Nov. 18, 2008
First of all, I feel sad for the seniors; the guys that have been here for four or five years to have to send them out this way with their last home game and with the record we've got and with the disappointing year that we've had. It makes me feel bad. One of the reasons I took this job is I wanted to see if I could help these kids, help these seniors; they've been through an awful lot. It just pains me to see them go out the way they're going out, particularly with how hard they've worked. They've really worked hard and have been good leaders and I just feel bad about it. Like I said, obviously, we are all very disappointed. There's no question we're all disappointed, nobody more so than me. But, we kind of brought it on ourselves and we are what we are. The only thing I know what to do at this point is to keep coaching, keep battling, keep fighting and that's all we can do. You can't give up; you can't quit because the people that you're playing with or against don't really care. They want to beat you as bad as they can. So, you've got to keep battling.
On having 19 members of the football team injured:
Not playing with about 19 guys has not helped our cause. We've got 19 players out right now. And you know, you hate to use it as an excuse right now, but there's a lot of key players in that group that aren't playing for us right now. So, that's really helped the cause I'm sure, too. As far as the Alabama-Birmingham game, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot. We have four interceptions, we have 5 dropped passes. Those dropped passes are drive stoppers.
On how the defense performed:
Defensively, we missed sacks. We didn't contain the quarterback. We missed a lot of tackles. We didn't play very well. The good thing is Ross Thevenot hit a 50-yard field goal; I was happy for him. He's been ridiculed a lot of the season because of the misses he's had, so I was pleased for him.
On the fake punt:
The one thing I know that people are questioning is the fake punt and I'll explain that the best I can. There's 9 minutes to go in the game and I just felt that the way they were moving the football and the way we were struggling offensively, we weren't going to get the ball many more times...once, maybe twice. So we punt it away and they're going to keep the ball and then we're going to get one more time. If I did something there we could possibly kick a field goal, score a touchdown and then see what happens. So I took a chance. We looked at video all year and it was there. Every one of their guys turned and ran. Nobody ever rushed the punter all year. Nobody rushed the punter in the first several times we punted the football. So I talked with Greg Davis, who is our punt coach, he said it's there and I believed it was there. We ran it and on this one occasion the right end stayed just a little bit longer than he normally would and he was the one that made the play. We still might have made the first down. They actually turned and ran. Their backs were to Thevenot. We might've picked it up, but we didn't. So it was a bad call. Its one of those plays like a couple weeks ago where we're on our 10 or 12-yard line and I faked it and we made a first down. The element of surprise is what you want in that. All of you are surprised that I faked. I think most of their guys were surprised I faked too except one guy. And that's when you do those things. And I did it because I was concerned we might not get the ball back. We might not stop them, in other words and have enough possessions. And that's why I did what we did. If you look at it. We're on the plus 44-yard line, so after the run we're at the plus 42. If we stop them, they punt the ball and we still have a chance. But as I said, I was concerned we wouldn't stop them and we didn't. They drove the ball down the field. They had seven plays, three minutes and 39 seconds they ate up and they kicked a field goal. Then they kicked it to us and we had the ball two times and we threw two interceptions. But that's what I was concerned with. I was afraid that we wouldn't have the opportunity to win the football game if we didn't take a chance during that time. It didn't work; it's my fault. I apologize to the players for trying to make a play and it didn't work. But I did tell them I was trying to win the football game. It's not like I was not trying to win and that's all we can ask of any of our players.
On the upcoming game vs Tulsa:
Anyway, the Tulsa game. I tell you what, they are very explosive and I know they lost a very difficult football game last week, but they are number one or two in most offensive categories in Conference USA. Their quarterback, David Johnson, is the number one passer efficiency-wise. They have the number one rush offense, they have the number one total offense, and they have the number one total offense. I could let you look at all the stats and you can see that. But they are number one in most categories. We're playing them at their place. I'm sure they're not going to be very happy about what happened to them last week. We expect a very tough football game. We're going to line up, we're going to play, we're going to try and give our kids the best plan that we could give them and hopefully they carry it out and give us the best chance we can to win the football game.
On the play of Damarius Johnson:
Yea, I tell you what. He's a heck of a football player. He's not a real big guy, but he does a lot of things. He returns kickoffs, he returns punts, he runs reverses, and he goes deep and catches balls. He's a very explosive football player. And we were recruiting him a year ago and would've loved to have gotten him, but it didn't work out.
