"As I said on Monday at our weekly press conference, it's kind of good to get into a regular routine. Players stay off on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, prepare for practice, give our kids a chance to get into routine, get some momentum. Obviously there are some things that we've got to continue to try to improve on. Rutgers is off to an excellent start as Mike just alluded to, 2-0. But the part of their game where they're playing really, really well is they're playing outstanding on special teams. They've already blocked four punts, and their defense is rated in the top 20 in the country.
"I mean, they're really suffocating quarterbacks and putting pressure on the quarterback. And in typical Rutgers fashion, they've got a big, strong physical running back that's pounding the ball. The one thing they've kind of added to their arsenal that they didn't have two years ago when we played is a little bit of the wildcat package. They've got the ability of taking a really prolific wide receiver, put him in the back field and he's kind of giving people some fits with that.
"So having two weeks to prepare, I'm sure there is going to be a lot of unusual things. You've got to be prepared for all kinds of fakes and stuff in the kicking game, and new blitzes and probably new formations. So it will put our kids to the test."
Could you talk about your recollections of first meeting Greg Schiano, and some of the qualities you saw in him then and how you've seen him mature and develop as a coach over the years?
"Well, obviously, in the interview process I felt he was detailed, meticulously organized. Having known Greg now for quite a while and even when I was out of coaching and got a chance to visit his practices and spend some time in their facility. I mean all of those things clearly were true as a defensive coordinator for me and now as a head coach.
"He's done an awesome job. He's turned that program around. Really done built it year in, year out. They're highly competitive, done a great job recruiting. All those things I saw in the first couple of hours have all come to fruition."
Will you guys talk at all this week or how often do you talk normally?
"Well, in the off-season we talk. I saw him this past spring. We spent some time together on the Nike trip and caught up and stuff. During this week we probably won't talk until before the game and everything. But I consider Greg a very close friend, and somebody that I've got a great deal of respect for."
This last week, any particular recollections of that first meeting when you first met him in the interview?
"Well, as I said that he was meticulously organized. He was detailed. He was very confident in his philosophical beliefs about football. It was a very positive meeting."
When you look at Rutgers' wildcat, is it similar to what a lot of other teams do with it or is that the biggest challenge with the running game too?
"Well, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense because of the versatility of the guy that they're snapping the ball to. He's an excellent athlete. He's got the ability. He has thrown a touchdown pass. He's got the ability to run one in.
"He's, you know -- everybody has their own variations of it and they mix it in with a variety of different personnel groupings. Some teams will run it with four wide receivers and an open formation, one running back in the back field. Rutgers is doing it with tight ends in the game, which makes it a little more difficult because of the potentiality of creating different gaps. But it's something that's been a good addition to their offense."
When you see them throw the ball like they did last week, is that another wrinkle they have?
"Oh, absolutely. But most of the guys around the country that do any kind of like that, the guy that's going back there and playing that particular position always you have to defend against the possibility they can throw because they're not going to exclusively run the football every single time. You've got to be aware of the fact that they can throw the football."
I wanted to ask you about Johnny White. Obviously he had the great game and rightfully so he should have carried the bulk of it against Georgia Tech. Has he earned that spot as the starter going forward with his performance last week?
"Well, he's been the starter for the first two ballgames we played. And we felt like he put himself in contention to challenge Shaun Draughn for that position. Obviously Shaun missed the very first ballgame and was held out of a significant amount of practices as we prepared for the LSU game. It was good to get Shaun back. I think there is room for both of these guys to play and to help our offense and keep a fresh guy in the game. I think that Johnny has certainly earned everything that he's being given right now."
Is that a situation where Shaun has a lot of work to do to sort of build his way back up to the carries he was get eight year ago or two years ago?
"I don't know that he's got a lot of work to do, but he's got to get back into game-playing conditions. There is a tremendous amount of difference from just practicing maybe as a scout team player and running the other team's offense and getting hit in ballgames and just getting into the flow of the game. And I thought what we did with Shaun last week was a really positive step forward for him. He's a very good football player. He was on track to rush for a thousand yards we felt like last year before suffering the season-ending shoulder injury. And each week he gets a little stronger, because now he gets to work. He gets a chance to spend some time with the offense as far as timing and assignments.
"You know, the unenviable position that we've been in is sometimes it's great to get Shaun back, and it was great to get Bruce and Carter and Quan Sturdivant back. It doesn't do you a great deal of good when you find out on Friday the day before the game, and they don't get a lot of work in. So even in their case, they were limited in their availability in the first game against LSU. Certainly Shaun will play a little bit bigger role each week as he gets back into the groove of being with the offense."
Do you have any kind of feel at all as to whether you might get anybody else back this week?
"I'm sorry, but we kind of made the statement that, if and when we ever find out anything out from the NCAA, we'll certainly be the first people to probably put up billboards I-40 and announce it. We'd love to get them back, but as of right now the team that we played with against LSU in last week is the team that's prepared this week against Rutgers."
It's three weeks into the season, and you still have uncertainty as to what the roster's going to look like. How difficult is that week after week? At a certain point would you just like to know this is who we've got, this is who we don't have?
"We've kind of made that decision before the week going into the LSU game that look, anybody that we do, don't. Anybody that might be added to the roster at any point in time during the season, we've got to be prepared to play with the guys that are currently playing in these games.
"We'd love to get any of those other guys back, but if we don't, we've got to prepare every single week and that's where our focus is. That's why I just made the statement that sometimes somebody that gets added to the roster on Saturday morning, six hours before the game, there is a lot of limitations to what they can actually help you do. So we practice all week long with the guys we know for certain are going to play."
In this day and time, it's a little bit odd to see a tight end that is so much a part of an offense as Zack Pianalto is with yours. What does Zack bring to your game plan to allow him to be such a large part of that? Is it a specific talent or does he just fit the offensive scheme?
"Well, it's by design to be honest with you. I've been fortunate that all of the places that I've coached for the last 20 years have included at least one if not two very talented tight ends on the football team and the roster at that particular time. Certainly Jay Novacek with the Dallas Cowboys was kind of the really marquis guy that complimented Mike Irvin, and Emmitt Smith and all the things that the Cowboys did. Certainly at Miami with Bubba Franks and Jeremy Shockey, and Kellen Winslow Jr., you look for those type of guys.
"Really what we're trying to do is build the complete offense. Zack's unique talents and his ability complement all the other pieces of the puzzle that you don't want to just try to win with one particular guy whether it's a wideout or a tight end. You know, we're hopeful that all of our skilled athletes can become guys that, you know, can be significant contributors to the game plan. Zack's a terrific worker. He's really worked on himself physically. When he came in I think he weighed 208 pounds as a freshman in 2007. He's up to about 254 right now and really understands how to play the game. I think it's just a really good piece of the offensive puzzle."