"We're excited about getting on the road and going down to Miami and playing a good, young Miami football team that right now is undefeated in conference play. We know that we'll have our work cut out for us, and we'll have to play a complete game."
I wondered when were you first exposed to a no-huddle offense, and where did you first try to implement that? Did you get some resistance at all from your coach at the time when you came to him and wanted to go to that?
"Well, gosh, the earliest that I can remember being exposed to it was just watching football as a kid. When teams went to their two-minute or last drive of a game, those type situations. So that was the first time I got interested in it. As an assistant coach, everybody has a part of it in their system because from when you went to two-minute, you had to be able to do something.
"When I had the opportunity the first year as a coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, Andy McCollum was the head coach and asked me to be the coordinator, and I made the decision at that time we were going to be a no-huddle team. He didn't question it. He was hiring me to put in a system and to run an offense, so that's what I did."
You've obviously got some skill players with tremendous talent. But in order to give them the opportunities they've had, your offensive line seems to be playing extremely well. Can you talk a little about that group and the job they've done?
"Yeah, I think if anybody talked to Gio this past week, he gave all the credit to the offensive line, and these guys have been very consistent for us throughout the year some better than others at times. But as a unit, we've been pretty consistent. We've kept people off the quarterback. We've kept him up right as much as possible, and they've done a good job in the running game. So I think that those guys have probably been the most consistent group on our football team at this point. I think that's why you're seeing the results that you do".
Can you assess the kind of season Jonathan Cooper has had to this point?
"Well, Jonathan's a tremendous player. I can't imagine there being that many guards in the country with his kind of skill level. I've never had one, actually. So he's a very talented young man that believes in the goals of the team and truly wants the team to be successful. He's your typical offensive lineman. He doesn't talk about himself. It's not about him. It's about the team, and it's about seeing success as an offense and what they do, what we do as a team."
What are the skills that he has that you like so much?
"Well, he's a 300-plus pounder that can really run, has great feet. I mean, he has phenomenal feet. He's got feet as good as tight ends out there. So he can stay on blocks. He can pull. He can move. He's very intelligent. He can pass block with the best of them. There is really not anything he can't do up front."
Going down to Miami this time of year is a little different than some of the other places in the league being that it's probably going to be in the mid-to-upper 80s in the game. What are your thoughts on how critical it will be to have that depth at running back with Romar Morris, A.J. Blue and Bernard, and your thoughts on wearing Miami down even though they're used to that temperature?
"Yeah, we really don't play a whole lot of attention to the weather. That's one of the reasons we do it is because we want to be mentally tougher and not let the weather play a factor in the game, because we don't control it. We don't know if it's going to be warm one game, snowing the next, raining one game, dry the next. So we try to totally focus out on that.
"That starts with our philosophy back in camp. We never talk about it. But having the depth at all of our positions is very important. But very, very important at running back to keep those guys fresh. And yes, that is part of what we try to do is we try to be in great physical conditioning with the tempo of what we do offensively and defensively, and know that we think it's going to play a factor in the third and fourth quarter on teams.
Your offense seems to be rolling here the last couple of weeks. You've gotten off to better starts than you had previously. Just wondering if you feel like the players now have that confidence and that buy-in because you've got the results to go with your effort?
"I think the biggest thing for them is just your offensive linemen alone. For all during camp and during every practice, we are really trying to go fast. We are on their rear ends all the time about our tempo. For them, probably the majority of that has been, wow, this is really hard and I'm tired but now you even see it in games. They're wanting to go fast. They see what's happening to a defensive line or a defensive front. They see the benefits from it. Now it's not so much in practice.
"We don't have to talk about it a lot. Our guys understand what we want to do and why we want to do it. They also understand what it does to a defense because they can see what's happened in the third and fourth quarters in the games we've played."
Is a five or six-game mark about the time you usually see that happen with a team when you're installing this kind of offense?
"I don't know. I've never counted them up and kept track of it. I just think knowing that we've had some guys that could do some things with the balls in their hands once the light did come on, once we started feeling a rhythm, they would see some success. I will tell you this: We're far from being where we're going to be. If that makes sense. We're not -- I know we've had some success in the last couple of weeks, but we're not even close to our potential. You can go back in this last game, and wow. You look at it and go, golly, that's not very good.
"So I know that we can get a lot better and will be a lot better in the future. The best thing about it is our team has improved each week."
How quickly has this team picked up your offensive style compared to the other places you've been?
"I think the guys have picked it up. The difference here and everywhere else has been that these guys really are hungry and eager to have something, to have something to hold on to, to have some substance. Just because of what's gone on in the last two years with these guys and there being so much unknown and who is going to be our coach and what we're doing, all those things.
"So I think they've been very, very eager and very accepting of the fact that we're bringing in this offense and, okay, Coach, let's go. Let's learn it as quickly as possible and let's go. That's what they've done. So you may say they've learned it a little quicker than the other teams, and part of that has to be with the skill level of the guys we have."