Are you glad you don't have to contend with the option again this week?"You know what, nah, because you like the challenge that the option brings. You have to get familiar and used to it at some point, so why not now. But it is good to get back to some of the things you are accustomed to playing against. But the last two weeks have been fun minus the result of the games. But it has been like a good challenge, I would say."
What is it that Kerry Neal needs to improve upon to be an every-down player?"It's just the people that we have, because he can do that, and he has done the every-down a few games this year. It's just the people we have and what we've been doing, it's giving other people the opportunity to see where they are. But he has had a couple games where he has gone the whole game and he has done pretty good."
Coach Weis said that the younger guys will be getting looked at the next week and a half. Will you be doing the same with the younger guys?"I didn't hear Coach say that, but for the most part, what we have been doing is just rotating different guys. Maybe, maybe (laughing), I didn't hear it so I don't know."
How do you plan to use some of the younger guys the next two games to see what you will have in the future?"A lot, a lot, even the guys on the show team. We have been looking at show team just as hard as our stuff so that you can say going into the spring, this guy can do this, this guy struggles with this, and you want to see if guys are making calls now. It's the end of the year so you should be able to make calls, make adjustments, get in the right stance, have some awareness, that just kind of tells you where we are. So you definitely peek at the young guys to see where they are because their time is about to come here. More importantly, it is playing the guys who deserve to play. If there's an opportunity that you can get a young guy or an old guy that hasn't played a lot, then you try to do that if at all possible."
Coach, can you talk about Joe Brockington and how he has been ready to go week-in and week-out?"It was the Penn State week [that] kind of really showed us where he was as a person and as a player. Sometimes you don't really realize what you have in a player until there is adversity or until you really look at him and say, ‘Wow, this guy's done this, he's done that.' Joe has done that. He plays through injuries. He does exactly what you ask him to do, and you are always going to get his best effort, always. He's got the best attitude. Coming in, I didn't know these guys anyway, but I really didn't know that about him. The Penn State week was like, with all the respect I had in my body, he got a lot of it that week because of his preparation and some of the things he had to deal with. He's been good."
What were some of the things he had to deal with that week?"Just a couple of different issues without getting into specifics, but he had a couple of things and when that week was over, wow, I really liked the way he played. He overcame a couple of things and was good."
How banged up has he been this season?"He's had a couple [of injuries] earlier in the year. Like I say, he just goes. If it's not sticking through the skin, he's going to play and that's what you want. Especially for the older guys, guys like him, I would have liked for it to be a little bit different results for him; for guys like Joe Brockington. Trevor (Laws) is great, a great player, but for guys like Joe Brockington and Ambrose (Wooden), it's just unfortunate, but it has been a pleasure, I will say that."
Do you feel it will take more than one season for the players to grasp and master the 3-4 defense?"Being realistic, I look at it like this; coming in everybody has expectations. You want everything to be perfect and you want everything to come together and gel. And that's what you expect and when it doesn't happen for whatever reason, you have to look at all those reasons. Whether it's the coaches, players, schemes, what we have done and what we have to do is we can go out and play defense and everybody is on the same page, everybody is confident, everybody is playing hard, and we are being productive. We haven't done that consistently, as consistently as we would have liked. There have been spurts but in this game, you can't really do it in spurts. You have to like do it through the whole game. You can't do it like for 3½ quarters. You can't take off the first quarter and come back and fight your tail off the last three. So I think we have definitely learned a lot, not only about our players, we've learned about the scheme, the coaches, the players, and about how we have to coach and about how we have to play. Now we are just waiting for that one week where we come out and put it all together and that really falls on me and us. So what we would especially like this week is to put a good product out, to where everyone is on the same page, and we've got some production and finish up strong. That's what we would like and that's what the goal is."
Has the most frustrating thing for you been the play in spurts?"Absolutely, absolutely, because it is definitely there. You look around the country and you see things and you just say we're definitely close, but you have to play almost perfect because that other team that you are playing, depending on how good they are, are going to take advantage. We have definitely learned a lot."
Can you talk about what Trevor Laws has done every week; not just on the field?"The main thing he has done is shown that this is how it should be done. Like that model is there for coming out on the field in practice and playing hard, doing a real good job in the meeting room, but then carrying it over to the field. He's played well. I watch Dwayne Robinson and some of these guys, and of course the guys from the Patriots, and Trevor has been just as productive, if not more, than those guys. I was at Virginia with Chris Canny and some of those guys and he's played and made a ton of plays. So you show the young guys that, then you get everyone around him rallying, and do what they do in their own respective positions, then you have something. So definitely some good comes out of it."