On if it's hard to see someone like Damarius Johnson playing for another team in C-USA after Tulane had recruited him:
It's hard. They've got some JC players that they've got and we can't get JC players right now. They got a player that we would have loved to have that we couldn't get in school. And he made the test, he did all his things and he's there and we have to play against him. At the time we were recruiting him we couldn't get him in school.
On if he's looking to start the younger guys during these last two games to get them more experience or if he's starting some seniors that didn't play as much earlier in the season:
We started some seniors. We started Matt Harding, we started (Mike) Batiste, we started the seniors. Evan Lee started. What we'll do, to answer your question, there are some players we'd like to look at you know, Sule Osagiede, (Kristofar) Rhymes; there are several other guys that we want to pay more attention to in the last couple of games, yes.
On if there are any young players he will look to play on the offensive side:
Just the receivers, probably (Taylor) Echols, we need to look more at him and of course Allen Mitchell. Those two guys we'd like to get them in the game more. The backs are freshman anyway so it doesn't really matter. Outside of them probably not much more, unless the game goes one way or the other.
On getting through the next two weeks and the future of Tulane football:
We owe it to these guys to coach them hard for two more weeks, but we're all looking forward to getting back in the offseason program. As I mentioned, we're playing ten or twelve true freshman, we're playing ten red-shirt freshman. We're playing some young guys; we're on the verge of having a good recruiting class. We're ready to start moving on a little bit, so to speak. We're looking forward to the future is what I'm trying to say, because I really think that we are building for the future. And that's why I'm here to build a program and try and build a solid foundation to play some young people. We've played a lot of young people and we're getting some experience. Hopefully we'll be better than in the past. I honestly believe that next year's team will be the best one I had since I've been here.
On playing seniors and younger players in the upcoming Tulsa game:
I'm going to continue playing the seniors that are playing well and giving the effort. And yet on the other hand I've got to play some of the younger guys as I have been anyway to give them experience for the future. We want to win the football game and that's, you know, you don't bench a [Michael] Parenton and a [Troy] Kropog for example, for the sake of playing a younger guy. I want to win the football game and I'm going to play the guys that are going to give me the best opportunity to win. Now, if it's close with guys, then I'm going to give them more reps.; I'm not saying I'm not going to play the senior, but I'm going to start giving more reps to the younger guys.
On if he has changed his philosophy of playing `physical' football or his off season plans after all of the injuries occurred:
No, I think the injuries that occurred had nothing to do with being physical, I don't think. To say that we might not look at everything we've don't this year, yea, we're going to do that and re-evaluate the whole situation and we may restructure things. As of right now, it's too early to make any changes with anything. Formations, plays, defenses, whatever, we have to look at our players and our coaches available and see what we do best and that's what I mean by restructure.
On if the defense has been getting worn down these past few games:
I think that has a little bit to do with it. I'm also a little disappointed in our alignments and how we don't line up right and we don't do the things we're supposed to do in practice. O'Neill Gilbert is constantly telling them `do what you're told.' We're not doing that in games. And of course we practice tackling, but we're not tackling very well in games. I think the biggest thing that's happened to us is we're not taking practice and carrying it over to the games. We do things well in practice and then we get in the game and for whatever reason we come unraveled. It's like a ball of thread. You know, you let it roll and it starts unraveling. That's kind of what happens to us in games. We do things in games that we don't do in practice. And that's what's frustrating and if you talk to O'Neil, he'll tell you that. We don't contain, we tackle in practice and we don't tackle in games, we don't rush the passer, we're out of position, we don't cover the guy we're supposed to cover, you know, so it's a very frustrating thing that's going on.
On if the coaches scratch their heads if guys on the team don't carry over what they've done in practice to games:
Yea, we do. And all the defensive coaches feel the same way, from the defensive line coach to the linebacker and secondary coach. And I keep going with them. I watch every film with them, I give my suggestions and I cant do everything, that's why I hired coaches to do their jobs, but I do give them suggestions and tell them things and then go from there. But, it has been very frustrating in that we haven't been doing what we're told to do.
That takes us back to the evaluation when the season's over. What did we do? I think part of it is we were probably doing too many things. Coaches have a tendency to add things when you should probably limit things and then we go to that and you get to the point where you limit and again, you just do so many things that players get confused sometimes and I think people kind of caught up to us a little bit. We played a couple teams that were power-running football teams, Alabama, East Carolina, that kind of thing and that kind of plays into our hands where when people start spreading us out and kind of diluting our abilities that's what kind of caught up with us, I think. They have coaches too, as they say, and once they spread you and isolate you, it creates problems for us.
