COACH SPEAK : OCTOBER 8
By Leo Haggerty
This week we’re going to chat with the following coaches about their upcoming contest : East Carolina HC Scottie Montgomery, USF HC Willie Taggert, Oregon HC Mark Helfrick, Washington HC Chris Peterson, Clemson HC Dabo Swinney, Boston College HC Steve Addazio and Tampa Bay Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter.
And, as Jackie Gleason would say and I know I’m dating myself as well as forcing the millenials to go online to find out who he is, away we go.
LH : Did Central Florida do anything on offense that you didn’t expect?
SM : No. Not really. What I think they did better was that they executed. I think our defense executed pretty good for the most part. We kept putting them out there. They played with great tempo. I thought #13 had a great football game. He was taking care of the football in certain situations as much as he could in certain situations. He could have forced a few that he didn’t force. He took off running a couple of times where I thought he made some good decisions. All in all, I just thought that they used the perimeter and they used their interior. I thought that our defense played well outside of that long run at the end of the game and a few dropped coverages that ended up in two or three catches. I thought our defense played well in this game. Anytime you only give up 370 yards, and one of those plays being the X play on the last play of the game, they played well enought to win the football game.
LH : South Florida is scoring points in bunches. They’re almost impossible to stop on offense. Can you slow them down?
SM : What you have to do is watch the Cincinnati game. I thought Cincinnati was in good shape in that football game until they didn’t take care of the football. It was all connected to how USF got the ball after turnovers and the energy and momentum allowed them to score. The one thing that you have to do is take care of the quarterback. He is such a threat at all times. I don’t think you have to worry about stopping him or rushing him as a lot of people have tried to rush him. When you try to rush him, and he breaks the pocket and you’re locked in man coverage sometimes or you don’t have enough people in zone coverage, it’s so hard to get him on the ground. And then, when he breaks coverage and gets outside, he still has the arm to throw it over the top. You just have to make sure you contain him and, when you have chances on offense to score, you have to score. That puts a little bit more pressure on him to throw the football. But, right now, they are a well-oiled machine.
LH : Game time temperature is expected to be almost 90. That puts the field temperature probably around triple digits. Can you prepare for that in Greenville?
SM : Yea. I mean our whole camp has been right around that same temperature. The first time we have had any weather under 85 degrees to practice in was this week when it hasn’t been raining. Our guys will be ready to go from a heat and conditioning standpoint. We are going to make sure that they are hydrated during the week. We’ve had a hot camp. We don’t practice indoors. We don’t have an indoor facility so we’re always outside. This will be something that will be a challenge for us but it’s not like we don’t go out in the heat. We practice at 4:00 in the daytime so it’s not like we don’t get out in the heat.
LH : Following up on your opening statement, you never want one loss to become two. You were able to avoid that against Cincinnati. Do you do anything special last week to address that?
WT : The only thing we tried to do was learn and correct some of the mistakes that we made in the Florida State game and get back to playing like we’re capable of. We didn’t play like we were capable of. We focused on that at practice. Playing with energy and technique and fundamentals. Being sound at what we do. We didn’t feel like it’s the end of the world. We did a lot of it to ourselves. Against a good football team like Florida State, you have to be sound to give yourself a chance. We weren’t reinventing the wheel. We were just correcting some things so we don’t make the same mistake twice.
LH : Seems like it took you about a quarter last week against Cincinnati to get comfortable and relaxed especially on defense. Would you agree with that?
WT : Yeah, Once our guys figured out how Cincinnati was trying to attack us, we were able to make a couple of adjustments. Our guys were able to lock in and play with finatical effort and we were in position to make the plays. That was good to see out of our guys.
LH : Looks like another very hot day at the RayJay Saturday for a noon kickoff. Can you prepare for another possible 100-plus field temperature?
WT : Yeah, down here you can. You can get outside and play. Yeah, it’s going to be hot. I think it’s going to be hot in a lot of places. You practice in it especially in the summer. I think a lot of it is mental. It’s a mental thing. Both teams have to play in it and, you know, it’s just being in shape.
LH : During the 3-game losing streak, is there been one area that has been the cause of the losses or is it a combination of things?
MH : It’s always a combination of things. First of all, as a coaching staff, we have to find ways to get everyone to execute. There were situations, against Nebraska and against Colorado, we left several opportunities on the field in all three phases of the game. At Washington State, we played well enough at times but we played sparatically. We didn’t play well enough to overcome that at the same time.
