November 22, 2019
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FOOTBALL: Louisville – Monday Press Conference

Yeah. I really was pleased and
happy with our performance on Saturday. Just so much fun to see
the players and coaches have success. They worked extremely
hard, and we asked them to work extremely hard. The week leading up to our
game against Duke, following the Miami game, we
made some progress in areas that were targeted, and
work still remains to be done, where again, we’re right in the
middle of the Coastal Division segment of our season
with week after week with divisional opponents. And so the urgency and the
preparation and the mindset really shifted pretty quickly
from the Duke locker room celebration to
the next opponent. And that’s kind of just the way
it works at this time of year. And so yeah, with that,
I’ll take questions. Your final two road games
of the regular season come up in succession now. Anything you’ve learned to this
point about this team playing on the road that affects how
you prepare for these games? Not necessarily, other
than like most teams, you have to execute
at a higher level and be more consistent
and more mature to handle road environments. We’ve proved that we are capable
in doing that with the season opener against Duke. And that formula for
winning that game was very similar to our
formula for beating Duke. There was a special teams
play that impacted the game. There were turnovers
that impacted the game. Field position was in our favor. And so in terms
of your question, it might not be so much
about where we’re playing, it’s just how we’re playing and
what that formula looks like. That formula worked very
well for the first half against Notre Dame, but
not the second half. So I think it’s becoming
clearer how we play well and what gives this team
its best chance to win. Now executing
consistently regardless of circumstance, home or away,
that is the next challenge. I also think that
the changes that are happening in Scott
Stadium, with the way that we’re supported and
how vibrant the fan base is, and how exciting
it’s becoming, there is a noticeable difference
that our players really– they can’t wait to play at home. And so I think that,
maybe in a unique way, is also affecting the other,
where the differences is becoming so stark of home or
away that that’s maybe more noticeable than what it’s been. That’s a guess. We talked after the game
about some of the things that you worked on
and then improved. And I wanted to go a little
more into the offensive line. What did you see
that was better? Was it as simple as execution? Were things changed
scheme-wise, personnel? What worked? Well, I think that
there certainly is an amazing amount
of work that’s going into the technical emphasis. But there’s also a
lot of work going into the schematic emphasis. Again, delivering the
ball on time is critical. Having some semblance of
balance in the run game is certainly critical. And then being able to have our
quarterback carry the ball more frequently also helps. So all of those things against
what is a good opponent and remains a good opponent, to
me, just simply manifests that, or I believe it
manifests that there was progress made in each
of those three areas, technical, schematical, if
that’s a word, and balance. And defensively, obviously,
a very strong defensive game for you guys. Only one sack. Duke, a team that gets
rid of the ball quick. Did you guys blitz
as much, or did you have to dial that back
because of the opponent and because of Bryce Hall
not being in your second [INAUDIBLE]? Actually, the amount of
pressure, if anything, increased. Duke was throwing
the ball quickly. We wanted to keep them
throwing the ball quickly. With a couple new
defenders out there, we didn’t think double
moves and play action and downfield shots
were risks that would be positive for our team. And so if that did
happen, we wanted the quarterback to be hit
or have errant throws. And so by the increased
amount of pressure, the ball was delivered
frequently on time into coverage matchups
that we liked. And it also forced the
number of turnovers. So again, it went
just the opposite, where we actually brought more
pressure rather than less. Hasise did his best
Odell Beckham impression the other day, even though
the pass interference got in the way. But you needed a lot of
receivers to step up this year. What allowed him to
make that next step and improve as much as he has? I think first, we
need to acknowledge that he has improved the number
of contested catches he’s making. It’s becoming expected that
he makes the contested catch. He’s also making
critical catches. It just seems like
at the right time, he’s becoming so reliable. But Hasise’s career
didn’t start like that, and it didn’t emerge
in year two like that. This has been a
work in progress. And so just time and maturity
with his increased focus on decision-making, work
ethic, and consistency. That’s allowed him to be
durable, and he is tough. Consistent, which he
wasn’t but has become. And productive, which is a
result of those other two. What were your original thoughts
when you saw the schedule with the three consecutive
home games early, three consecutive home games late,
and then four out of five road games in the middle? Yeah. Kind of just the
way you said it. Holy cow, there’s three
and then there’s three and then there’s four. And then you just get to work. So for our given team,
and for this year’s team, for us to win the
Coastal Division, for us to take another step
in advancing our program, for us to be a contender
on the national scale, for us to remain building and
having the unbroken growth that we’re after, you have to
play well regardless of where, when, and how you’re scheduled. And so this is a
great test for us to go back to back on the
road now, and necessary for us to handle this next obstacle. We didn’t see
