Coaches Talk About Coverage

Coaches Phil Snow and R. Todd Littejohn, the two coaches responsible for the defensive backfield, talk about pass coverage, the emergence of Jarrad Page and the utilization of Matt Ware...

Defensive Coordinator and safeties coach Phil Snow and cornerback coach R. Todd Littlejohn responded to questions about the secondary Monday.

Coach Snow on Jarrad Page, and how his emergence might affect how they use Matt Ware:

"He's getting better every time he practices and plays. We thought he was going to be a player, but you never now how fast a kid will come along. He's come along real fast. And yeah, we have some flexibility. Matt Ware is a special guy. He played corner last year. He plays safety. So we can play him anywhere we want to play him. Now we can with the flexibility that Page has given us. And Jibril Raymo hasn't played much and he needs to start playing. So we have some flexibility in our secondary. I'll give you an example. We play San Diego State and they have a 6-5 and a 6-2 guy. Maybe we need to match up Ware on a 6-5 guy. So, we'll evaluate all that before game time, but it gives us some flexibility with Ware in what we need."

On Jibril Raymo getting more playing time:

"I haven't had a chance to get him in there because of the other guys. I'd like to. He's really improved and he deserves a chance to play. I'm hoping I can get him some reps during the next couple of games."

On the technique philosophy of the cornerbacks:

"We had not had a problem. Last year we didn't have a problem with it and we didn't in the first game. Last week they threw the ball really strange, way up in the air. And we were covering a really good player. We've talked about the things we need to do better. If it's a problem next week and the following week then we have a problem. These guys are good athletes. There was a couple of situations where I wasn't pleased how we played things, coverage-wise. But for the most part I don't see a problem right now. Next week if the same thing happens then we do have one. But we're not going to panic."

Coach Littlejohn on the cornerbacks' performance against Oklahoma State:

"Not very good. I think the problem is that we set such high expectations. And I think we've allowed some little things to hurt us, like a lack of focus. Fundamental things on deep balls obviously hurt us. It was frustrating because we didn't cover them as well as we are capable of and as we have in practice, so I was disappointed. But we are resilient enough to respond. We got bruised a little bit, in my opinion, but we'll coach them up and they'll get better."

On adjusments during a game:

"One of the things I told them at halftime is not to panic. They were taking off and over-running the receiver and bumping into them, causing interference. So it was, ‘Play the ball rather than panicking and runniing into the man.' In that sense, I was just trying to tell them to, ‘Hey, read your key, respond to the ball like you've been taught.' It's just hard to do sometimes from the booth. Coach Snow and I were trying to do the same thing. It's hard sometimes to have too many adjustments during the course of a game. You want them to play. That's what practice is for during the week."

On their philosophy of playing the receiver and not the ball:

"I think that's a general philosophy. I don't know if it's general with everybody, but I think typically you'd prefer to do that because you can line up and face another down. I don't know if that was the situation all the time with us. I know on that crack and go, for example, both Ricky and Ben were there, but Ricky runs into the receiver and had much more time than he thought. You get the one where Matt intercepts the ball. There were situations I think that that shouldn't have been the technique. That's what's frustrating about it. You don't ever go into a situation or a game thinking that that is your only philosophy. But it's a lot different rules, obviously, than the pros, which is to mark the penalty at the spot of the foul. So it's a little bit different in that sense. But if we play our technique and do what we're capable of doing none of that happens. We get interceptions."

On whether referees are more apt to throw a flag when a defensive back plays the receiver:

"Well, it's an offensive world. I would probably say so. We teach to look for the ball and play the hands. I think we've accepted the facts that anytime you're away from home you're not going to get those calls so you have to contain the play. As all DBs and I know, you're only as good as your last play anyway. So, you have to keep battling and realizing that this is a 60-minute game. A couple of times when were able to respond as a result of those poor plays we got interceptions and it negated that drive. But it's just so frustrating that all of those yards we're giving up, on third and long situations, we weren't smart enough and didn't put ourselves in the best possible position. We can avoid it. I guess is how I feel."

On what will change this week in practice:

"Back to the basics. Back to understanding leverage, understanding the four verticals and the positioning and how to adjust to the deep balls. The little things all too often, each week, because you're game-planning, you don't have a lot of time to work on those fundamentals. So we'll do whatever we need to do. We'll spend a little bit extra time in correcting those problems, so we don't put ourselves in that position again. I think the other thing is not to panic. All too often, you can get really alarmed by something. They had good receivers. And we're going to face good receivers down the line, too. But if we can continue to improve, there are going to be some good battles out there the rest of the season."

On using Matt Ware at cornerback:

"It's always great. From the perspective of a large corner going against a larger receiver, it poses a much different attack, not only with the receiver but with the quarterback. The trajectory of the ball will be different. All those subtle things. And because he has a year under his belt playing that position, and with his competitiveness, he'll respond to it. It just also means that other guys are playing well, like Jarrad Page and Ben for example. I think at this point we want to do whatever it takes to win and get the best players on the field."

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