LH : What concerns you the most about Washington on offense?
MH : Gosh. There a lot of things that concern me. Thery have playmakers. They’re led by a great quarterback who is playing at an extremely high level. Extremely accurate, a great job in terms of utilizing a bunch of skilled guys. And then, pick your poison from there. They have three guys at tailback that are as good as anyone in the conference. Multiple wide outs that can go the distance. They employ several tight ends. They have an experienced offensive line. They are playing great.
LH : Not many teams can match Oregon’s speed on offense. Is Washington one of those teams?
MH : I think there’s a ton of speed on their defense but I don’t look at it like that. Overall speed versus overall speed. More of a match up situation where and when you handle things. They do a fantastic job with their fronts. Last week against Stanford, they’re rushing two or three guys and getting tremendous pressure on the quarterback. That can let those guys in the back end, now that they have an extra defender, to move around and those guys are extremely quick and physical. That’s not to mention the linebackers that are playing at a very high level. They can really run and hit.
LH : Oregon looks like a team that tries to outscore you. Their lowest output this season is 32 points. Do you expect a high scoring game?
CP : I don’t know. You know, I never know how these games are going to go but they do score points and they score a lot of them. It’s typical Oregon. They go fast. They score points. They have speed. It’s all about creating space and letting their athletes go.
LH : There’s two things you can’t coach and that’s size and speed. Your speed was a major concern of Coach Shaw last week and rightfully so. Is Oregon a team that can match your speed on both sides of the ball?
CP : I don’t know. I know they are really, really fast. They’re hard to tackle. Freeman and all their backs do a great job in space. They’re hsrd to tackle. We’ll find out.
LH : You have become the hunted and not the hunter in the PAC 12 after last week. How is your team dealing now with having target on them?
CP : Yeah, I hope not. We don’t think like that.We just prepare. We figure every game that we play we’re going to get their best shot. That’s how we prepare. We watch tape. We watch when teams are at their best and that’s what we assume we’re going to get. And, usually, that what it is. It’s not about them. We just assume we’re going to get their best and we just respond to that. Are we at are best? We don’t think that oh, we are now the hunted. It’s all about creating the standard that we have created for ourselves.
LH : Including the BC game, your last 4 games will have been a Saturday, then a Thursday, then a Saturday, then a Friday. Is that a problem for developing continuity?
DS : Yeah, for whatever reason, last year was the same way for us. Just a strange first half of the season. Last year we played two games and we got a very short week to travel to Louisville, to play on a Thursday night. Then we had a 16-day layoff, two weekends, that we didn’t have a game. Then we’re playing Notre Dame in a hurricane.
So just it was a very funky start to the season last year and it’s kind of been the same this year. This is our third road trip in our first six games and we’ve had already one short week at Georgia Tech on a Thursday night. Then you come back and you’re having a big, emotional game like you had Saturday night. Then you’re faced with another short week and a long trip to Boston.
So the schedule, because we love routine and we like to have some continuity in that routine, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge in that regard. But our guys have responded well. When this one’s over, these last six games, the second half of our season, we’re going to have a lot of normalcy as far as our routine that we like to stick to.
LH : Coach Addazio’s teams at Boston College are renowned for being one of the most physical teams in the ACC especially on defense. Do you expect anything less Friday at Chestnut Hill?
DS : Absolutely not. Just turn the tape on. Big, physical. They’re going to run the football and try to set up all their play actions. Their formations and motions and shifts that they use with all their multiple personnel groups, their heavy groups, multiple tight ends, create some tough adjustments that you have to make.
But the biggest thing is you have to be able to match up physically. Because if you can’t, they’re going to bloody your nose. They’ve got four starters back in the offensive line. Again, this quarterback, I think he’s a pro player. This guy is 6’5″, 250-something and can sling it. Then defensively, they finished No. 1 in the nation last year in defense, and they’re right there again this year. They’re No. 1 in the nation in total defense. They’re No. 1 in pass defense. Number 7 in rush defense. Excellent up front. Big, physical guys, and probably two of the best linebackers we’ll play against this year that’s number 13 and 28. Four veterans in the secondary. So this is a good team, good football team.
You look at their special teams and they’re like 15th in punt return, and 12th in kick return in the nation. So they’ve done some good things so far in these first five games.
