"Certainly, in first ball games you learn an awful lot about your football team. There were some things that we certainly felt good about when the game was over with. There were some areas that as a football team we've got to improve [in]. Kids played in the game on Saturday that had never played in any college football games and there was an awful lot of uncertainty by them, as well as the coaching staff, as to who exactly they would play and some of those kids played very well. We were pleased with the way that they played.
"Some of the highlights offensively – certainly T.J. Yates and the receivers had a very good game. During the course of the game, they kept us in there and they fought through some real adversity during the first half when we struggled with some things, turning the ball over and giving up some bad field position. But they hung in there and started to make some plays and gained some confidence. I thought defensively, in light of the fact of how many new kids were playing and some starting and some playing collegiately for the very first time, they did a similar thing. As the game went along, they got a little bit into the flow of the game, they gained a little bit of confidence and they played much, much better in the second half.
"Probably the poorest performance we had in the ball game certainly were some of the things that we did special teams-wise. We didn't cover kicks as well, either as punts or kickoffs, clearly as you need to. Patrick Peterson is a very talented kid and a very good returner, but we need to do an improved job in the next game against Georgia Tech. We made some decisions on fielding kicks that certainly hurt our field position and those are things that we can work on and get better."
Do you believe that kick coverage units are more vulnerable in September than in November?
"I've got a long-held belief that in the first couple of games, your special teams are one of the scariest propositions of the entire game, just simply because of the nature. Unless you've got a lot of returning starters that have played significantly on special teams, and they know all of the pitfalls about getting off blocks and making live open field tackles, because you just don't practice as much… You practice it, but you don't do it full speed and live just because of the sheer nature of concussions and injuries and open field tackles and the blowups that happen in kicking situations.
"Then obviously we were impacted by the number of kids that we felt like during spring time and maybe even early in training camp that would play a lion's share of some of the responsibilities on special teams – those guys became starters for us in a lot of positions on defense, so it really affected an awful lot of the guys that we're having to play on special teams. It's an area where this open date certainly comes at a good time so that we can learn from some of the things that we did the other day and practice and try to improve in some of those areas."
Were Matt Merletti and Shane Mularkey able to play much on special teams?
"Not very much… A lot of guys that started at linebacker, like Herman Davidson and Dion Guy, because your depth becomes so watered down, you can't play them on special teams if they're going to play 60-70 plays on defense. It's difficult to overload them with an additional 12-15-18-20 plays on special teams. It's a tough job to ask somebody to go 80-90 plays in a game… Every single one of the defensive backs – those guys were going to be significant contributors on special teams, but now, all of a sudden, they've become starters in the secondary."
Is there an update on Mywan Jackson's concussion?
"He's improved. I think it's good that it's an open date because it will allow him to full recover. Our sports medicine people take a certain amount of caution in the number of days… I don't think he'll return to practice. He missed practice yesterday and probably will miss practice today. But they're optimistic and there's the possibility that he may return to practice tomorrow."
You mentioned after the game that there was a group of players that played that probably would have red-shirted. How large is that number?
"We played two defensive ends, we played two kids in the secondary, we played one linebacker… I think the number that I quoted was probably six or seven kids. There were five that actually participated and some listed on the depth chart listed with the twos that did not get into the game. I think Sean Tapley was one – in the game, he was our backup punt returner behind Todd Harrelson and if anything would have happened to Todd, he would have had to go in. And again, the likelihood before this season is over with is that there will be the possibility of a continued number of some of those guys that will probably get thrust into a situation where they have to [play]. But I think we actually played five."
Did you notice any drop-off in terms of athletic ability with some of the backups that had to play?
"It's mostly experience, it's maturity, it's understanding. The pace and the speed of a college game compared to a high school game… We have high expectations that those five freshmen that played and the others that might potentially get into the game are going to be guys that are going to be good players, but there's going to be a transition period for them. We think that they're really good athletes, but it's going to take awhile for them to adjust to everything that they're going to have to on the collegiate level."
What are the advantages of having two weeks to prepare for an offense like Georgia Tech?
"As good and as different as their offense is, and even their defense because they've made a schematic change from a year ago going from a 4-3 to a 3-4, obviously any time that you get an extra amount of time, it certainly should help you a little bit. Obviously, we've got a lot of things that we've got to improve on just in our football program that has absolutely zero to do with Georgia Tech. We've got issues that we've got to fundamentally fix and gain some experience and get better prepared with some of these young kids that are going to be put into roles as far as playing in all three different phases.
"One of the most fundamental differences is the execution of the scout team. It's a different scenario for your scout team if they're going to replicate an offense or a defense that's identical or in some phases very similar to yours. The cards may look a little different, but the technique and the fundamentals and the alignments are schematically the same. Obviously, we don't run the triple option, so finding a quarterback that can do it and finding kids that can go out and execute it, so any time that you can get a little extra time should certainly help a little bit."
Is there a chance that Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston will be available against Georgia Tech? If not, will Johnny White remain as your starting tailback"
"There's no movement whatsoever as we speak today on any of the other players that were not in a position to play last weekend. With the availability that we had, we had to move last year's fullback, Anthony Elzy, to tailback just to try to be able to create a little bit of depth. Then Johnny White and Elzy both suffered injuries during the course of the game. That put a little bit of a burden on Hunter Furr, who is a first-time red-shirt freshman playing. As we speak, it's still those three guys."
What were Elzy's and White's injuries?
"Just ankle injuries; ankle sprains."