Brennan in the game. Armstrong wasn’t in uniform. Just curious about his
status at this point, as well as Ryan
Swoboda, who was in, I guess, a walking
boot on Saturday. Yep. Swoboda was in a walking
boot and not available. Brennan Armstrong became
available late in the week. And we did have an option
to play him, but at the risk of possibly not quite
being ready yet. And so we chose not to. Cowley hasn’t had a ton
of passes thrown his way, but I think he’s
caught every one, and he appears to
have the ability to run after catch, maybe
more than Butts did. What about his play this
season, and that of Misch, who’s in there blocking a lot. Will Misch eventually
be a pass catcher? I think that the
succession from Butts to Cowley, where Cowley was
in Misch’s role a year ago, and no one really
knew who he was. But Evan was
catching and blocking and doing really nice things. Cowley’s consistency has
been so much fun to watch. And it just seems
like when he makes the plays in catching the
pass, receiving the pass, that it’s at the right time. And then there’s
something happens after he catches it,
which is yeah, really a positive thing for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see
a slight increase in his usage as we continue to
look for options and scoring down the
stretch because he’s proved that he’s
absolutely trustworthy, and based on the
same things you said. Yeah, so then Misch will then– he has to be the heir apparent. While we have targeted
and have recruited and do have a commitment
at the tight end position, we like the idea of understudies
and learning and growing, and then earning your
way as you’ve learned from someone else how to do it. So the move of Grant Misch tight
end I feel really good about, and how he’s handling that. He’s also contributing on
special teams at a high level. So there’s no reason
to think that he won’t be the next Butts or Cowley. I might have missed
this one, Brad. Just ask. But Swoboda, is he
available going forward? I don’t know yet. I don’t know. And Joey Blunt. Last time you were in here,
I asked you about Joey Blunt. You said, makes big plays,
needs to be more consistent. Have you seen since then an
increase in his consistency? Is he trending in
the right direction? I think he is. And volume tends
to influence that. I thought he played very well
in our last game against Duke and the number of plays
he was involved in. It was a physical game for
Joey in the impact of the game. And we really need
him, too, now, with some of the
other changes that have happened in the
secondary, as he’s one of the consistent pieces there. And so in answer
to your question, yes, I have seen an
improvement in consistency. That really has come
through durability. And it’s hard to perform
more consistently or improve that part unless
you’re doing it more. And sometimes if you’re
not durable enough, or if injuries are
prohibiting that, by the time, you kind of get
back in the groove, then an injury happens
and you’re out again. So yes, he’s more consistent
because he’s been more durable. I got a call from a guy 15
miles from Charlottesville today saying, how would Joe
Reed look at running back? Could you just talk about
all the things he does, and how much has he
improved over the years? Yeah. Joe Reed’s knowledge
of the game, and what the NFL personnel
will call football IQ, is just growing by
leaps and bounds. He’s in extra frequently
during the week, continuing to learn the game. There are many of
the player personnel people that come in
from the NFL that think he is a running back. And so when you watch
him as a kick returner, it’s not hard to see why
you would think that. When you look at yards after
the catch or once he catches it, it’s not hard to see that. And so we work hard and
diligently, not perfectly, at having the right players on
the field for the right play at the right time. And when Joe was one
of the best players that about every
position, you just try to choose where you can have
the most impact on any given play. But certainly he
could play that spot. Sticking with Joe
for a second, there’s been some discussion
about eliminating kickoffs because of the
injuries, the concussions. I’m curious, since you
study so many things, is that something you
happen to look at, injuries on kick returns? And then do you have an opinion
on whether that play should stay in the game? Yeah. So the research has been
done prior to the season. And the impact,
the force of impact and the frequency of concussions
is higher on that play. If you went simply from a
player safety perspective, you’d have to say the
play should be eliminated. And I’m for player safety. It’s a fun, it’s exciting,
it’s a wild play to watch. The game would still
be an amazing game even without that one play. And so I’d be in favor
because of player safety. And in terms of that play,
people say, you know, it’s 11 guys
running, and 11 guys doesn’t happen with that full
head of steam anywhere else. Do you put less– we’ve talked about
starters on special teams. Is that a concern, in terms
of what personnel specifically goes on your kickoff
and kick coverage? It isn’t because that play
is still valued, legal, and is happening. And it affects–
well, special teams are one play for a
large chunk of land. And we actually fight
for every blade of grass. So if you’re a team that
values every blade of grass, and you know the
implications of that play could be more blades
of grass than not, you’d better have
good players on there. And so we do. Just following up on some of
this stuff about road games. You talk about how program
hasn’t arrived yet. We’re still improving, not
there yet, all that stuff. How much of a significant
step in that direction would it be when you start
consistently winning games on the road like this? Well, I think it’s– and then you start talking about
