“We're getting in some practices this week, working with a lot of our young guys, working on the fundamentals of the game, trying to get better in all three phases of the game as we go into the week, and then at the end of the week we'll start getting ready for Pitt.”
I know you talked a little bit about the bye week, but the biggest areas that you want to look at during the bye week, maybe some things you've taken away from the season so far that you really are looking to address right now?
“Yeah, we're really spending a lot of time on trying to get better in each phase of the game, and for us it's, again, execution in all three phases. It's making sure our attention to detail is there, that we're taking care of our job, so it's really basically boiling it down to the fundamentals.”
Do you see improvements on defense? Do you see certain areas that have been working? Obviously coming off almost a 30 point loss to Miami has got to be tough, but have you seen some improvement there?
“There is. There's improvement in all three phases, but there's not consistent improvement, and once you take a step forward in one area, we seem to be taking two steps backwards in other areas, so we've got to get some more consistency in all three areas.”
What did Arien Smith do to put himself in position to have these opportunities he's had the last couple games?
“Well, you know, first of all, Arien has been our second team snapper going into this season, and has been consistent as far as knowing what to do, getting his assignments done, and practicing extremely hard. So when our center went down, wasn't able to go, Arien was the guy that stepped up and did an adequate job for us.”
Early on when he first came there, is he someone you saw that would be able to move into a position like this? It seems like he's kind of an underdog story.
“Well, it is kind of an underdog story. I don't know if anybody saw this at that time. I think the kid has worked extremely hard to put himself in that position.”
What went wrong last weekend in South Florida? Did you just run into a really hot Miami team?
“Well, I think it was a combination. I think Miami is playing really well now. I think they have probably for the last three weeks played have a lot of confidence and playing really well, and then I thought we just didn't play well in any of the three phases. I mean, we couldn't get anything going with any consistency in anything we did. There was a lot of very uncharacteristic mistakes that we've made, you know, that you don't really have answers for. We're kind of going back to the drawing board and really breaking down the fundamentals and working on every aspect of what we need to do to be better.”
You take on Pitt next week. I know you're working on you have a bye week, so what do you see early on film with Pitt?
“That they're going to run the ball at you extremely well. The running back, he's really good. The offensive line is really good. They're going to they're going to just run the ball down your throat and play action pass you is what they're going to do. So we've got to do a much better job of fitting gaps and stopping the run and not giving up big plays.”
You just mentioned their running back. Obviously you just faced Duke Johnson. How can you compare these two guys? It seems like they're different runners, but is there anything you can take away from facing Duke that will apply to next week?
“Well, yeah, there's some similarities offensively in the philosophy and everything that they're doing, but Duke, as we all know, Duke is a great player, and I think this kid is a great player, also. Just a different style. He's probably 245, 250 pounds, and he can run through you. But he also can break runs. He's just a big, physical runner, and they take a lot of pride in being physical as a football team.”
Going into the Miami game, Marquise Williams had been very effective running the zone read or scrambling or whatever but still getting yards on the ground. He didn't do that very much in Miami. Is that something physical or is it something Miami did defensively to limit that part of his game?
“Well, I think obviously Miami knew that we have been having success with them, with Marquise, and so I'm sure they planned a little bit for that, and then we did when you're not moving the chains and you're not picking up 1st downs and you get out of a rhythm, it's hard to get any kind of play call that's going to put him in a situation where we could have some success. We didn't do anything offensively that was very good.”
How much of what he does on the ground is planned, like I say, in zone read stuff, and how much of it is improvised?
“I'm going to say probably five to six times a game are called runs for him when we know he's going to run the football. Everything else, if he extends a pass play and turns it into a run or maybe we have a run pass option that he determines that he's going to run it, I mean, but really probably just five or six that we're actually calling a game.”
You have to balance his ability to get yards there with the punishment he takes.
“Oh, no doubt, because he's not the kind of guy that wants to slide and avoid contact. I mean, he doesn't mind being the guy that brings the blow. That's the way he is. That's the way he's made up. So we have to be careful about that; you're definitely right.”
My question you’ve probably answered before, but I think I want to ask it anyway, in light of the academic questions that have surrounded the university, has there been any step up, any kind of increased emphasis on academics around your football program in recent weeks?
“In what way do you mean that? Step up?
Have you done anything different with the kids?
“No, no, I haven't done anything different with the kids, because since I've been here, we haven't had an issue, and our kids have been doing things the right way. I think everything that we have implemented since we've been here has been good, and there haven't been any issues.”
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