Going back to the 3-4, do you think some of the guys have gotten it so it is second nature while others haven't?"I say it like this, and this is how you know everybody is starting to get it. If I can start a sentence and then the other guys can finish it - I'll use Brian Smith for an example. I can start a sentence and he can finish it. That means he can tell me exactly what I intend on saying, which means he knows how it should be done. Now, when you can take that and translate it to the field, that's good. I think we have some of that, but we need to get it a lot more and we also need to get it more consistently. That's as much on the coaches as it is on the players. Because you have to make it so it is easy on the kids. That falls on me more than anything else. Then you have to look at, individually, who you are dealing with. You have to look at how much you are telling them and what you are telling them and how you are saying it. Some guys you might have to yell it to them; some guys you have to put it in jokes and riddles; and some guys you've just to beat it in their heads. When they get on the field and they do what you want them to do, they've got it. It doesn't matter how many times you told them; it doesn't matter how many times you tried to show them; when they can go on the field and do it, they've got it consistently. When everybody is doing it, it's a beautiful thing. I've seen it. I've done it myself. I've seen it done with good players and I've seen it done with not-so-good players so it can definitely get done. Everybody says, well, boom ba boom ba boom. All that matters is you have 11 guys playing together and flying around. I've seen that at a couple different levels. I've done it myself. I've coached it. I've seen it. So it definitely can get done and it will get done. It's just a matter of when. That's like the thing I'm hanging onto every day; when is it going to happen consistently? Because when it gets done, I'm telling you, I know what that result is like. So we'll see; we'll get there, definitely."
When you mentioned about the players taking a quarter off, do you think that is a by-product of still thinking of what to do rather than just reacting?"Well, I always look at it like it's me. If Brian is playing for me, and regardless of what is going on, I have to make a call that is going to get him to do what I want him to do. There is something I have to generate and something I have to do. It's not necessarily always the kid. I put that on me. If you need to get the guys to play better and to play faster, make the calls easier. If you want to play more aggressive, you have to bring some pressure. If you want them to sit back and figure things out, you have to play more coverage. That's the thing, I think; we have worked through so we kind of know where we are in that regard. Now it is just a matter of, we make a call and I'm here and he's there; that's where they are; this is what is going to happen – period – without even thinking a lot about it. It's not a hard game; it's really not. In some regards, schemes are a little overrated, just as long as you aren't crazy with it. When everybody is playing together, and we have done that, but it hasn't been consistent enough. I don't care who we are playing, if they run in this hole and I have two guys there, I'm outside, this guy's inside, the result is going to be good, regardless who we are playing. There have been times where we've just got to do better and we will and we will be more demanding. Like I say I have seen it work; I have seen it work here. I grew up watching teams here play a certain way. And, man, we are not going to accept anything else. We are really too close. It seems like we are far, but we're not, so it's just a matter of doing it and you want to do it this year opposed to waiting next year or this spring. Forget that! We've got to do it now; so that's where we are."
Can you comment on the offensive weapons that Duke has?"It's like every week. They have receivers. They'll throw the ball downfield and they have guys who will catch it. They've got a quarterback who can put the ball where he needs to, and he can run the ball. They've got a good offensive line. It's like Groundhog's Day; it's the same thing every week. They definitely have a good offense. They can throw it. They can run it. I think their coaches do a very good job of putting their players in positions to make plays, especially versus what you do as a team. So we've got to be sharp."
Is there one area that is most worrisome?"It's just keeping points off the board. You can't allow deep passes. You can't allow long drives which come from chunk passes and runs – five-yard runs, six-yard runs, four-yard runs. Once they get in the red zone, we've got to be sound."
Have you talked to the players about the emotions of the final home game?"I have not as of yet. I probably will mention it to them before it's all said and done. You've got to make sure you don't get carried away with it. You will feel it early. That is something you will feel early, but once the game starts, it goes away and you really won't realize it until the game ends; when it's over and you realize it's really over - but at the beginning, yes; during, not so much. I was emotional when I played."
Have you tapped into some of the offensive guys that know and worked with Peter Voss since he's now the offensive coordinator with Duke?"Yeah, I have talked with the offensive coaches just to see his mindset, to see if there's any carryover, and that sort of thing. You always try to do that as much as you can, absolutely."