"I think one of the things that our football team obviously always recognizes is that when you play against Virginia Tech, it's probably one of the most challenging teams to prepare for. They're always clearly a talented football team, but they're very good in all three phases. Sometimes when you prepare against certain teams, they're really, really good, and maybe offense or defense, and they're average or okay on special teams.
"But when you play against Virginia Tech, you better be very, very prepared in your fundamentals and your execution in all three phases. I think our kids have learned that over the last couple of years. You've really got to execute. You've got to watch a lot of film. "You've got to really understand because the nuisances of what they do offensively with Tyrod Taylor and the running game is certainly something that you have to prepare for. Bud Foster's defenses are always very good, they're very aggressive, very fundamentally sound.
"And it's unique, the scheme itself is unique, and certainly special teams has had its own reputation for how good they were. You can go back to last week's game against Georgia Tech and look at the effect they had special teams wise in helping them win the game. So it's a challenge for our team. We've got a lot of work to do this week to get ready for it."
You were talking earlier in the week about Ryan Houston and whether or not he would play and how you're trying to evaluate that. Do you anticipate him playing in this game on Saturday? Is what do you anticipate your running back rotation to be?
"Well, you know what, we haven't decided any of those right now. Certainly I've had some conversations with Ryan and that will probably be a potential game-time decision. The other running backs, obviously, we've lost Johnny White for the remainder of the regular season and we're working with the guys that played in last week's game."
So is Shaun Draughn, is he cleared and healthy for this game?
"Again, we'll release a medical report on Thursday that will give everybody an update on everybody's health."
We talked about T.J. Yates and the check down routes earlier in the week. But he seems to be throwing the ball away more and living for another down, which is something that you emphasized this off-season. Is that something that you've noticed in particular at the line there before Casey Barth's field goal?
"I think T.J.'s making good decisions with the football. You know, he had some growing pains a year ago where, obviously, he was criticized by a lot of people for trying to squeeze balls in that maybe he wishes he had certain throws over.
"I think that obviously you're always a byproduct of the experiences that you go through. You learn about things and people make mistakes and you learn from them. He clearly is much better at a lot of that stuff this year. He's making really wise decisions either, like you said, checking the ball down or going to the second or third receiver and maybe not feeling like you have to get everything all in one chunk. If the smartest decision, and John has said this for a couple of years, sometimes the best passes that you throw are the ones that are incomplete or you throwaway and live to have the next possession you don't turn the ball over. And T.J.'s done that pretty good all season long."
For someone who hasn't followed the team closely all year, could you talk about the resiliency this team has shown in light of all the injuries you've had to suffer through and the NCAA investigation? And I'm curious if you see any similarities between what you've shown and what Virginia Tech has done this year after starting the year 0-2?
"Obviously, I think that for you to be able to handle distractions and issues that they pop up with every team. Some teams have it a lot worse than others, but just about everybody's going to be faced with challenges and adversity.
"And there are a lot of factors that play role in a team's ability to deal with that. Certainly talking about it, and communicating about it before the season ever starts, you kind of lay the ground work that there are going to be things that are out of our control. Whether it's an officiating call or how the other team plays and prepares. So that is part of it.
"I think your coaching staff and their ability to maintain a positive attitude and kind of a commitment to the kids that no matter what's going on, we're going to keep working to try to improve every single practice and every week and every game for the entire season.
"Then ultimately a lot of the credit has to go to the leaders on the football team. Those are the guys, the unspoken voices in the locker room away from the football facility. Those guys helping younger guys that could get distracted or dismayed because of circumstances that are going on. They are kind of the rallying point. There are guys that talk to people like, hey, look, hang in there, we'll keep fighting, competing, playing hard and preparing. And we have been fortunate to have had some guys that have been able to do that for us."
I wanted to ask about Quinton Coples. What's made him so effective moving from the inside to the outside? Is it his speed and quickness from playing defensive end before?
"Well, it was a transition. He was groomed to be the starting defensive end after E.J. Wilson graduated and went to Seattle. Then we moved him to the defensive tackle position, and it was baptism under fire. But he's a good athlete. He's competitive, he wants to do a good job. And there are a lot of growing pains. Sometimes when you go from an exterior outside on the edge position to now you're in the middle of the fire. But every week his fundamentals and technique continues to improve. He's got a lot of pride. He wants to do a good job. And he realizes how important his role and his performance is to the team. I'm very proud of the way that he has handled that. We're hopeful that he'll continue to improve certainly for the rest of the season."
I was wondered how surprised you were with Hunter Furr being thrust into that situation last week and how he responded. What does he bring to the table that may be different from your other backs?
"Well, obviously, I think the whole team was very ecstatic for Hunter. He's been very unselfish in his willingness to play whatever role we've given him. And he's played on a lot of special teams this season. Because we had four senior running backs he knew this probably wasn't going to be the year that he was going to get an awful lost opportunities at running back.
"He continued to practice hard, and study and know the game plans. As I said in the postgame comments after the game, he had spent predominantly the last four or five weeks as the scout team running back. But I think it's a tribute to him how hard he worked to know everything that was going in. Then when he went in, he did a lot of the things we thought he could do. We had seen evidence of that in our spring practice when he got the opportunities to do it, and clearly the team was very happy with what he did."
How much practice time has Hunter Furr's role jumped up this week so far?
"Yeah. He's no longer -- let's put it this way, he's no longer on the scout team."
Can you put any type of percentage on the snaps he's getting now then?
"I don't know, probably 20, 30 percent."
James Hurst playing left tackle as a true freshman, are you surprised at all sort of what he's given you this year and how he's played? Could you sort of assess that? You just don't see a lot of true freshmen linemen you know making contributions?
"Yeah, he's played remarkably well for a freshman. I think he would tell you that certainly some of that is a correlation for coming in at midterm. I think it's one of the biggest advantages that kids that are able to come in and go through an off-season conditioning program, go into spring practice with no pressure to have to actually play games just work on fundamentals, learn how to be a student. Get involved academically without all the travel and the hoopla of games.
"Then the two summer sessions and stuff, he would tell you that was an enormous advantage for him to get familiar with just his teammates. Then clearly having said all of that a, he's an outstanding football player in high school. He's got great work ethic. He's a smart kid. He takes a great deal of pride in being good. And I think he's gained confidence from week one from LSU throughout the rest of the season, and he continues to work to improve. He's clearly going to have an outstanding career here."
I'm no expert offensive linemen, but when you watch him, it seems he's got particularly good feet. You see him sort of moving and standing in front of guys and that sort of thing. Is that natural? Is that something that's taught? Is that about right?
"Well, no, I clearly think you can improve on their fundamentals and skills. But fundamentally kids have to have good athletic background, and good agility, change of direction, feet, balance and a lot of those things. And that clearly will eventually separate the great players from just the good or the average players."