Scouting Tulane: Q&A with coach Bob Toledo

Tulane held its weekly football luncheon Tuesday, and coach Bob Toledo addressed a large number of topics. He talked about the health of the Green Wave, the tough loss to Houston last week and gave his version of a scouting report on Rutgers.

Scouting Tulane
Kickoff: 2 p.m., Rutgers Stadium, ESPN3
Record: 1-2
Coach: Bob Toledo (10-29 fourth year, 88-97 11th overall)
Offense: Pro-style
Defense: 4-3
Key players: LB Trent Mackey, CB Phillip Davis, S Shakiel Smith, WR Casey Robottom, C Andrew Nierman, DE Desman Moses, RB Albert Williams, QB Joe Kemp

Tulane begins a stretch in which three of its next four games are on the road, in each time it will be homecoming for the hosts. Furthermore, Tulane is looking to break a six-game road losing streak.

The Green Wave's lone win came against Southeastern Louisiana, and its losses to Ole Miss and Houston came by a combined 33 points.

Tulane held its weekly luncheon Tuesday, and here is what coach Bob Toledo had to say:

On What Positives He Takes From Saturday's Loss to Houston Game:
"The bright spot during the course of the game is that we fought back. We were down 21-0 and lot of teams would go belly up at that point, would have quit playing and stopped trying. We didn't. I'm proud of our guys for doing that. We never gave up.

"We never quit. I constantly preach that with our football team. A little Winston Churchill – never, never, never give up. Never quit. We battled a really good football team. Even though they lost their two quarterbacks, they've got a lot of playmakers. They've got a good football team and we battled them really well at their place, which is difficult any time you're on the road. The key thing is we had a chance to win the football game and that's the most disappointing thing."

On Where Tulane Goes From Here:
"There's a lot of football left, and that's what I've talked to our football team about. A lot of people would cash it in. It's not time to do anything like that. We've got a lot of football left. It's not time to panic.

"I think the attitude on our football team is very good. We had a really good practice yesterday. It was very upbeat. Obviously, we're disappointed but we're not demoralized at this point. There are a lot of good things that can happen for us this year and we're going to try and go out and do that."

On This Weekend's Opponent, The Rutgers Scarlet Knights:
"This week, we play Rutgers. They're 2-1, from the Big East Conference, Greg Schiano is their coach and he's done a great job there. I gave our guys a little history/trivia yesterday. The first college football game in 1869 was played between Rutgers and Princeton, so we're going to a place that has a little bit of history to it and that's kind of interesting.

"It's homecoming for them, and we'll play several homecomings in October. Everybody loves to play us for homecoming, and of course we've got our homecoming game in another week, too.

"Defensively, they're an outstanding football team. The best team we've played this year and maybe the best team we'll play all year defensively. They've given up 10.3 points a game, 94 yards rushing and 274 yards total. Statistically, they are one of the better teams in the nation so they've really got a good defensive football team. Offensively, they're doing some good things.

"They've got two outstanding sophomores. The quarterback was a Freshman All-American a year ago, Tom Savage. He's 6-5, 230 pounds, has a really good arm. He's got a really strong arm and is a good quarterback. Their wide receiver, who also plays wildcat for them, is a great receiver. He'll be playing in the NFL in a few years. His name is Mohamed Sanu. He's 6-3, 220 and he is a great athlete.

"He's not only their leading receiver, but he's their second-leading rusher. Special teams wise, they've got a great punter. He's outstanding. He's 40-yards plus with a 4.0 hang time, so it's hard to get punt returns. They've blocked four punts in the first three games, so they really come after you, and they've got good returners."

On The Job Greg Schiano Has Done At Rutgers:
"I thought it was kind of interesting looking through their press guide and how Greg has built this program. In 1999, they were 1-10 and he took over the next year. His first year, he was 3-8 in 2000. Then he goes 2-9, 1-11, 5-7 and 4-7. So his first five years, he's 15-42. Then all of the sudden he gets to 2005 and goes 7-5, 11-2, 8-5, 8-5 and last year 9-4.

"He's been to a bowl game five years in a row. He's 43-21 in the last five years. He's done a super job of building that football program. For those of you who will be at the game or know much about Rutgers, they've got unbelievable facilities. They've really upgraded their stadium and their facilities. They're great facilities. They've done a super job recruiting. He's got a lot of great players out of Florida and the East Coast area.

"And of course, he's got continuity. The coaching staff has been there (for a while) and they've got it going. They've done a super job. I'm kind of anxious to see their place. I've never been to Rutgers, but I'm looking forward to it." On Tulane's Game Captain:
"Our captain is going to be (defensive end) Josh Smith. Josh is a back-up defensive end and he really did a great job of coming in and spelling us last week. He played in a little more than half a dozen plays and made some nice plays. He really gave us a good effort."

On Tulane's Injury Status:
"J.T. McDonald has a neck problem. It's a nerve problem. He's actually been out a couple of weeks and he's going to be out this week as well. Kevin Moore, we didn't know it at the time – we thought he jammed his thumb – he actually broke two bones in his index finger.

