With the decision to start Marcus Stone, what went into that and what
does he bring to the table that Jay Davis maybe doesn't?
That's a loaded question. Let me just start off... it's always tough to do this. It was a real tough on a personal level and for the team because Jay has put so much into this thing. When this happens, you can start to think that it's all about Jay, and it's not. We haven't moved the ball consistently, and we haven't scored the way we are capable of doing. It was a very difficult decision. We slept on it. We talked a lot about it with coach Amato, and we decided it was in the best interest of the team to do this. See if we can [jumpstart] our guys to get it doing more.
Everybody has a responsibility now to pick up the slack. Slack is probably
the wrong word, but pick it up to make sure they do what they can to help this
football team. I think we can bring that out in them.
Marcus has not had a great amount of playing time, but he has had playing time, and he's has had success in games. We are just going to go about and run our offense, and do the things he has had experience practicing over the past three-to-six months.
Thoughts on Southern Mississippi's defense:
They are a pretty dynamic defense in terms of the things that they do. They are multiple in their fronts. They are multiple in their coverages. They are multiple in their blitzes. They are different than any team that we've faced, and they play really fast. Their strength is their secondary. They'll play man-to-man coverages, and they mix up their coverages. They play hard, just like everybody else has. They don't have to prepare to do anything differently to cause us any problems because they they are so multiple.
Is this a tough team for Marcus to be making his first start?
It's certainly not a conventional defense. It's not as conventional as what we faced last week or like we've faced over the last four or five games. It won't be easy. They never are. This does have an added dimension as to how multiple they are on the defensive side of the ball.
Are you pleased with the run-pass ratio... what are your thoughts on that?
Well I really don't look at it. When you get in to the run-pass ratio there are a lot of reasons for it. You may have a number of two-minute situations... I don't get too concerned about run-pass ratio's. I just want to see us move the football, and we are not doing it effectively either running or throwing at this point in time. We're going to continue to work at it to try to improve.
With the change at quarterback, are you considering any changes on the offensive line?
We already will have a change with Kalani Heppe going down, so that will pu John McKeon starting at the left guard position. Overall, I really do think we are making progress. When you look at the tape of the Wake game, we did I would say a very good job other than a couple of instances, of pass protection and picking up blitzes. We had an opportunity to step and throw and to complete passes. I think we really are doing a pretty good job with our pass protection. We'll really get tested against Southern Miss. this week.
The running game... the running game is hard. They are going to try and take the running game away. They loaded up their fronts and wanted us to throw the football. It made it difficult for us to run the football on a consistent basis. We tried to pound it in there. We had a bunch or two or three yard gains. I walked over to Toney [Baker] during the game and said that you are going to bust one of these, and we finally did. Then you get into a situation where you turned the ball twice over for touchdowns and you got to throw the ball to win. That takes away from you are trying to do.
We got to continue to work on our running game to try and improve it because we know we have good backs. Hopefully we can take a step forward. We're going to have to with the variety of things we are going to see from Southern Miss. in the passing game.
Does the offense need to play smarter or is it execution?
I think we have played smarter. When you look at it, we are almost a penalty-less offensive team over the last two or three games. We've improved in that regard. We are getting lined up, we are not having pre-snap penalties. I hate to talk about it because it can always be reflected in the next game, but we have done a good job of knowing where to line up and knowing what to do.
The answer to your question in one word is execution. The plays are there. We just have to finish the plays because they are there. They are available, and they are allowing us to continue drives. We are so close. That's not a great statement to make, but it's a fact. We are very close. We know it's going to happen, we just want to get it done now.
You had a three-man rotation at guard, do you add someone else or is it pretty much John McKeon and Dwayne Herndon?
We are going to have guys work. Guys are going to be rotated around and moving around with the eight or nine guys we normally work. They are going to have to get practice time because we are down to the five guys that have played the most. Jon Holt has played. Luke Lathan has played. Curtis Crouch now could step into the fold. That's just the nature of where we are at right now. We are going to have to move some people around and continue to get guys work, in case someone else goes down.
Are teams now stacking the box?
I think that's been a part of the deal. They want us to throw the football. We are trying to get something going running wise, and we'll break a few runs along the way, but they have not made it easy. Since the UNC game they have pretty much loaded the line up.
How has the transition been?
I think there are different challenges. The beauty of this is the day-to-day working with the players, in terms of getting them better and growing as people. You're not just involved with them as athletes, you are involved with them as people... talking with them about school and why it's important to go to class, go to study hall, and do the right thing. You're much more intimately involved with the kids, and that has been really, really satisfying.
The football part of it, as I've said to other people, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaches in this league and the coaches of college football. The NFL has really trickled down to what teams are doing defensively in college football now. The things that we see on a weekly basis are very evident in the pro game. That's pretty natural. The passing games have trickled down from the NFL, and teams are a lot more dynamic in throwing the football in college football over the last four or five years than they ever have been before. Part of that is what they see in pro football, and the same thing from a defensive standpoint. You are not seeing the static defenses [like] when I was at Miami 20 years ago... it was very stationary, very vanilla football. Now you are seeing all the different kinds of zone blitzes and man blitzes and multiple fronts that you see on a weekly basis in the NFL.
None of it has surprised me because you know it's never easy at any level. You got to work at it and work at what you are doing. The challenges are similar and some of them are more profound because of the opportunities to really work with the players and become a part of their day-to-day life.
Do you feel confident Marcus has assimilated the offense?
He has, in terms of terminology and calling plays and getting in and out of the huddle, he's worked hard at it. He's fine with that. That's the most important part... you can call plays and visualize what's going to happen in those plays. He's at that point. Now it's really the technical execution... the timing, those type of things. He has work to do mechanics-wise and using his feet to take him to the proper progression. Those are things we are going to have more time to work on because he is going to get more reps in practice.
Do you feel like with his arm he can stretch defenses?
We saw a little bit that on Saturday. It wasn't pretty all the time, but he can throw the football, he's got to mechanically get his body in the right position to throw it. He does that in practice when he has the reps, and now he has to get more work and continue to work on detailing the mechanics as much as anything because I think the mental part of knowing what to do and where to go is there.
Was this change your idea? Chuck's idea? A combination of the two?
We didn't get on the bus and say this was going to happen. We tried to sleep on it and let your emotions recede a little bit. When you look back at the last three or four games, and I just don't think we have got any better in terms of being a dynamic football team in terms of what we are doing. Dynamic is probably the wrong word... just more fluidity, more consistency in our offense. We haven't converted third downs that have been there. We haven't pushed the ball into the end zone. We haven't run enough plays. We are just not doing anything on a consistent level. There are things that show up, but they are not showing up enough. That all starts, when it comes to a position, that starts with the quarterback position. We are just going to change pitchers here and see if we can throw some strikes.