Leo Haggerty

Another week and another great cast of Head Coaches from around the country.  They will give their opinions on my football-related questions and some of the answers are extremely insightful.

Also, if you’re wondering why you don’t see any of the coaches from the Southeastern Conference on COACH SPEAK, that’s because they don’t believe It’s Sports Magazine is big enough to cover the SEC. And that better than everyone else attitude is why the SEC may be, as Little Anthony and the Imperials said, “on the outside looking in” come playoff time.

With that said, let’s get back to the Head Coaches that chimed in this week.  They are in the following order and preceded by their ranking in the most recent Coaches Poll:

Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter
Kansas State HC Bill Snyder
Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell
#15 South Florida HC Charlie Strong
#7 Wisconsin HC Paul Chryst
#3 Penn State HC James Franklin
Stanford HC David Shaw
#2 Clemson HC Dabo Swinney
#4 Washington HC Chris Petersen
Syracuse HC Dino Bavers
#10 Miami HC Mark Richt

Take that, SEC elitists.







LH : When a clock play is in order at the end of the half or the game, do you have set rules or is it just a call from you to the quarterback?

DK : Yeah, we have specific rules and also I call to the quarterback. We have both of those.

LH : All Larry Fitzgerald does is line up game after game and year after year and make catch after catch.  After watching film, have you noticed any noticeable drop off in his play?

DK : He was one of our game wreckers too. He was on our game wrecker tape. He’s amazing. The guy is going to be in the Hall of Fame. Not only does he make the catches that you talk about, but he is the guy that does all their dirty work. He is the guy that plays when they are in their three-wide, one tight end.  Someone has to block the other edge or the edge next to the tight end because everybody is in eight man boxes now. He does the dirty work and he makes the big plays for them. He is a pro’s pro and he is definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame someday.





LH : Can anyone who hasn’t coached understand how hectic and chaotic it is on the sidelines during overtime in college football? 

BS : I don’t know how hectic it really is.  There’s so many things about the game of football, unless you’re actively involved in it, that are probably very hard to understand.  So much of what takes place is hidden from the public eye most of the time.  The locker room, the office, on the field in practice and it can become very hectic.  Yes.

LH : Not to be disrespectful but did you ever imagine celebrating your 78th birthday still be roaming the sideline?  

BS : I don’t really know if I even thought about it.  I’m not sure I ever expected to celebrate a 78 birthday but, nevertheless, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that.  I’ve had better birthdays than Saturday, I can assure you of that.





LH : Played Central Florida last week and now you have to go to Tampa to play South Florida.  The AAC schedule makers did you no favors this year, did they? 

LF : I don’t know if they set it that way for the newer guys but it is what it is.  We knew we were going to have to play them at some point in time.  What we have to do is come up with the match ups.  The most enlightening thing for me, as a coach, is seeing the depth this conference has.  I know everyone says that, and I heard about it and I watched a little bit of it, but I didn’t know it first hand.  To be thrown into it is a problem but, what I’m most worried about, is the wear and tear on our program over the season.

LH : I call the USF offense Warp 1 because of the extreme speed that they operate.  How much of a challenge is it for you to get your defense a good look at practice?

LF : It’s difficult.  Last week, UCF didn’t go as fast as they could or, at times, will.  They don’t go as fast as USF does.  There’s a balance there and that’s going as fast as you possibly can but not slacking on the work you need to get done.  The fundamentals and that’s what you need to do.  You need to figure out what is your focus is and then put in the work.




LH : With all the cataclysmic events that your program had to endure early in the season, did the bye week come at a good time for your team?

CS : It really did.  We played five games, and I I said earlier, it gave us a chance to work on fundamentals and technique.  We just have to work at it.  The bye week came at a significant time for us, no doubt.  We’ve finish with a stretch where we have two at home and three on the road.  Yes, the bye week really came at a good time.

LH : What jumps off the film at you for the Bearcats on offense and defense? 

CS : You can see they’re well-coached.  Luke does a good job of coaching them up.  They had their opportunities on offense.  Their defense was able to get them the ball and -coached.  They’re fun to watch and they play hard.their offense just couldn’t take advantage of it.  They are well-coached and they’re fun to watch and they play hard.  Sometimes you just end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.







LH : Does Purdue’s offense or defense pose any unique challenges for you this week?

PC : Absolutely and on both sides of the ball.  I’m also impressed with their specialty teams.  All three units present very real and specific challenges to us.  That has grabbed our player’s attention as well as our coaches.  We have to have a great week of preparation to give us a chance.

LH : Running Back Johnathan Taylor goes off for 249 rushing yards against Nebraska.  When you have a player that’s having a career night on offense, do you throw the game plan out the window and go with the hot hand so to speak?

PC : Every game you try and do what you can.  Certainly, if you’re having success in one area by a player or a group, you are going to lean that way.  Still, to win games, you have to do a lot of different things.  Taylor had a really good night and he made some big plays.  He had some clutch runs but you have to keep on playing.  You don’t know how the game is going to turn out.  Certainly, I think when you’re having some success, you tend to repeat it or at least you try to.







LH : The Big 10 schedule makers gave you the trifecta with Michigan then Ohio State followed by Michigan State for your next three games.  Did the bye week come at just the right time for you this year?

JF : Yea, the Big 10 loves us.  They love us with that schedule.  Obviously, we’ll do what we need to do.  The bye week, from a health situation, came at a good time and we have to take advantage of this week.  Then, we need to find a way to go out and play with confidence the following week at home against Michigan.

