What does it take to be able to close out the game and finish off the fourth quarter?"Just make sure that everyone executes when they are supposed to. As a coach, we call the plays and put them in positions to do their job well and then collectively we just finish."
Is it a mental thing too?"Sometimes it is, you know. Sometimes it is a mental issue but more times than not, it's just playing football the way you did earlier in the game. You just do it the same way later. As coaches, you can call the game as you called it and what you have to do if you need to make adjustments, then you do that. But it is our job to get our kids going at the end of the day."
It's been said that you have to beat good teams to gain national recognition. Is time running out for this?"I think every time you step out in a competitive mode, which you only have so many games per year, you want to win. I don't care who it is. Because if you lose to the teams that quote unquote suck, you are going to feel crappy. If you lose to teams who are quote unquote better teams, you're still going to feel crappy. So every time out, you want to beat that other team. I don't care who they are or where you are playing them at or what the circumstances are, you want to win. I don't care if they are ranked first or I don't even care if they aren't ranked, because you are going to get the same feeling whether you win or lose. And we want to win every time we step out on the field. I don't care if it's at home or on the road."
Is a win over USC more important than say a team like San Diego State if you are trying to build an elite program?"Mentally, it's always better to beat teams quote unquote USC or top-tier teams. But statistically you just want to win. Now of course, it's better to beat a team of SC or someone who is supposedly one of the better teams, you know; Boston College who we're playing this week. That's really what my focus is right now, Boston College. I love to beat anybody. I don't care where they are ranked. Right now, Corwin Brown and his defense and the offense and everybody who is going on this trip with us, we're going down there with one purpose and that is to beat Boston College. I don't care where they are ranked or who they lost to two weeks ago. I don't care how many yards they run for, throw for, all we want to do is win. Would I like to go out there and beat their heads in? Absolutely, but if we give up a thousand points and still win, I will be happy with that. So, of course, you want a perfect world, everybody wants a perfect world, but at the end of the day, all you want to do is win."
What are your impressions of Boston College's offense?"They have a good system. They have a quarterback who makes good decisions and throws the ball around pretty well. You know, he makes mistakes just like everybody else. He gets tackled. He gets pressured. He throws interceptions. Just like other people when you pressure them. You know, they've got receivers that can make plays. They've got receivers that drop balls. They've got running backs and they've got a pretty good offensive line. So they are a good team and they are a well-coached team and they play hard. I would like to think that we are a good team also. And I'd like to think that we have players too. So we will see what happens when we get to Boston."
What kind of strides has Harrison Smith made?"He's made strides like everyone. He's done things well. There are some things, like everyone else, that you want to make sure that you keep improving upon, but he has made some strides and he has been a good player for us. He has made some plays so we're happy with him. He's very athletic. He's young and he has not played a lot. This is his second season. So you would like to think that he has a lot of room to grow because of his athleticism and he is just learning the college game. He'll get better. He'll definitely get better."
How have you seen David Bruton grow as a player and a person?"He's grown a lot, especially from the beginning of last year. Just in his preparation and how he helps the younger guys and the older guys, making calls and being a relatively smart player. You know, there are times when he can really play the edge and there are times when you've got to play it safe and get the guy on the ground. His decision-making is a lot better than it used to be, I would say."
He is considered an NFL prospect. What qualities does he have for this next level?"First and foremost, he will play special teams. He can play all the units on special teams and he can be a factor. From a safety-point, he's smart, and up there at that level, there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made, and he can with no problem. From a terminology standpoint, he will go to that league ahead of a lot of other people."
How does he compare in size to some of the NFL players right now?"Size, he'll have no problem with. He's smarter than most of the guys up there. I don't know about the combines and all that stuff and even if he will go, but I am sure he will get an invitation. But he'll do well when they put him on the board. He'll know where guys are, where people are lined up, he'll know adjustments. He just knows football and he has done well in that aspect."
Is there a player that he reminds you of in the NFL?"Up at that level, up at that league right now, the guy he really reminds me of is Percy Ellsworth that used to play at Virginia. David is more physical and more athletic than Percy was. Intelligence, they are on the same level. And playmaking ability, Percy made a lot of plays on the ball and he was smart and had good range. David is more athletic than Percy was. Kind of reminds me of Kerry Rhodes that I had. They are similar. Kerry Rhodes, the guy that I had at the Jets. They are similar size and move similar. They do some things alike."
How has fatherhood and those responsibilities played in his growth?"That definitely had an impact on him. Now you have another reason to succeed. You have more motivation to do well. You are just not thinking about yourself anymore. He's got somebody for sure that he's got to take into consideration. If you don't have a child and you're not married, it's just you and you can make decisions and it's different."
How is Steve Quinn progressing?"I think Quinny has worked his way into this position. I think the light bulb has come on, but it's because of the things that he has done. He has put himself in that position. We haven't given him anything. He's earned it and deserves it. That's what happens when you're an older guy and it matters to you."
What are some of his good qualities?"He's got good instincts and he closes to the ball. You know, he does a really good job of closing. I think he might have had a sack or something like that last week. But it was just a matter of him doing what he is supposed to do in following his rules, and he was in place to make a play. When you do that, that's what happens, you know."
Could you talk about Raeshon McNeil's development?"He's made some plays, and like Kerry Neal, you know he has seen some things and when you get more familiar and more comfortable, your awareness is raised. So he has been able to make plays and he definitely has gotten better, and it really is his first year playing, too. I think from a preparation standpoint, he's looked and seen what David has done and that has helped him. Regardless of your skill level, whether you're a great athlete, big guy, small guy, old guy, young guy, what happens between your ears helps you a lot. It allows you and gives you ability and chances to make plays. I think Raeshon is a guy who is conscientious and he studies hard. He is smart anyway so I think that's helped him. He has really improved and grown up since I've been here. He has matured a lot."