"That's why he was struggling throwing the ball in the last quarter, actually. Orleans Darkwa sprained an elbow. It's actually a tendon that is torn in there, but they're hoping that it heals in the next couple, three or four weeks. If it doesn't, he made need surgery. We'll hold him out, obviously. (Quarterback) Ryan Griffin sprained his shoulder in the game. He had a hard time lifting it and handing off, so we didn't play him in the second half. He's questionable, but I believe he'll play.

"We'll hold him out the first couple of days here to let him rest up, but toward the end of the week we'll practice him. Oscar Ponce de Leon sprained his ankle. He's questionable but he did run around yesterday a little bit. Jonathan Ginsburgh, our punter, has a concussion. He did not practice yesterday. He got blocked in the back and they did call a penalty. It was a vicious hit from behind. They threw the flag on the return but he was a little dingy the last punt. He didn't know where he was.

"Devin Figaro injured his tailbone on the play that he caught down our right side down by the goal line. He made a great catch and fell on his bone. It happened in the game, not in practice. So anyway, we'll see what those guys do. Obviously, after you play three or four games, guys start getting banged up a little bit. The nice thing about it is we still feel like we have nice, quality back-up depth that we can replace some of those guys with. We're fine at this point."

On When Ryan Griffin Injured His Shoulder:
"It occurred in the second quarter when he threw the ball to (receiver) D.J. Banks. If he had thrown the ball a little bit sooner, he wouldn't have gotten hit. He held onto it too long, threw it, D.J. caught it and fell to the ground, and he got hit and got his shoulder driven into the ground. It's serious, but it's not one of those season-ending type of injuries."

On If Joe Kemp Will Be The Primary Back-Up Quarterback This Weekend:
"Joe has played a lot of football for us at quarterback as well. He'll play. D.J. Ponder will also play quarterback for us. He's our third quarterback. Kevin is out, and we'll just kind of go from there."

On If Griffin's Injury Is On His Left, Non-Throwing Shoulder:
"Yes, it's his left shoulder. He actually could have gone back in during the second half. He said, ‘I have a hard time handing off with my left hand' and I said ‘Well, that's kind of tough. Dan can't just call right-handed running plays.' So I said, ‘Hey, Kevin is doing a nice job. Let's sit you out and get you healthy for the future.'"

On Who Will Punt If Ginsburgh Is Not Ready On Saturday:
"Then Cairo will go. He punts the ball pretty well, too."

On If He Is Concerned About Rutgers' Ability To Block Punts:
"I think the one thing about it is our guys are doing a pretty good getting the ball off. We're getting it off under two every time. Last year, we were at 2.1, 2.2 and sometimes 2.3. We're getting the ball off a lot quicker this year which is a tribute to the punters. Both of them are getting it off under two. I'm hoping we're alright, but they come after you pretty good and they'll test us obviously."

On The Dimension Devin Figaro Gave The Offense Last Week:
"It's his speed. What (Houston) did was they started the game and they crowded us. They inverted the strong safety. They've been a two-deep team with a seven-man front. They got into an eight-man front and said ‘Hey, throw the ball. We're going to stop your running game.' They knew we were going to try and run it at them.

"We had a couple of runs, but until we say ‘Hey, we've got to stretch the field.' We beat them on a couple of plays and we backed them off. Then we were able to run the ball and do some things in the second half. There's no question that if you don't stretch the field, takes some shots deep and hopefully hit some of them, then they don't have to defend that and they start getting closer and closer and closer. That helped us tremendously, to be able to stretch the field with his speed."

On If Albert Williams Will Start At Running Back With Orleans Darkwa Out With Injury:
"Williams is the starter and Payten Jason is the backup. We've got Stephen Barnett also. We've got some running backs. J.T. McDonald would have been one of them, but he's still out."

On What Happens At Wide Receiver If Joe Kemp Starts At Quarterback:
"Joe is going to start at wide receiver because (Ryan) Griffin is going to start at quarterback. Griffin will start. Wilson (Van Hooser) will be a back-up (at receiver) and (Ryan) Grant is there too."

On How He Handles Kemp's Reps In Practice:
"That's why we're going to let Griffin rest. Griffin could practice, but I think he needs to sit and get healed up a little bit. That'll give us an opportunity to get Joe more reps in practice. It doesn't make sense to Griffin take the reps and the guy who has to back him up not have that opportunity. But again, we've got D.J. Ponder, too. We're not depleted at quarterback by any means."

On How Much He Feels The Team Has Improved From Game One To Last Week:
"I'm disappointed in not winning. We felt we had a chance to win both games that we lost. There's no question – and I've said it earlier – that we're a much-improved football team. We've got guys on our scout team right now that would have played considerably for us two or three years ago.

"We're better. It's just unfortunate that we started slow. We couldn't convert. We punted the ball, they run it and score a touchdown and another touchdown. They jumped up on us and they made it look bad. But I think we battle back. We came back and I think we've proven that we are a better football team. In talking to the head coach at Ole Miss and the head coach at Houston, they both agree with me that we're a much-improve football team.

