Aug. 30, 2011
Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin
On if he believes the QBs separated themselves during the QB competition: I think we did. I think Garrett [Gilbert] did a good job. This whole battle at quarterback has been very difficult because everybody has gotten better, and that's really what you want. And that's what we said from this position is we don't want to have a huge separation. That means we're really close. We want it to be a difficult decision, and it was. And Garrett did a nice job from spring through summer into fall camp, and he's earned it.
On QB Garrett Gilbert: Garrett is a real smart football player, number one, and he's got a very good grasp on what we're doing offensively. How we're calling things. Adjustments we want to make. Very good in the film room, and then out there at practice I thought [he] made some really good decisions and really started to understand on the field what we wanted to get done. And it showed just from his practice habits, making the right decisions, getting us in the right play. All those things just factored into him being smarter.
On if he thinks the QB competition helped to improve all the quarterback’s play: I do. I think coming out of spring when you go into summer and you're still competing, there's a lot on the line there, for that position especially. And I thought all those guys took advantage of it because when when they came back in fall camp, I could tell that they had put a lot of time in and work, just mechanically, fundamentally, the understanding of our offense. Everybody had improved tremendously from spring, and that was good. And that's what made it that much more difficult is we got in there and everybody had gotten better. And going back through that same scenario of giving each guy equal reps and let[ting] them have opportunities with the ones, the twos and those type of things, we had to do that to see where they are, and everybody did that when they had a chance.
On Garrett Gilbert improving his leadership skills: Again, coming into spring, to be fair, not knowing what you're supposed to say or do on the offensive side, it's very hard to show your leadership qualities. As the summer went on, I thought that through the summer and into fall camp that he had developed a bond with the players. He had gotten guys to watch film, had organized stuff throughout the summer that they needed to get done, and it really showed coming into fall camp. And I think the players could really see the benefits of that organization through the summer and really him doing that. And so I think that really helped his leadership abilities with the team, and it just showed through fall camp, again, just with drills, team periods and things like that of just kind of rallying the guys in certain situations when there's ups and downs in practice. I thought he did a good job of that.
On if the offense is ready to start the season: Absolutely. I think we're tired of playing against our defense. You know, you kind of felt that about seven days ago. It's just time to go play somebody else. It's going to be a learning process these first few games for everybody, just coaches, players, game plan wise. Now we shrink the package now where we can simplify that for the players, which they'll like. But as coaches we still have to kind of go through our process, as well, of a game week and how I operate, how the other coaches operate. And that's really the fun part and it's making sure we're really on the same page, and that's going to continue through this first, second, third game to get everybody really dialed in.
On if there is still more to work on in the offense: I think there's quite a few things in there. I mean, more to go over. Too much to cover right now I'd say. You know, we want to be able to run the ball effectively. We've talked about that. We want to eliminate turnovers, and those two factors right there are very key for us. And then when we get into the red zone, we want to take advantage of our opportunities. Those three things have really been the topics we talked about each practice is, do well in the red zone, take care of the football, run the football, be physical doing that, and if we do those three things, then we've got a chance.
On the young wide receivers: Well, they're young and talented. I mean, the one thing you can't give those guys right now is experience, and they're going to have to go do that September 3rd. And so I think those guys are talented players. I think they're smart players. They've done everything we've asked them to do through fall camp, and now it's just a matter of those guys getting a chance to go do that now against another opponent and in front of people out there, basically. So that's all really left to do for those guys is see how they operate in a game situation. There will be mistakes and things we've got to correct, and we'll come back the next week and do that.
On the young running backs: I think Joe [Bergeron] had a very good camp. Just from the running back standpoint of him being a big, physical guy, I thought he showed that through camp. He's difficult now to bring down. He's a strong, powerful guy, and from just the knowledge standpoint of protections and all the different things we do with our backs, I thought he did a great job of handling those things. Malcolm [Brown] the same. Malcolm has got some special qualities now of getting out and finding us some small holes that only he can fit through. So we've just got to see, again, just like those wide receivers. We've got to put them in game situations and see how they're going to handle when we play on September 3rd and see what issues come up and how we're going to correct those things. But they know how to play football. All those guys are smart, tough, physical guys. We've got to put them in situations where they can be successful and go out there and play and learn from that.
On having enough depth with the weather being so hot: You get out there, and I'm not exactly sure what the weather is game time, but it's been hot out here at practice. That's been one thing. Guys not just playing on O [offense] & D [defense], but the special teams factor comes into play, as well. So you've got to monitor how many reps they're getting and there's got to be some guys that spell them in certain situations because it's going to be hard for a guy to go out there and play 60, 70 snaps in a row and give everything he's got. That's tough to do. So we have to make sure that those guys that are replacing them and coming in to spell them are ready, as well.
