"Obviously, our football team and our coaching staff know the challenges that await this weekend are dramatically different than the challenges that we had last weekend. Connecticut is a very, very good football team with a lot of returning starters. They've got explosive athletes. Certainly, one of the strengths of their football team is their defense, which returns eight starters from the second half of the season. Three very outstanding linebackers. Jasper Howard is a corner that's got excellent athletic ability. He's a dangerous returner.
"On offense, although they lost Donald Brown who was a first-round draft pick at running back, they've got two young men who are very, very talented and probably possess more homerun-hitting ability than Brown did. They've got a lot of speed. [Andre] Dixon and [Jordan] Todman got opportunities to play last week. The challenges that their offense poses is that they've added some elements that they didn't have a year ago. They're running some option offense out of the pistol and they've got the ability to run it out of the read-option sets, so it poses a lot of practice opportunities for your defense… So it's a significantly different challenge for our football team to go on the road and play against a much more talented football team."
What did Bruce Carter's three punt blocks against UConn do for his confidence and for the team as a whole?
"Well, that's unusual for anybody to get that kind of opportunities. Certainly, we may have caught them by surprise with the speed that Bruce has and his quickness and stuff. But one thing about it is that once you develop a reputation, you become a marked man. Everybody knows who you are and where you are and that you possess that kind of capability. We can already see evidence of the fact that Connecticut has dramatically changed their punt protection units. People, like our coaching staff, self-scouts themselves during the offseason as a way to try to get better and I'm sure that's certainly one of the concerns that every opponent has – making sure to know where Bruce Carter is."
With his ability, do you try to block every punt?
"It's a philosophy that you take – some games you try to pressure, some games you try to return, some games you just try to blend the two of them together if opportunities present themselves."
Any concern that John Lovett is now coaching at Miami?
"You don't like to lose any members of your staff, regardless of where they go. But obviously for John it was an opportunity to become a defensive coordinator again, and that is certainly an understandable transition."
What catches your eye about UConn's offense?
"Certainly the running backs. As ironic as it is that Donald Brown was a first-round draft choice, he actually wasn't the starter a couple of years ago. Andre Dixon was the starter ahead of him but he got injured and it opened the door for Brown to come in and play. So as recently as two or three years ago, their coaching staff felt like Andre Dixon was a better running back than a guy that went in the first round last year. Most notably, Todman and Dixon both play significant amounts and they kind of alternate going into the game.
"They've got a lot of speed. You can see their ability to run and change directions, slash and cut back. They've got the ability to turn a minimal gain into a bigger gain just because of the speed. Certainly Donald Brown was a very good running back and not to take anything away from him, but he was more of a punishing, tougher, physical run-between-the-tackles and grind-it-out back, and every now and then he would hit some big plays. But I think both of these kids have real homerun ability."
Does E.J. Wilson remind you of any of your previous defensive ends?
"Actually he does. One of the kids that became a first-round draft choice for us at Miami – Jerome McDougal. Physically, there's an awful lot of similarities. Both of them about 6-foot-3 [and] both of them had kind of grown into their bodies a little bit. E.J., when he was recruited to North Carolina, he actually was a tight end and an outside linebacker type of a guy in high school. He feels like he's grown into the perfect weight. I think he's playing right now at about 270-272.
"He's worked really, really hard in the weight room. That's probably the biggest improvement in his entire physique over the last 18 months is how much stronger and how much more physical at the point of attack that he's become. He's still got good speed off the edge, so he's really made a major transformation in the two years that I've been here."