"I hate to use this term but some coach told me this years ago. When you take over a program, you lose big. Then all of the sudden, you lose close. Then all of a sudden you win close. Then pretty soon, you start winning big. That's the evolution that we're going. This program was a lot farther down than I envisioned it when I took over.

"We've had to work at it, and there's no quick fix. You don't bring in a bunch of junior college players here to get a quick fix. You've got to do it with young guys. We've played a bunch of young guys the last couple of years, but we've gotten better because of it. We've gotten more quality depth because of it." On If There Was Anything The Defense Did To Improve Its Play In The Second Half:
"No. 1, we kind of got in a groove with what they were doing. No. 2, we didn't play as many snaps. We only played I think 28 snaps in the second half because our offense started moving the football. That was the thing that concerned me with the offense. We weren't moving the ball. The first five series were four punts and an interception.

"You can't have three, four and five downs and out. You've got to move the ball to keep your defense off the field. That's what happened. They were worn down a little in the first half, and then all of the sudden we kind of wore them down offensively in the second half."

On The Prognosis Of Kevin Moore:
"It'll be a minimum of two weeks. He won't need surgery right now, which is good. We thought he was going to have the finger operated on and put a pin in it. We might have lost him for the season. Because of the breaks, we feel that the way they're doing it right now, they feel that they can just keep it in one position. Hopefully, it'll heal a little bit and hopefully within the next few weeks he'll be able to return."

On Using The Fullback More Recently:
"We started out the Southeastern game with the spread offense. Against Ole Miss, we incorporated a couple of West Coast formations. Last week, we actually added a couple of more plays with the West Coast offense. We're still a combination of.

"In the past, we're a West Coast offensive team that ran some of the spread – kind of like the Saints and pro football where everybody runs the spread. Now, we've evolved more into the spread and less of the West Coast/fullback offense. But Stelly really did a nice job of blocking the other day. I told him his back was against the wall. If he doesn't block, we're not going to run much of it. But if he blocks, we may run more of it in the future."

On If He Expects Rutgers To Bring Heat Defensively:
"They run a lot of different defenses. They run a lot of different offenses. Greg Schiano is basically the defensive coordinator. He's been a defensive guy. He was at Miami. He was with the Bears in the pros. He's coached a lot of football. He was a linebacker himself. They bring the heat. They've got athletic guys so I expect them to come after us."

On The Rutgers Linebackers:
"They're really good. Their linebackers are outstanding. Both of their safeties are outstanding, too. They get involved. I think they're better than Houston, defensively. Their linebackers are really good and they're bigger. They're 6-2, 230ish. They really run. They're really athletic.

"He's recruited speed and athleticism, and they move them a lot. They're not just going to sit there and lineup. They move them. They stuff, the slant, they angle, they blitz, they zone blitz, they man blitz, they play a Tampa 2. They run a lot of stuff."

On The Rutgers' Return Game:
"It's obviously a concern. The guys last week were two really good return guys. Carrier has returned several kickoffs for touchdowns in the past. He had one good return. We did a pretty good job. The one return we gave him, we kicked the ball right down the middle and that's not our kicking team. We've got to kick them and pin them.

"The punt, he actually out-punted his coverage. He boomed one and that set up the return. Today, we're going to practice live punts. We're going to go live punts with our first and second groups. In 10 minutes, hopefully, we'll get five or six of those, get running down the field and tackling. Then tomorrow, we'll do live kickoff and kickoff return. I'm going to prove to these guys that we've got to get better in that area and we're going to do it until we get it right."

On The Extent Of Trent Mackey's Injured Ankle:
"We talked about it being a sprain, and I had an opportunity to look at the x-ray and the MRI. There is a little indentation where the bone kind of hit down. It looks like when you hit an egg and the shell dents. It's not hindering his performance. We let him be in a boot for over a week and that helped to heal it up a little bit. It doesn't appear that he's going to ever need surgery.

"He's just going to have to play with a little bit of pain. During the game, he'll be alright. After the game, he gets pretty sore. I think he'll be fine. He's the leading tackler in the nation and he's leading the conference in tackles with 12 a game. He's got a real nose for the ball. I think the thing that hurt Mackey was having not practiced, he missed the line several times and he gave up some gaps that they hit and made some plays on. By not practicing, that hurt him a little bit."

On If Griffin Has Regressed From The End Of Last Year:
"I think in talking with him, he's thinking too much and not just reacting. It's paralysis through analysis. It's like that ball down the middle. They're in a two-deep coverage and we have the tight end running down the middle. If he just throws it a little bit higher and a little bit farther, it's a huge play.

"They're in a Tampa 2, we held the middle linebacker and the safety is out of there, so it's going to be a huge play. Instead, he underthrows it because he's trying to be so perfect and put it in there, it's intercepted. I think sometimes what happens with young quarterbacks in particular – and I tell him all the time to go watch Drew Brees, watch Manning, watch the guys – they throw the ball.

"You've got to throw the ball on time and you have the throw the ball to where the guy is going to be. We wait sometimes for the guy to be wide open. You can't wait for the guy to be wide open, and obviously as you get to the pros the margin of error is even less. You've got to throw the ball on time and you've got to throw it to the spot where the receiver is going to be – not where he's going to be when he's wide open."

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