On RB Fozzy Whittaker: Fozzy has been tremendous. I mean, just as far as a leader on this team, as an effort guy in practice, kind of everything you'd hope for in a player. I think he's done that. He does his job. He leads guys out there. He's inspiring out there at practice, and he's explosive and electric. I mean, he can make things happen, and I've been very, very pleased with what he's done for us. His progress through camp, and I'm excited to see him play.
On the offense being ready for the gameday atmosphere: I think the main thing is I want to make sure just from the offensive standpoint that we go out there and operate the way we've been doing it in practice, and that's really what our goal is in practice is try to recreate the game. Obviously, we can't do that with the people and the environment and things like that, but we're trying to recreate the game and make it more difficult in practice so come game time they've already been there. They've done it. And not to get too overhyped being out there on the field. Just go play your game. Do what you've done in practice. Do what you've done to get yourself in this position and go play. And if those guys can do those things, then I think our operations on the offensive side will be good. And that's really what our focus is, to make sure we just handle that and do what we've been doing and go out there and play.
Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Manny Diaz
On how excited he is to play a game this weekend: There's a game this weekend? It's always exciting. But when you take a new job, when you go somewhere the day I sat here on January, whatever - that day you're looking out in that stadium and you're wondering what it's going to be like on game day. And then you meet your players, and you're wondering. You really don't know how you're going to be until you get into a game. You can practice and you have your ideas based on your experience, but you haven't been in the proverbial battle with those guys yet. And that day is coming on Saturday. To say that every day since that day in January that you haven't thought about that would be a lie. Every day at some point, whether you drive by the stadium or somehow, you say, we're going to play a game, and it's here. College football is of any sport we play, the fewest games at any level. So they're special. I mean, these guys work immensely hard for 12 [weeks], and we're excited they're here.
On how much excitement there is for him in a game: I think when you get in the game, you've got your headphones on, I think you're sort of more isolated from all that than you might think. Gameday is the players' day, not the coaches' day. What I'm excited about gameday is we can talk about our players. Everyone has talked about, “Hey, new coaches!” And that's all been exciting, but the guys that deserve the credit are going to be the guys that run out there on the field, and I'm not going to sack anybody. I look forward to talking about those guys this time next week and letting them play. That's my goal. Let them go play, let them go have the fun.
On DT Calvin Howell: I don't think you can write the story on Calvin right now. There's two key points. One is the work with Coach [Bennie] Wylie and Coach [Jeff] Madden this summer, and then two, is the work with [defensive tackles] Coach Bo Davis. I think what you saw in Calvin is he had a confidence in his conditioning level and his strength that he had not had. From what I had seen, he certainly didn't have it in the spring. And then with what Bo Davis has done with him in terms of his technique, his fundamentals improving, because that's a hard position to play. You're right there, surrounded by 300pound men on both sides, and the only thing you can guarantee, one of them is going to hit you, at the minimum, if not both of them. So not a lot of guys who will sign up for that duty. So it's hard to fake it in there. If you don't love that, if you don't really want to be in there, it's hard to fake enjoying playing interior defensive line. So I've got to have my confidence, and it's got to come from somewhere other than just hype. You can't talk yourself into being a great defensive tackle. When I came in in August, you could see a little bit of difference. When he was getting through the practices and all of a sudden said, “I haven't done this before.” Once you start doing something you haven't done before, you start looking around and saying, “ What else can I do that I haven't done before?” That's where I saw the transformation in Calvin. And then to me with Coach Davis, getting better fundamental wise, getting better lower pad level, using his hands, and that is still all a work in progress, but now I have something real that I can rely on. Well, what makes me a good player? My technique. My conditioning. My strength. My fundamentals. So I think that's what we've seen in Calvin this month.
On the challenges the new defense will face in the first game: Well, first game of the year in a new scheme, the first thing you're worried about is assignments. We can't have any presnap problems where we're beat before the ball is even snapped. Rice is going to present presnap problems to us because they're a different style of offense than what we've seen through spring ball and August camp, and they're going to do it with tempo. They're going to nohuddle us and do some things. They're going to ask us questions before the ball is even snapped that we don't have the answer to. If we're already beat, there's nothing we can do about it. That's the first challenge. Second challenge in game one, regardless of who you play, is tackling. Everyone in college football, because of the scholarship numbers, there's only so much we can tackle live bodies during August camp. So with a guy like [Rice RB Sam] McGuffie, they're going to throw the ball out in space. They're going to try to get us in oneonone. The spread offense in theory is designed to make oneonone tackles. That's what they want. hey want us to tackle the running back oneonone, the quarterback oneonone, a wide receiver on the screen oneonone. And we will drill tackling to death and everything like that, but you have to tackle in games to be good at tackling in games. Unfortunately one of the things that's unfortunate as a coach is we all get to find out together on Saturday where we're at as a tackling team. I'd rather be able to tell you we're ready to go, but there's certain things we have to find out on game day. That's the second thing. And then they do possess a challenge down the field for us. They've got two guys that measure 6'5" that they'll get down in the red zone, and they're going to throw them jump balls and their guys have scored a bunch of touchdowns. They can just go get it. To me, in the running game, the passing game and then the quarterback who can keep plays alive - he's got good pocket presence, just sort of a gamer, good player - sort of in all three phases they ask us questions that we have to be ready for.
