By Leo Haggerty

With the collegiate season heading into the playoffs, I have to bid farewell to the college portion of COACH SPEAK.  It was another outstanding  year of great quotes from almost every coach in the AAC and Big 12 along with the Big 10 plus the PAC 12 as well as the ACC.

I’m deeply in debt to head coaches who took the time to answer my “unique” questions.  Also, each Conference and specific university’s Communications Departments were extremely helpful.

The COACH SPEAK column will continue for the another month.  That’s because the National Football League’s regular season doesn’t end until December 30.

Below are this week’s quotes from Tampa Bay Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter.  I squeezed in five questions so the Bucs head honcho’s comments are below.  Enjoy.

LH : After watching the film, was this Vea’s best game?

DK : Yes, definitely.

LH : Is that because he’s finally getting healthy?

“Well, I’m not sure exactly why. He’s healthier than he’s been and he’s playing more, but easily the most production that he’s had.”

LH : With the rash of in-game injuries this season, would you be for or against expanded the game day roster next year if the League asked Head Coaches their opinion?

DK : I’d be for it, but I’d be willing to bet they won’t ask my opinion.

LH : It looked like a lot of nickel and dime defensive schemes against the 49ers.  Was the game plan to get a lot of DBs on the field in obvious passing situations especially with a lot of your LBs injured?

DK : The 49ers actually left the fullback on the field more than any team we’ll play.  You saw 44 for them was out there.  We would’ve played even more substituted defense had they not been in 21 personnel as much as they were.  We had the lead in the game and we got them behind the chains a little bit so they kind of had to throw.   I’m sure their game plan was to stay ahead of the chains and keep us in base defense with the inexperience at linebacker. When we could stop their run game on first or second down or when they had to throw and couldn’t complete it, we got them behind the chains and we were able to get our sub, our nickel and our dime out there.

LH : With Carolina OC Norv Turner designing plays that are definite runs by the quarterback, how much of a problem for your defense does Panthers quarterback Cam Newton become?

DK : It’s a big problem. Any high school or college coach can tell you about it.  When they add that 11th man in there, you’ve got to defend all 11 instead of just defending 10.  Normally, the defense has a one-man advantage and that’s unusual in the NFL because most teams don’t want to run their quarterback. I think you’re seeing more and more zone read, especially in the low red zone this year, from a lot of teams.  We’ve done it ourselves.  Carolina’s way, way more advanced running the ball and Cam’s really good at it.  That’s probably why they’re third in the league in rushing.  He’s set numerous quarterback records for rushing, so it makes it tough.  Then McCaffery’s playing well and they’ve added a lot of speed on the outside.  Oh, by the way, they’ve got Olsen at tight end too. They’ve got it rolling on offense right now. They’re tough to stop.

LH : How good is Luke Kuechly?

DK : Really good.  One of the best.  Their linebacking corps, in general , and their front seven, in general, are top notch.  They’re tough upfront and Kuechly is the quarterback of that group.  Excellent communicator, really good tackler, very instinctive.  Wish he wasn’t in our division, but he is.