sustainability, where you’re not arriving, but it’s
just wherever you play, the quality of play,
the consistency of play. And by the way, this
happens in the NFL. It happens at even the most
dominant or established programs now, where if it’s on
the road, that’s always noted. They’re on the road or they
have to go to someplace. And there’s a name
for places they have to go play that are formidable. That is part of
sustainability and consistency at the highest level
within your conference and in college football. And so it starts with
claiming your own space. And that’s we’re becoming much
more consistent and much more dynamic, and fairly
formidable at home. And so as that
starts to translate, that’s just the next step
of health for the program, not only for any given
year, but again, we’re talking sane sustainability,
which is what I really want for this program. And it’s what our players want. They have proven capable,
not only in an entire game, but portions of a game. And so it’s not so
much the setting. It’s just the matter
of the consistency we need for an entire game
within the model, this year, that’s working for us in terms
of complementary football and how we’re having success. Coach, when we asked you about
the Blue Zone stuff last week, you said looking at how and
who you are under center. Some more in the red zone this
week, Jamari Peacock in there somewhere this week. Do you think those changes
specifically helped, or was it things overall? Well, there’s multiple things. We altered our
preparation model, which has been in place for
years, to give us more focus and time in that area,
which then allowed some personnel changes
because of the extra time that we thought might help, not
only with what we’re currently doing, but whom we were playing. And it yielded a higher
degree of outcome, not a perfect outcome, but a
higher degree of outcome than the week before. And so the early return
is that yes, the changes, what we did schematically. But also, you know I believe
that organizations are designed for the results they get. And so I had to look at
the organizational design. And are we putting
enough emphasis, enough time within practice,
meetings, and hours? And my conclusion
was no because we weren’t very strong on either
side, offense or defense. And that, then, usually
points to the head coach and how he’s designed things. So we altered our design. Whether that holds through the
rest of the season in terms of outcome, we’ll see. But through one game. I was encouraged. Two of the first year guys who
have not played this season you went to Europe to get. How has the transition to
college football in America gone for Kareem and Luke? And is Europe still
an option for you in recruiting going forward? So how it’s going for both
of our European players. It’s fast. And it seems like just when
they get to the train stop, because that’s what
you ride in Europe, the train’s already gone. And then they look
at their book, and they try to get to the next,
and they’re not quite there on time to catch it. Trying to, but just haven’t
quite caught up with it yet. Luke has been hurt
for the majority of the season, which will
affect his growth and progress. Kareem is not. He’s been playing on our
victory teams and working hard. But just it’s a faster,
steeper, bigger gap than I think what they
thought and what we thought. Yes, we’ll still go back. And I like the possibilities. I really do. Much like– no, I
shouldn’t say that. Unique challenges,
much like when I was the head coach
at Brigham Young, with missionaries coming home
based on where they served kind of influenced how long
it took before they became available to play. I’m learning now, maybe
more realistically, if we choose a player from
Europe, not that he won’t be a good player for us,
but maybe time frame, how they might
need to be managed, just maybe like a missionary in
terms of setting expectations that are realistic. Bronco, when you move
Devante back out to corner and then you plug in Chris
Moore, how nice is it that those are veteran
guys, older guys, as opposed to your
first couple of years, maybe you weren’t able to
plug in experienced guys in those spots? I remember early going to Pitt
and playing Devante at corner because we didn’t have anyone. And he had been playing
quarterback and receiver, and we just moved him, and
we put the next best athlete out there with very
little training. And we didn’t win
the game, nor was it really fair to him
to expect him to play at a really high
level, other than he was a good athlete
and going to compete. Now that we are
gaining some maturity in the program and some depth to
have experienced players, when one goes down and you
can move two and get a similar result, that
just gives you a chance to keep competing for
your division, which we have as good a chance as anyone
through what seven weeks, right? Little over halfway. And if you’re a college football
coach or a college football player on any team, you
just want a chance, as late as possible, to be in contention
for that, and we still are. Coach, you guys, a
couple weeks ago, moved Tommy Crist from defensive
line to offensive line. What’s he been
like there so far, and is your plan
to keep him there for the foreseeable future? Yeah. The plan is to keep Tommy there. He increased his stock status
and place on our roster as soon as he made the move. And naturally, he’s
done a really nice job, probably farther ahead
and performing better than any of us expected,
and is a viable option based on his development and
the players around him and how they’re
performing, to play. So he’s in our two deep. He’s working hard. And I’ve been really
encouraged by the move. What are your impressions of
Louisville and the up and down they’ve had the
last couple weeks? Was Clemson that
overwhelming defensively, or did they just
