not only in college football but in pro football as well.
When you recruited TJ Williams, you knew he could be that kind of weapon. Can you talk about his progression? I think he's gotten better and better, but when he first got here I remember coach Cignetti talking about the fact that he didn't have great hands. But he worked on it. He really, really did. He caught ump-teen number of passes a day, catching balls on a string ... He's gotten very good hands and he's gotten better as a blocker. Pound for pound, he and Jamelle Eugene might be the strongest two players – pound for pound, top to bottom – on our team.
On getting the running backs involved. Is that something the game dictates or do you script series for them? We're going to get them on the field one way or the other. I talked to my trainers and managers and I said, 'If we can't get them in a game, we'll let them run out the water when we have a time out.' Then I can tell the parents they went out on the field. Again it comes back to team. There is the perception that you people have, that the general public has about these Parade All-Americans. They all have to wait their turn. I was at the University of Arizona and we played Southern California in Tucson. The biggest thing you people probably remember in that game is that their horse died because they scored so many touchdowns, he died running up and down the field. And Marcus Allen was the fullback. And the guy behind him was a guy by the name of Charles White. Marcus Allen was the fullback. And he came from a junior college. And you talk about team and this and that. Marcus did not touch the ball very frequently as a fullback. And the next year, the University of Arizona upset them in the Coliseum. And Marcus Allen rushed for 2,000 yards in one season. On the second play of the game he had 78 yards rushing, and I was on the sidelines saying, 'Atta boy. We've got them right where we want them.' Yeah, and they believed me. The players believed me. What I'm getting to is when you get recruiting going, youngsters have to realize that not everybody can be on the field at one time. And what does that do? It makes practice really, really important because we're going to keep stats. When they walk in my office, I can say, 'This is the reason – you fumbled the ball, you missed some assignments, you didn't do this.' I'm not going to tell you all the good things you did with the football. The thing that youngsters have to learn to do is play without the football. And they are all youngsters. Sooner or later, they are all going to learn to play without it and we're going to come up with some new formation (to get them all in at once). I don't know what it's going to be called.
Do you think you will redshirt any of the backs? Not at this point. No. No. There is some way that all of them can contribute, one way or the other. Like Marcus Allen contributed as a blocking back to Charles White. Maybe some day we can get four or five of them in there (on one play).
You said last week you hope to get Toney Baker more touches. Do you expect that this week? I hope they all get more touches. Again, time will tell what happens. Like I say, if I could take the highlights of all of them that we've had in practice and scrimmages … and I could take the number off them and ask, 'Which one would you pick as a starter?' You'd walk off the field (and not know). Take your choice. At one point or another, they have all showed something. And we had a little scrimmage the other day. It's amazing what they can do. And they are still young and have got a lot in front of them. Everybody has just got to be patient. That's what makes a team.
Are you getting any idea who you might redshirt or not? At this point, we're really not planning on redshirting anybody. We've got a long season in front of us. These youngsters have a long way to go. I wish we could redshirt all of them but we can't. I wish Oliver Hoyte and Brian Clark could have been redshirted when they were freshmen. They'd just be juniors right now. Time will tell.
Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene didn't play vs. Virginia Tech, right? They didn't get in the game but again time will tell on that. It's a long season, and I'm not going to hold anybody back if they can help us win.
If it gets to a point where it's game five or six and they haven't played yet, would you then consider a redshirt? Yeah. But then we'll make a decision. We're at game two.
Can you talk about how hard it is to play two sports at the college level in this day and age? I'm not talking about running a little track but for instance basketball and football like Charlie Ward did at Florida State: Well, to even run a little track it's difficult. That year there (when Charlie Ward played football and hoops at Florida State), we had somebody play football and basketball. We had somebody play football and wrestle. We had somebody play football and baseball. We had somebody play football and a little track. I think anytime my players can help any other sport on this campus do anything to win, and help this university, I'm going to allow them to do it. Is it easy? No. It's not easy because they are different types of conditioning and training. Can it be done? Yes. Charlie Ward wasn't the first who did it down there. The first was someone from this state. His name was Brad Johnson … We were playing in the Sugar Bowl. We practiced in the morning and he got in the plane, flew to Orlando, played in the Citrus basketball tournament. He played in the game, got in the plane and flew back and was at practice the next day. It really isn't easy. Look at the basketball player that we have that is a great pitcher (Andrew Brackman). The first night he pitched, I was out there before he pitched. And I was standing in the bullpen and I asked him, 'Do you want to come out for football.' That would really confuse you guys, and Herb, too.
What position would he play? Wherever he'd want to. If all he did was sit under the goal post on a 50-some yard field goal attempt by an opponent and jumped up to knock it down as it made its way across the cross bar…