On if he's going to hire a special teams coordinator:
Well, like I said, I'm going to look into restructuring a lot of things when the season's over, but that has nothing to do with it really. If you look at statistics, you take away that first game against Alabama, where we got a punt-block and a punt-return and that guy returned two punts last week and had a punt block too at Alabama, so they're pretty good. But, if you take away that game we're one of the top 3 or 4 punt teams in the country right now. Thevenot's one of the top punters in the country and we replaced the punter. So, our punt team actually has been pretty good. Our punt return team, if you look at the stats from last year to this year, considerably better. We went way up considering where we were. We were 10th, 11th, and 12th in all of those categories last year; we were horrible kicking the football last year with a coordinator. Now, we have different guys running those different groups and we're better. So, we're better on the punt team; we don't really have a returner, but we're a better return team, we're a much better kickoff return team than we've been and we're a better kickoff team than we've been. But one area where we failed miserably was the field goal team. And that's because we have kicked the ball low. We've had bad kicks. It's not the guy who's coaching it, it's not the scheme, it's we have not kicked the ball well. And again last week they went to safe, which was great, and they only rushed four guys and we had a great kick and he (Thevenot) made a 50-yard field goal. But, all in all, I don't believe it's the coaching, I don't believe it's the scheme, I believe it's...we're better. We're better. If you look at the stats from last year to this year. Take away the Alabama game just for the punt team and we are considerably better in the kicking game. now, we are still going to go out and we're going to recruit a kicker and we're going to do some things, because we have to keep getting guys, Thevenot's going to be a senior and that type of thing. But we'll continue to look at people, we need return people, we've looked at that hard in recruiting. We've got some commitments and we're looking at some other players that have speed and one of the things I'm looking for is a return guy. We have a couple of guys that can do that who have verbally committed to us. So once recruiting is over, hopefully, we'll have some people that can return. A big thing in the return game is the returner. If I've got Reggie Bush, I'm a hell of a lot better returning kicks than if I have Joe Schmoe...so the returner has a lot to do with it. Let's not kid ourselves. Alabama, that guy is a great returner. They've got a great return team - so it's people that do a lot of that.
On how frustrating it is to send the same message out to the team every week:
It's hard. It's hard. It's like your kids. You tell them what to do sometimes and they don't do it or do it the right way. That's what's happening. And I feel for O'Neill [Gilbert] and the defensive coaches; it's the same message every week: `do what we tell you to do,' because they're not doing what they've been told to do. and not that the offense is also, they've struggled too, but you asked me about defense, and I'm telling you that if you ask O'Neill Gilbert, he's very frustrated because of that.
This team, they are last in the league in pass-defense, but they're pretty good against the rush. We have to find ways to protect and we have to be able to run the ball, but yet we have to be able to connect some passes. Our problem and I hate to say it, when we lost Jeremy Williams, we lost a playmaker. A big time playmaker, but we need more than one. And that's what recruiting is all about. We need to continue to recruit and get some playmakers. Andre Anderson, he's fourth in the nation in rushing. And as good as our young guys are doing, we won't have Anderson. So you lose another big, key player in our offense. So you take away two guys that are playmakers and that hurts your football team.
On if Jeremy Williams had his surgery and other surgery updates:
He already did. He had his hand operated on. We were hoping that he'd be able to come back and play the last couple of games before we operated on the knee, but the hand wasn't coming around as fast as we liked. So he pretty much decided, 'coach, since it's not coming around, let me get my knee done now so that I can be ready for spring ball in the off season.' So we went ahead and operated several weeks ago. He had more than a scope. They went in and had to attach some cartilage and stuff. They didn't just remove some stuff, they attached it. He's on crutches; him and Andre (Anderson) are on crutches. Joe (Kemp) was throwing at the game, I was told. He got operated on Monday and he was throwing the ball Saturday, and he's out there right now throwing lightly. He's recovering well. Andre Anderson had an X-Ray yesterday. The fractured part hasn't quite healed yet, but the shoulder is healing very nicely. So he'll be ready to go too, but he'll be like (Matt) Forte, he's not going to scrimmage...he doesn't need to prove anything to me. But he'll be able to run plays and do things and work in the off-season.
On how many recruits they plan on bringing in:
25 hopefully. We probably have about 14 right now, so we're looking for some more. I'd love to get as many Louisiana kids as I can get. First of all, they have to meet the position needs now, there are some positions, even though a guy might be a pretty good player, I don't need it, I need something else. If I cant get those other positions I can go back to that, so we're still recruiting some guys. The other thing is just the ability to get them admitted. That's...we eliminate a lot of kids because of that.