have an off day? I think Clemson is that
overwhelming defensively just by personnel. I had a nice talk with David
Cutcliff before the game, and we were talking about
his game against Alabama early in the year. And there are some
programs right now that have amazing
talent, or more of it. Those are two things. It could be players that are
better while they’re playing, and then it could be the volume
of players that are better. Clemson has both. They have very good players,
and they have great depth. I was actually impressed with
Louisville’s game, especially defensively. 17 to 3 going late
through the third quarter. And they did a nice job
taking the ball away and holding Clemson in
relative check offensively. And then things kind of
slipped away from them, as sometimes it does if
there’s a talent or execution differential as
the game goes on. And it wasn’t until
late till that happened. And so the score
didn’t necessarily reflect how 3/4
of that game went. Louisville is certainly
not struggling offensively. The Clemson game– or
barring the Clemson game, if you looked at just
points, their quarterback got hurt, yet the scheme and
what Scott has already done there is, I think, really
impressive, how hard they’re playing, their culture. And so they’re certainly
capable of scoring on anyone at any time in any quarter at
any minute, no matter where they play in the country. And so very dynamic offensively. And I would say certainly
capable and active defensively. And right now they’re probably
more known for their offense explosion and firepower. And that side seems
to be performing, in their first year,
at a higher level. But that doesn’t mean
their defense isn’t capable and won’t catch up. And when that happens,
whenever week it happens, then they become a
powerful football team. They’re already winning
and doing a nice job. And again, against
Clemson, I thought it was their defense that
was the primary reason they were in the game for so long. I was going to ask
you about Louisville, but let me ask you about
Bryce Perkins and his running, and what is the
threshold there as to how much you want him to
run during a particular game? Yeah. I was asked after the game
where what the point was made of now that Brennan
is back, does that affect why we made the
decision to run Bryce Moore, and that answer is yes. So we’ve made and
taken a lot of effort not to include our
quarterback in the run game while our primary
backup has been hurt, knowing that not only
would affect maybe that game, but possibly
the rest of the season. And so we’ve done our best to
work around or have offense without Bryce as a
running threat, maybe just as a scramble threat. In the game against Duke,
that was the reintegration, because Brennan is back, of
having our quarterback be involved more in the
run game than what we have used in the past. I don’t have a certain
number of plays, but we do have yardage
thresholds and point thresholds that we go after. And we know kind of at what
yardage marks and what point marks that
traditionally, as I’ve been head coach with this staff,
and what those take to win. And we intend to
use every player we have to get to those marks. And if that means running
the quarterback more, we’ll do that. And that can change,
certainly, week to week based on what the opponent does. I want to specifically
about Louisville with their wide receivers. Last week we talked
about Duke not having, per se, a star kind
of moving the ball around. Louisville’s got two guys
that level of production. What challenge do they present? Yeah. Playmaking and space. So speed and ability, and
there’s big play potential. Louisville is dynamic. They’re dynamic at
quarterback, they’re dynamic at running back,
they’re dynamic at receiver. And so much like Louisville
seems to always be, at least since I’ve been in
this league, they’re just– they are exceptional athletes
that there is a big play threat that’s just kind
of always hanging over your head of this play
could go the whole way. And the amount of
points they’re scoring, again, reflects that
they can and they have done that already. And if I’m not wrong,
Scott said that he wanted to play both
quarterbacks going forward. From a preparation standpoint,
we’ve talked about this before, but how does that change
or challenge your defense when you’re getting ready? I think there’s not enough
time to truly prepare for both. You have to look at what they’ve
done well, what concepts really work, and then treat
both quarterbacks like they are the starter. And if they were, they
would have been starting. So with pass, we basically look
at when he was throwing it, which quarterback is more
likely to have been the thrower, and then match those concepts. If he was running well, then
which of the two quarterbacks runs. And then you try to
make two guys one. Otherwise there’s
not enough time, and your plan
becomes too diluted. So I wouldn’t see them
altering anything significantly because they’re having so much
success offensively anyway. And so I would think both
quarterbacks will play, and we’ll do our
best to say they’re both a single quarterback. One might be a little
better thrower. One might be a little
bit better runner. And then try to tilt
it slightly that way. But any extreme
measures, it just doesn’t allow you to
be prepared enough to play or to execute
at a high enough level.

Robin Kshlerin



  1. William Railey Posted on October 21, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks VA SportsTV for putting the full press conference up her!

  2. akgeronimo501 Posted on October 21, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    We simply have to have this one. Play anywhere near capability and this is a win.

  3. leonnelson39 Posted on October 28, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Damn, did you ever mention anything about Louisville?