Oct. 3, 2012
Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On change in plans with RB Malcolm Brown out: It’s not going to change much from the second quarter of last week’s game. We will rotate Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and Jeremy Hills. Will also use Daje Johnson and D.J. Monroe in those roles that we had them in last week and go from there.
On running backs stepping up: I think it is for all those guys. When you lose somebody in your corps, other guys have to step up. I think that obviously Jeremy, as well as other guys who have not had a significant role, that this is a big game to step up. I don’t think they are going to put anymore pressure on themselves. When you put in so many packages, you have to have a back up to that package. So they are already operating throughout the practice week with the mindset that if this guy goes down, I have got to be ready to take his snaps and execute his assignments. They have already been through that and now they are actually going to get those reps in the game.
On RB Johnathan Gray: I think that it is further in my thought that he is continuing to get better and better with every carry. That is what you see with a lot of freshmen. You go out there and the mistake you make is the first time you have made that mistake, so you come back and get better at it. He is running the ball with more confidence, more power - not to be confused with a powerback - more comfortable in his pads, and able to get to that second level. He has done a great job and continues to develop and study. I think the speed of the game and the physicality of the game is all becoming more natural to him. I think he is ready to go.
On coaches’ evaluation of players: I think it is about personnel. When you have a full chapter of watching your players make decisions or see them at the point of attack its, “Let’s put this guy here. He can get that block done.” Where as in the first year, you are saying, “Alright, this is his position but he didn’t get it done.” So you go back and reevaluate it. It is the same thing that we do with special teams. When I look at kickoff returns, I say, “This guy was a liability for us and we need to move to this guy.” So I think that it is everybody - with [offensive line coach] Stacy Searels and [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz, - its been all the guys that have been around this personnel now for a full calendar year. When you go into that second year, you start to put a little more on his plate or a little bit less on this guy’s plate.
On co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s play calling last Saturday: I think he has always understood the defense and that part of it. I think these guys are a little bit more comfortable with the personality of these teams, but I think that the last two games we have had on offense have been the best games I have been a part of in terms of just feeling the game and calling the game. I talked to you guys last Wednesday and said, “You get into a scoring affair, but one thing you have to do is still call the run.” We had a drive where I think it was six or seven plays where we did nothing but run and got down there to score. So that is just a tremendous credit to Bryan of understanding that this is a shout out but don’t forget what we can still do by chewing up some clock and score. That is a hard thing to do because some of the times the coordinators get caught up in that, and it just becomes an air show. That is really good to be in an environment like that on the road and decide to settle down and just hammer the ball, take some time off the clock, and score.
On any danger of being overconfident on offense: I think both offenses are looking at it and saying, “Hey, we don’t want to be too overconfident.” Both offenses were successful last week in regards to their standards. So when you have a rhythm and you are clicking, you have to stay cautious about getting a little too overconfident or a little complacent. When you are in a great rhythm like that, you cannot sit back and diagnose it. You are not there where you can step back and look at it, you just need to keep going and keep working. And we constantly as coaches, as players, and especially at this place because you get bragged on so hard, that you just really have to forget about it. Get it out of your head, wipe it off all the compliments, and just get to work.
On West Virginia’s defense: They do a lot of things well and a lot of things, in terms of as a coach, that make you worry - is that I think they have great athletes. I think they are very athletic on the defensive side of the ball. I think their safeties are some of the best tacklers I have seen this year in terms of putting their hat on the ball. Those guys are head hunters, so they do a great job from the safety standpoint. But there is just a lot of things that they can do from blitz packages - the multiple blitzes that they can present will cause some problems in your protection. But that is no different than last week quite honestly. The thing I have been most impressed about from watching on tape is their athleticism and their safeties.