LH : You said after the Louisville win that Clemson is built for this. How proud are you of your team showing the resiliency to come back?
DS : Oh, man, incredibly proud of their heart and toughness and resilience to hang in there and keep playing. Just, again, to not give up, to not get frustrated. Obviously, we had some critical mistakes, two turnovers in the red zone where we got a chance to get points. And we don’t get points. First drive of the third quarter, we’ve got a perfect throw. It’s a tipped ball. It goes right off our receiver’s hands and they get it.
Then you put your defense out there on a very short field against as good an offense as you’re going to play. Just some really difficult things that we had to overcome.
But at the end of the day, it’s how you respond and just their belief. Their fortitude to hang in there and keep battling. Again, just play the next play. Again, it came all the way down to the last play. You make the play, you win. You don’t make the play, you probably get beat, and we made the play.
LH : Normally, you want to stop the run and make a team one-dimensional. With Clemson, do you want to take away the pass and make them run to limit their possessions?
SA : I think when you think about Clemson, you think about all the weapons they have. They can hurt you in so many ways. Obviously they have an elite quarterback. I think the running back is fantastic. They’ve got really good wide receivers. I just think that in your mind when you’re playing Clemson, you’re trying to stop explosive plays and create disruption. But it’s hard to do because you’re talking about a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, I think an outstanding offensive line and skill players everywhere. We’ll have our hands full, but our number one goal is obviously to stop big, explosive plays.
LH : Everyone talks about Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense. How good is the Tigers defense?
SA : I think their defense is outstanding. It’s been outstanding every year that I’ve been here. I think it’s one of the elite defenses in the country, and I’ve said that. I think they do a great job. It’s really well-coordinated, it’s really well thought out, fantastic players. There’s been first-round draft picks coming off that defense, and there’s more there right now. I think they have an NFL-level secondary. They’re powerful and big up front. They’re skilled and fast in the back end.
The linebacker, 10, is a fantastic player. He makes plays all over the field. He looks like he’s a real centerpiece of their defense, and as I said, they’re well put together. They’re systematically well put together.
LH : In the last 3 games you have made a concerted effort to establish the running game. Same MO Friday?
SA : Well, we absolutely believe at Boston College that you need to run the football to win. But what we like to do is establish some consistency on offense, and we’ve been throwing the ball more this year than we have in the past with more balance. We’d like to continue that. Obviously the goal is to keep our defense off the field and stay on the field and score some points because if you don’t it could be a long night for you. However we can create some time of possession, I think that’s the operative word right there. We’d like to create time of possession.
LH : Is Carolina a good team that has just lost to better teams?
DK : Carolina’s a good football team, I’m not sure about the other teams, I don’t know about that part, but you don’t go from 15-1 and losing in the Super Bowl to being a bad team overnight. Every team has changes in the off season, but you just look at the number of Pro Bowl players Carolina has on both sides of the ball and I don’t think they turned into a bad team overnight.
LH : Have you had to change you travel plans due to the weather?
DK : It could. The weather’s changing a lot of our plans right now on a daily basis. It seems like every time I get a weather report, it’s different. First off, what’s going on with the weather is a lot more serious than what’s going on with the football game. This is a really serious matter. Obviously like everybody, we have to be on-call to change plans as it’s called for.
LH : Who is the backup kicker if Aguayo can’t go?
DK : Bryan Anger.
LH : How hard it is to prepare for two different quarterbacks, not knowing who is going to play for Carolina?
DK : It’s really hard in this case because they’re two totally different offenses. Cam Newton is the reigning MVP, he can beat you both ways. He can beat you throwing it and obviously their run game, with Stewart having been out the last couple of weeks, their run game has revolved around Cam. Cam is also their leading ball carrier. Now when Derek Anderson comes in, we’ve got a history with him going back to Oregon-Oregon State days and Derek is more prototype, he’s not going to beat you running the read-option, but he’s led several comebacks and several wins when he was a starter. One of those guys that can sit back there, very sharp guy and will pick you apart out of the pocket.
LH : Can you tell by watching the film how much Carolina misses cornerback Josh Norman?
DK : That’s hard to judge exactly, how much anybody misses anybody, but when you take a Pro Bowl player away, any position, whether it’s Doug Martin to injury for us, or a Pro Bowl corner like Josh Norman. There’s not many teams that replace Pro Bowl guys with guys that are better than them.