LH : From a coaching standpoint, does the bye week allow you and your staff the time to scout yourself and see if you are showing any tendencies on offense and defense to the opposition?

JF : Yes.  That’s the first thing we do.  We self-scout and get a head start on preparing for Michigan, obviously.  Yes.  You always have to take the time and check yourself out.





LH : How much of a challenge is it for you at practice to try and replicate for your defense the tempo of Oregon’s offense?

DS : There’s various things that we can do, and that we’ve done over the years, when we play a team that goes up-tempo.  You can have two offensive huddles.  While one offense is running the play, the next offense is preparing the next play.  We don’t even have our defensive people huddle up.  They just get back to the line and get the call and get ready for the ball to be snapped.

LH : You were hit hard with two very questionable targeting calls late in the game against Utah.  The first was border line and the second you could obviously see that the Stanford defender was pulling up.  I know you want to protect players but shouldn’t an official use some common sense or is it just any type of helmet-to-helmet contact equates to an automatic ejection?  

DS : Until we augment the rule, the player is going to get disqualified. What a lot of people don’t understand is that they think it’s all put on the officials.  These are rules that come from the coaches and the American Football Coaches Association that combines with the Rules Committee and there’s coaches on it.  This is what we pushed for.  We wanted the game to become safer.  We wanted it to become officiated a little harsher to keep the game as safe as possible.






LH : Has the NFL term Any Given Sunday now become Any Given Saturday for college football if you don’t show up ready to play?

DS : Yes, it’s hard. Everyone has enough (players to win). Most teams have just enough. If you’re not quite ready, you’re not focused or cough up the football, you get beat. It’s just a fine line. That’s why I just have a great appreciation for where we are right now and where we were the last several years. It’s very rare. I’m proud of our guys, their leadership. That was a good team we played yesterday. Our guys were really focused on the task at hand to get a hard-fought win. We’ve played some good teams. We’re looking forward to the open date after this week but this week we’ll try to empty the tank and play our best game Friday night.






LH : Does Arizona State provide any unique challenges for you this week on offense or defense?

CP : I see the best team we have played so far.  They have difference-makers on both sides of the ball.  It’s always tough going to Arizona State.  They play really well at home.  This will be a heck of a challenge and our guys know that.

LH : There seems to be very little interest in the PAC 12 east of the Mississippi.  I’m may be one of the few guys that stays up and watch late-night PAC 12 football and, if I ever end up getting divorces, my wife will name the PAC 12 as one of the reasons.  In watching the conference, the PAC 12 , in my opinion, is a quarterback league.  Can you even compete in don’t have a really good quarterback?

CP : I always though the same thing about the PAC 12.  It’s always been a quarterback driven league and, I think, that was the case way back before everyone started throwing the ball as much as they do today.  Without question, there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the PAC 12 and they pose a challenge every week.  There all unique but, what you can say about all of them is that they’re pretty darn good.





LH : You talked last week comparing you game with Pitt to the Marvin Haigler-Tommy Hearns boxing war.  Do you have a comparison for Syracuse and Clemson this week?

DB :  Laughing.   No, not at all.

LH : I would imagine every coach that’s playing a top ranked team the rest of the season is going to point to Iowa State going into Norman and beating Oklahoma.  Is that something you brought to their attention that it’s Any Given Saturday now in NCAA football especially as well as you played Clemson in the Carrier Dome?

DB :  I think the one thing that I take away from the Oklahoma – Iowa State win is Coach Campbell is another MAC coach from the MAC Conference.  Used to coach at Toledo. And along with Coach Doeren who is at N.C. State, doing a fantastic job down there, and Coach Clawson at Wake Forest. I think that it once again shows how strong the proving ground is or the coaching world is when you come.  That’s a very fantastic conference and there are a lot of good coaches that came from that conference.  I think they understand and know how to play up and play opponents that are bigger than them. And theyknow they’ve got to cross the Ts and dot the Is and play a clean game to have an opportunity to win. I think they have the roadmap or the GPS system to give their team a chance in games like that. That’s what I take away from the Iowa State/Oklahoma game.





LH : With the huge win at Florida State, can you and your staff and players fully enjoy that ride or was it on to Georgia Tech Monday?

MR : Well, we did enjoy it, and we havemoved on. I don’t think our fans have moved on. I don’t think our student body has moved on, and they should be able to enjoy it longer than we can enjoy it.  We got to move on.  Now, in the summertime we may go back and enjoy it again, watch TV copy of it or something like that, but we have to move on mentally, or we’re going to be in trouble because we’re going to play a great football team this Saturday at 3:30 at home, and they’ve got a week off to prepare for us of rest and preparation. We just got done with a battle royal, a very emotional battle,
and we’ve got to regroup and get ready to rock and roll as fast as possible.

LH : When you were at Georgia, you played Georgia Tech every year.  Is that an advantage for you at Miami in preparing for the Yellowjackets?

MR : Well, first of all, if I was a defensive coordinator and the guy that was year after year dealing with that from a defensive standpoint, maybe it would be some type of advantage. But I’ve had a few
different defensive coordinators over the years during the time that I would play Georgia Tech and that offensive system. It’s more on Manny Diaz to get the plan together and do the things that need to get done there, and I trust him with it. I’m spending most of my hours thinking about our offensive team and what we’ve got to do against Georgia Tech’s defense.