On a coach being a “fixer”: What I meant by that, and it's - even now we're two weeks beyond that point - the scheme is when the guys get it. And as a coach, we're a fixer. So we've been fixing it, fixing it, now we've just got to get into a game to really find out. There's only so many mistakes. Let me put it this way, there's only so many things you can correct in practice. You've got to get in the game, and then the players are, “Oh, I understand now”, because this play cost us a first down or a touchdown or a 40yard gain or something like that. You don't want that to happen as a coach. You want to try to alleviate all those issues in practice if you can. But if that happened then no one would ever make a mistake and every game would be a virtual tie. That's what we're going to find out. And then what I'm excited about is I can come in Sunday and I've got something to fix now. You try to anticipate your problems. You've gotten the team as good as you can get through practice. We're all in a stage now [where] we're polishing. You know what I mean? We're polishing, and then we'll go play and find out where we're at.
On if the “fixer” theory holds true for the young players: There's no doubt. And when you're new, that goes for everybody, because I have no idea how we're going to react when adversity hits. And that's what happens in a game. In a game you get real, live adversity. You can try in a scrimmage, but it's still a scrimmage. They know. They're fake points that get scored. They're fake yards that happen in a scrimmage. The yards on Saturday are going to be real, and the points. We're actually keeping score for real on Saturday. When adversity strikes, will we panic? Who will really step up? And as a coach, same thing. We can sit around and predict as well as you can, but you really don't know your guys. Now, when you've been somewhere a couple years, you've been with your players. They don't know me [right now]. Will I panic? Will I go crazy? That's what we're all coming to terms with. You cannot simulate being in a game. You've just got to get in the game, and then we'll all get a good sense of who we are and then we'll move on from that.
On if he is worried about starting slow: Well, I think it's very important how you define a sluggish and slow start because what you have to make sure is that there's a method to winning a football game, no different than there's a method to winning a boxing match. What you don't want is you don't want the players this can happen very easily, you get them so worked up you say, the whole idea is to run out there and with the first punch, onepunch knockout, and then you throw that punch and your opponent is still sitting there. And you say, “You were supposed to fall down.” And they're still there. So I think I look at it differently. I look at it as more of a grinding attitude that I want our team to adopt. Let's go take whoever we go play, and let's just go grind with them for three hours. And at the end of the three hours, the 60 minutes of football, let's see where the scoreboard lies. I think if you do that what you're really focusing on is the playbyplay element of the game. And this is true for any two teams playing, it's not fair for one team to try to have to make a statement over another team to try to win early or win with points. You see what I'm saying? Because that's not how the game works. All we're trying to do is fundamentally be hard to move the ball against, be hard to score on. Offensively we're trying to do the same thing in reverse. I think that's standard and that's always the pressure when you're playing at home. That may not be who we are. You know what I mean? If we can get everybody to hit the canvas with a series of 500 body blows, it's going to take 500 body blows, and we have to be prepared to win the fight that way. And when I say we, that's players, coaches, the 100,000 in the stands - everybody. If we can find the chin, we're going to find the chin, but we're plenty confident to work the body in the meantime.
On QB Garrett Gilbert: I think when we came back early on during camp, I think what we saw with Garrett was a guy that was more confident in what we were doing schematically that could make all the throws. And I think it was being comfortable with the offense, [with] what Coach Harsin wants. We try really hard defensively to be a pain in the butt to the quarterbacks. It's almost kind of what we do. We should, through the course of 29 days, put quarterbacks in bad positions. In practice, because we're not scheming against each other, there's just a chance we're going to call some things that are going to make - that should put the offense in a bad play in practice because they're not schemed against us. So that's kind of one of the fun things is watching how they manage that and how they manage that situation. How do they manage on practice 15 when just three plays in a row it just doesn't work out right for the offense? Because then it can happen in reverse, as well. And I think that's what's been apparent through Garrett for the 25 days or whatever we've been so far, I think he's done a great job of managing the offense, managing the highs and lows. The guys say, “Okay, yeah, this works. And we can win this way.”