SHOOTING THE BULL – THE CITADEL – SEPTEMBER 12
By Leo Haggerty

THE CITADEL PREGAME

Had a chance to catch up with the Bulls coaching brain trust this week.  Asked questions of Head Coach Jeff Scott as well as Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. along with Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer.

Below are their answers to my queries about the opener against The Citadel at Raymond James Stadium.  Enjoy.

LH : With the limited amount of practices due to Covid, are you concerned about any aspect of the game like tackling? 

JS : I wasn’t worried about tackling until late Monday night after watching that game.  During a non-Covid year, you have maybe only four or five times where you actually are tackling someone to the ground.  During this Covid year, you’re looking at maybe two or three opportunities.  That is a challenge.  You really have to coach guys how to wrap up. To get into position, fundamentally, without actually taking a guy to the ground.  No doubt, that’s a concern for us but it’s a concern for everybody.

LH : This is your first game as a head coach.  Have you thought about what your emotions are going to be like?

JS : I really feel at peace.  On that note, I got a video message from Coach Swinney last night around 10:45.  Quite honestly, I was already asleep and he was still up at the football office.  He’s a night owl and I’m a morning guy.  He kind of gave me a hard time.  Said he tried to call and get me.  He sent a video and said that they were up here grinding to get ready.  I guess your first game as a head coach you got it all figured out.  We’re up getting the game plan ready.  I returned the favor this morning when I got to the office at 6 am.  We were meeting at 6:30 and I shot him a nice video.  I said that I’m sure all of you guys are sleeping in until 11 this morning and then having your eggs Benedict and a mimosa for your brunch.  We’ll already have our practice done before you get to the office.  Back to his message, he said that I’m proud of ya and this is number one, your first game.  Go out and enjoy it.  I’m sure there will be a little bit of emotion when that happens, when that comes.  I will also say that my time around Clemson, and my time around Coach Swinney and being a coordinator, I’ve been a part of big games and big moments and all those type of things.  I’ve always taken pride in not making it about myself and trying to be at my best for all my players.  That will really be my focus.  You so busy and worried about touching all the details.  You don’t have a lot of free time to think and get emotional.  I try to stay busy.  I have a full slate today.  There will be a moment in time, in pre-game or when the ball is kicked off or after the game, where it will sink in.  My goal is not to be just a good first-year head coach.  My goal is to be a good long-time head coach.  Hopefully, this is just the first of many.

LH : Do you find yourself using people at different positions just to make sure that your covered for game day?

CW :  Yeah.  You know, we have a lot of really good players on this team.  Certain players that can align in different places and all that.  We have a lot of good players on this offense.  I really excited about making sure that we get them a variety of touches in a lot of different ways.  I like our personnel and will use it as many ways as possible.

LH : With the four-game eligibility rule discarded this year, is it in your plans to get more people in the game when possible?

CW :  Yes.  On offense, normally, we have quite a bit of plays during the game.  With that being the case, we rely on a lot more players than normal getting into the game.  We are used to having six or seven or eight receivers rotate throughout the game. I feel confident that we have a good amount of guys at that position.  At running back, we have at least five that we can rotate and get everyone touches and keep everyone fresh.

LH : Are you ready to hit somebody with a different color jersey?

CW : That would be good.  I’ll tell you, it’s been a while.  First time for me doing it here at South Florida.  It’ll be the first time since December that we’ll be going against someone other than Coach Spencer’s defense.  Definitely looking forward to that opportunity.

GS : Always. This being the first game coming out of fall camp, everyone will probably say the same thing.

LH : Watching BYU play Navy Monday night in an empty stadium, you could hear the coaches yelling to the quarterback.  There was no sound in the stadium.  Is that going to be hard to get used to come game day?

CW : We’ll have to see what it’s like on game day.  I’m up in the box so, for me, I won’t be out there yelling at the quarterback. Maybe some other coaches will be.  It’s unique.  It’s never been done.  Never had a season like this.  There will be things that we have never experienced but we’ll have to adjust.

LH : Is this going to be Clemson South when we look at this offense?

CW : Your going to see a little bit of both.   Coach Scott and I have talked about this in the past.  We’ve spent a lot of time going through things that we have done and taking the things that we did best.  Taking the things that they did best a Clemson and molding that together and coming up with a plan that our players will enjoy.

LH : Defense is instinct.  When your going against the Citadel option, it becomes assignment football You take him and you take him.  Is that a tough concept to get across to your players?

GS : You know, that’s what we need to do as coaches.  You have to follow your assignment, you know, whether it’s option or not.  Obviously, I’m not going to disregard the question because it’s valid.  There’s so many different options on one play, you can be sure that the football is going to find the mistake.  The ball is going to find the weakness.  If we are not sound across the board, all 11 players doing their job, they’ll find a way to beat it.  All you can do is preach to it and show examples of it and then you rep it with the limited amount of repetitions that we get.

LH : One of the basic premises of option football is that the offensive lineman are going to cut block the defensive line.  They aren’t used to seeing that.  Is that hard to get across to your guys?

GS : No so you have to smart.  You don’t want to sit there and get high-lowed but you have to get some looks.  You have to give them some looks too.  There have been times this fall where we have got after it.  We get cut.  We get scooped from the back side.  We get knocked to the ground.  You have to get up and treat the next play as the most important play of your life.  You have to play every play.  Every play.  High or low or scoop.  Right now, we get another day of practice then a walk-through on Friday.  Then, if there is a breakdown on Saturday, we have to get it corrected.  We have to make adjustments on the fly on the sideline.  That will be good to see if we can do that.

LH : I know that tackle the dive back and hit the quarterback and rally to the pitch guy is old-school.  Is that still the way you stop the option?

GS : Every team wants to establish the dive.  If a team can do that consistently, it’s going to be a long night.  They can do it in different ways.  They can trap you.  Inside veer or outside veer.  Mid-line option.  If that’s what is happening, you have to commit another guy to that.  You have to have individuals that can play off blocks and can stay on their feet.  They’re looking for you to commit more than one guy.  That’s why it’s such an effective ball-control offense.  You move the ball and control the clock.