What do you say to a guy like Harrison Smith after he had the big penalty that could have an effect on the outcome of the game?"Well, you hope he learns from the mistake and you try to ask the player, ‘What were you thinking and what were you doing?' because that may help the player. What was I thinking? Trying to put him back in that moment so that if he ever gets in that moment again, he'll make a better choice, a better decision, you know, but nobody wants to do that at the end of the day. But if you live long enough, it's going to happen and until we become a team that we just go out and beat everybody by 40, you know, it will put you in a tough situation, but that one play didn't do it. There were a number of plays in the game where you know that one just stuck out because of the timing and it was magnified."
How has Kerry Neal progressed and what does he need to learn and improve on?"I would just like for all my players, all our players on defense, when you have a chance to make plays, you make them. And if you're in an area where you can make a special play or quote unquote a big play, then you can make it. Now sometimes, that's unrealistic because those guys are going to win too. But you just want your players to grow and develop. As a coach - I will use me as an example, okay - I would like to go out and call a game to where almost every play, the call you make, you say, ‘Damn, that was a pretty good call. It gave us a pretty good chance.' And you know when there are times as a coach that you don't make the best call, then you try to figure out why. You know, try to figure out, okay what can I do better the next time out to help us. And I think if everybody does that, and the coaches do that, and if the players do that collectively, you know, we make the best call and as players we execute up to our ability and we make the best decisions, when you put that combination together, that's when you get a championship team. When you don't do that and all of the cylinders aren't hitting, if enough cylinders aren't hitting, you're going to have trouble and you're always going to be in close games. If they hit, you beat people convincingly and you win the majority of your games."
Kerry is playing different positions. What do you look from him in stopping the run?"You've got to set the edge and, because he's on the edge and his gap, he's usually cutting the field off. There are times when we ask him to stunt down inside and when you stunt down inside, you take care of that gap. So it's doing the same job, but it just depends upon where we are asking him to do it; sometimes set the edge from the outside; sometimes stunt down inside; and sometimes he's in pass coverage."
Question was unclear but refers to tackles for loss and penetration.Well, sometimes it's in the call, you know, it's in the call sometimes. Sometimes, it's winning battles up front. I would say more times than not, it's in the call. But that is just something that sets you up to win. The thing you want to do is win. Now tackles for losses help you because now the other team is playing behind schedule. Whether it's a tackle for a loss or for one or two yards, that's a win for us."
When you refer to call, is that your responsibility?"Always take responsibility for what our guys do; always; always. As a player, the one thing the guys who coached me always did was put us in position to make plays. If you put a guy in a position that's not a good position for him to be in, at the end of the day, that's the coach's fault. As coaches, you learn about your players. Now of course, sometimes it falls on your players, but you know, in America and in our society, everybody always wants to put it off on the other guy and you don't get better that way. You don't learn anything about yourself. You don't learn anything about the guy you are working with. You don't learn anything about the people you are playing against because you are so busy trying to point the blame and putting it off on somebody else. Whereas, if everybody says, ‘This is what I have to do and this is what I can do to get better,' then all of a sudden, it's a whole bunch of guys who are unselfish and they are saying, ‘This is what I can do.' Then when you put that together, that's how you win.
"I have been on winning teams, like a lot from high school to college to pros and I have been on a couple losing teams and the common denominator on the losing teams, everybody is always pointing at the other guy. Everybody was always selfish. Everybody was always lazy. Nobody wanted to work. Nobody wanted to do extra work. The teams that won - and I played against some pretty good teams and there are a whole bunch of them here - and every week you watched these guys play; every week you watched them play and they weren't selfish and they were good players and they cared about the guy that was next to them. The coaches coached their butts off. And when you met them out on the road and you played with them down the road, without being here, you could tell how those guys were coached. Without being in games with them, you knew what their expectation level was. You just knew.
"Spending a year with Rod Smith, I learned more about Notre Dame football than watching them play because I watched how he played. I watched things that he did and I knew what his expectations was. Was Rod Smith the best corner ever? Absolutely not, but sometimes when you take a certain guy and put him in the right puzzle, it fits. And that's what we are trying to do here. We're trying to put the right puzzle with the right guys with the right coaches. Once you work at that and everybody figures it out, that's how you win.
"You know, we've got a bunch of good pieces here and we're just putting it together; but it is here. The difference in this year from last year; last year we weren't in the games like we were. Everybody's talking about your playing this competition level. No, just about everybody we play were in those games and we got a chance to win those games and we expect to win them. It's a little thing here; it's a little thing there. Like I said, I've been around winning teams and I know good people and good places. Do I know it all? Absolutely not, but I've been around enough people and I've studied good people to know what it takes for guys to win.
"I know we've got good players here and I know we've got good coaches and I know we're on the right track. Now, do we always do it? Absolutely not, but we are making progress. Now, what do I want to see? I want to see us go down to Boston College and kick their teeth in. That's what I want to see more than anything else. I'm sick of hearing about this; I'm sick of hearing about that; and when I say I, I mean we. Our whole team is. I'm not going to get on a rant and rave so it will be all over You Tube. But I will say this, we have good kids here and we've got good people and everybody wants to see us lose. So we get everybody's best shot and that's what we want at the end of the day. Because when we start giving people our best shot, we are going to be hard to deal with. That's it."