What do you see that shows your team has (moved past the way 2014 ended and is excited for 2015)?
Let’s start off with, this team, as we brought this 2015 team back at the beginning of this year, the first thing we did was talk about the issues we felt like we had as a team. Every single guy on the team got to say what they thought the issues were, and then we addressed every one of those issues. We owned them and then we got rid of them, and said ‘Alright it’s time to move forward so let’s learn from them.’
I think that’s one of the things our kids are excited about, is that feel like we did address the things we felt like were issues on our football team. And I think they’re excited about new guys coming on the staff, a renewed philosophy on that side of the ball. I think you see a level of confidence in those guys that is back. I think everybody in the program is excited.
Have you encountered that kind of situation before, where players said others don’t care?
In 27 years of coaching? Yes. Every team is different. The chemistry on every football team is different. I can tell you I’ve never been on a successful football team that didn’t have good chemistry. We work extremely hard on trying to create that each and every year. It’s different every year. It’s very fluid, how it works. It’s something that the leaders of the football team have to be aware of all the time. They’re influencing, one way or the other, all the time. That’s the thing they have to understand, so they’ve got to make it a positive experience.
Is it a stretch to think there can be a dramatic improvement in the chemistry aspect between last December and now?
I definitely think there can be a dramatic change and I expect it to.
What were the issues?
It was all kinds of issues. You had guys that’ll say that there were leadership problems, there were guys that’ll say there were chemistry problems, there are guys that’ll say they didn’t really believe in what we were doing. There’s all kinds of things. I think for us, just getting those things out there and talking about it as a team – when I say everybody, I’m talking about every player on the team was required to put something on the board, and there were 100-something issues.
Some of them the same, some of them different, some of them abstract. But we talked about every single one of them as a team and how we felt like they impacted our team. And then we owned them, it wasn’t like pointing the fingers. It was like ‘alright, this is who we were, this is our problem.’ And then we said, ‘alright let’s get rid of them and move forward. Let’s make sure we don’t make these kind of mistakes again.’
What was the most consistent thing you put on the board?
Did that surprise you at all?
Did anything surprise you?
No, not really. As a coach, anytime you’re not having the success that you feel like you ought to be having, you are dissecting every aspect of your football team to try to figure out what the issue is. It’s not like you’re just sitting back and doing the same thing over and over. So you’re doing everything that you can to try and figure what the issues and the problems are.
So I was aware of some of them. But making those changes during a season is pretty difficult.
Do you regret not addressing those things sooner in your tenure?
No. No, I don’t regret it. I’m not sure I could do it any other way because you don’t know that they’re problems until they come up. You’re not sitting around going ‘what if?’ all the time. First of all you’re trying to get a team ready to play an opposing team each week, and putting together a game plan. Sometimes you don’t know what‘s happening within your team underneath layers. And then when you find out, you address them.
Was that your first time having the team write things on the board? What did you learn most from that process?
That is the first time I’ve done that. It was important to show those guys that everybody had a voice in the room. It wasn’t just me the dictator up there telling them what it was gonna be and me telling them what the problems were. I wanted to hear it from them. And I didn’t want guys to say nothing. I wanted to know really what they thought. It was a time for us to close the doors and say ‘OK, this is it. Let’s figure it out. And when we walk out of this room now we’re all behind each other, we’re all together, and let’s make it go from there.’
What gave you the idea to do that?
I don’t know. Not that I’m trying to take credit for something spectacular, it was ‘OK, this is how we’re doing to deal with it. Let’s hit it head on and figure it out.’
How would you assess your team offensively last year?
Last year? Average. Average.
Why do you think that was?
A combination of things. We only had one returner in the offensive line and that’s the key to – up front offensively and defensively it doesn’t matter where you are you guys have heard it before – that’s the key. We didn’t have enough experience coming back in the offensive line and it took those guys a while to gel.
So it created some issues for us offensively. We didn’t have the production from the running backs that we needed to have. Too much pressure was put on the quarterback. So, I felt like we were average. Now, the bar is pretty high for me on that side of the ball and what we’ve done in the past. I just thought we were average.
Do you feel like you’re in a position to address that?
No doubt about it. I expect us to be much better.
What are you going to do differently?
I want to score more points. I want to take care of the football. Really, that’s all. You’re asking something that’s pretty simple. For us offensively, it’s take care of the football and run out of white lines. We do those two things and we’re going to be OK.
Understanding how to manage a team during a game is that you don’t have to score every time you get the football. You need to score, kick it and score or kick your opponent inside their own 30-yard line. You do that, you got a chance.
Where does Marquise Williams fall among the quarterbacks you’ve coached?
That’s a good question. I can go all the way back to Wes Counts, Rex Grossman, Chris Leak, Zach Robinson, Austin Davis. I’ll say this, Marquise has the same type of athleticism as Zach Robinson, he throws the ball a lot like Austin Davis, he probably runs the ball better than quite a few of those guys. When he does run, he’s not looking to go down. When he runs the ball, Marquise is trying to run through people and score. So he’s got a different mentality than most of the quarterbacks I’ve had. For me, that’s been a little bit of difference – that’s not necessarily what you want from your quarterback, but I’m not going to take that away from Marquise because that’s what makes him who he is. He is a big, physical, running type of guy. He likes to do that. There are so many plays that Marquise makes when you don’t have anything. He extends the play and makes something happen.
If you go back and look, most of the runs that Marquise ran last year were not called quarterback runs. They were options that he made happen. I’m not going to take that away from the kid.
He got banged up a lot last year. Is there a maturation process involved in him not trying to run over people?
I think it is. I can remember talking to a kid that I was recruiting and telling him that, ‘Hey, when you get to college you’re not going to be able to run over kids like that anymore. So you’ve got to learn how to do that. And Tim Tebow did it for a long time. I’m not going to tell Marquise that he needs to change his running style.
How much of a turnaround can you reasonably expect from the defense this year?
I don’t know how to measure it. I’ve been asked that question quite a bit. The only way I think is, we’ve got to be better. That’s it. If we’re just better, then we’re a better football team. How much better? I don’t know. Just so that we win football games. You’ve got to hold them to one less point than what the offense scores. And the offense has got to score one more point than the defense holds them. If we do that as a football team, then we’re going to be better. That’s hard to measure actually.
Check back tomorrow for Part II ...
Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part I
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