On thoughts about the best formations to run the ball: Coach Mack Brown talks about running the football, and I think that gets taken a lot of different ways. Do you want to run the football from spread sets the way Oklahoma State ran it the other night or do you want to get in an “I” formation like Michigan State and just pound the ball 55 times? There is a lot of ways to run the ball. Doesn’t mean that you have to have two tight ends or two running backs hammering it. Those guys were spread out all over the place. West Virginia, when [head coach Rich] Rodriguez was there, was spread out all over the place but [they] were still running the ball for 250-300 yards. What Coach Brown wants is balance. He wants the ability to get three touchdowns in the first half or first three quarters from throwing the ball, but when you need it, be able to drive the ball seven or eight plays and run the ball to score to take time off the clock. Or run the ball at the end of the game against Ole Miss for an 8-minute drive to take the air out of the ball. I don’t think he is so concerned with what formations we are running the ball in as much as he is if we are running the ball successfully.
Assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Duane AkinaOn addressing tackling in practice this week:
Yes, I think that is something we will keep working on for a while. In today’s football I just think it is something you have to continue to do. What’s getting tricky is you want to be physical, but you have limited numbers of scholarships and guys and health becomes a reason. How much can you hit in a course of a season and how much you can’t. Tackling is always an issue, and we have always taken great pride as a secondary in being great cover guys, yet being a physical, good tackling secondary, too. We have worked on that and prior to this week. We try to do it quite a bit. Like I said, I think with the nature of how football is with the spread offense and as you see the numbers that arevbeing generated, there are a lot of one-on-ones out there that you have to get people down on the floor.On if this game will come down to red-zone defensive stops:
I think that is for any defense today. The natures of offenses of how they spread you and make you defend all the grass now, the ball is going to move unless you are just physically so much better than somebody. So now as the field squeezes down, there is not as much grass to play on and you don’t have to defend as much of the vertical game. What we have always said is there are times in a game where no one play ever determines the outcome of a football game. There is a time when there is a critical situation in the game - this is a must-get play like [sophomore QB] David [Ash]’s fourth & 6 pass. Whoever makes that play really wins the game. [Another example is] us getting a third down and making them kick a field goal when we scored a touchdown. Those are critical situations. [Texas] A&M, the two-point play when we stopped them at A&M and a field goal now wins the game. There are a lot of people when they look at a play they don’t see maybe how a whole football game is built. Games come down to situations [like the] red-zone, getting the ball off your goal line and third downs. That is where we did the better job [against Oklahoma State]. We won the critical situations. On the scout team’s efficiency in imitating WVU QB Geno Smith this week:
They have done a nice job. [freshman QB Jalen] Overstreet has really given us a terrific job. Our scout team guys have really worked hard all season long. They really give us a chance to be a good football team. On the yards given up this season:
Today’s game is not about passing yards. If there is a stat that is important it is yards per attempt. That has always been the one that has been big with me. Where we probably have not been as efficient is we have given up a couple more big plays than we have in past years for a couple of different reasons. We are still playing really solid back there, though. We are 4-0 and are lining up against some good defenses here in this conference. Those stats are meaningless, yards, absolutely meaningless. There are a number of times you have back-ups in at the end of the game so coaches don’t spend much time on that. On WVU’s receivers:
They are very good. You have a high-draft choice quarterback that is throwing to not one, but two very explosive receivers that demand a lot of attention which helps some of the others [get open] who are very solid players, too. Overall, it is an outstanding receiving corps that has a quarterback that is completing at a heck of a clip that can stay alive and still has legs. On worrying about Geno’s Smith running ability:
Yes, he has been doing a lot of damage with his legs, because he has been able to stay alive. His people come, now the routes extend and their receivers do as good of a job of working when the ball is not on a time clock. They keep continuing to come down the slant. A 16-yard stop route may end up being a 6-yard completion, but it is still a positive play. They do a great job of working behind the zone down to the quarterback. They are a very well-coached receiving crew, and they are a lot of fun to work against. On their offense looking any different that when he saw Dana [Holgorsen] at OK State or at Tech:
There are a lot of the same principles that they have been involved with. They have a hand full of plays. They are not fancy formation-wise, but they are very well drilled. The quarterback knows where everybody is. I would say that they may be more a little more dynamic. When they were at Oklahoma State they had [Justin] Blackmon or there was the Dez Bryant, that one great receiver. Here you have a couple great receivers. The other thing they got is one of them is really dynamic. [West Virginia WR Tavon Austin is] a run-after-catch guy which is a hidden trait in a receiving game when you can throw the ball and spread them and then you have to tackle them in space.