FOOTBALL: Media Availability – 10/29/18


[MUSIC PLAYING] Yeah, an accelerated week. Feels later in the
week already, other than seeing you guys, which
kind of bring some normalcy back to the routine. I thought it was another– a thorough game from
our team, meaning that I thought all three phases
were in sync and performed, in our word,
complementary in terms of complementary football. Time of possession
ended up being, again, the deciding factor, which
is indicative of our ability to become a more effective
running team, which it’s probably been something that
I’ve seen growth and progress in the past three weeks. Plenty and tons of
room still to grow, but our ability to
rush the football and hold onto the football in
terms of time of possession, get off the field on
third down defensively, and then have our special
teams change field position, that simple formula
has, I think, carried us through the
past number of weeks. The turnover margin is
still helpful in addition to that, and yeah. There’s just tons of room
to grow and learn and keep progressing, which is
our focus, and that’s what I expect from our team. How much is all this been
player-driven this season in terms of holding
each other accountable? And is that what you look
for as a coaching staff? I think it’s become– I think it’s become
more player-driven. Starting with Chris Peace kind
of defining the new standard. And I think it was the
leadership on our team claiming the principles that
were being presented as theirs and then owning them,
and I think really sincerely considering
the standards that will help the program and
believing in them, which then led to accountability. Not necessarily the punishment
, way but a standard that then was expected and embraced as
this will work and this is what we will do, and if you’re not
doing it, there’s really– you’re an outlier. And so “choose” is kind of
the message from our players to others that maybe
took longer than what was expected to choose. Bronco, team-set goals
before the season– some shared, some not. Everybody says they want to win
the championship and that kind of stuff. When guys– after
last game we’re saying we want the coastal. Like, saying it out loud, like
just announcing it to the ACC that this is what we
want, is that a good thing or is that something you’re more
comfortable with than a couple of weeks ago? Yeah, I’m never really
comfortable about promising things in advance, but
I don’t have a problem with establishing
and framing goals. And so I think in
that moment when they’re saying we
wanted the coastal, I think it was just simply
some clarity on it is possible, we have a real chance, and
we’re acknowledging that. And so I don’t think it
was in any other way, shape, or form presented
other than maybe they just couldn’t help
say it because it’s new and it’s exciting. And so in that context,
I think it was great. My job, then, is to
say, OK, if that’s what you really
want, let me help you understand what
that’s going to take, and then the focus goes right
back into what we need to do. And being ranked, does that
present another challenge for you guys? Like is today’s practice
going to be until they drop like a couple weeks ago? Just to make sure
their attention stays where it needs to be? It might have been– it
might be if it was of benefit with a Saturday game. There’s not time. So I think that the rankings
are a byproduct and maybe outside acknowledgment, and I
think that prior to week eight, the rankings have zero bearing,
other than possible intrigue to make either players or fans
feel better about themselves, and maybe the intrigue
of a television matchup. But nobody can know and tell
the beginning of week eight or the completion
of week eight what does this really look like? And I think it was
indicative this week of the number of
teams that lost. The number of teams
that are added, it’s just now starting
to become relevant. And I would say it’s just now
starting to become relevant, it’s just the beginning
of now the home stretch of what will it
really look like. Prior to the completion
of week eight, I think the rankings are
a complete waste of time. And so I’m excited for our
team, that there is increased attention on the program. But we framed it– actually, with Dave
Kane’s help, he told me one of the
things that Tony– Coach Bennett talks about in
comparing kind of the accolades and those kind of things
to the cotton candy where it takes a lot of time
to eat it, you get all sticky, it’s not filling,
and you usually feel worse when you’re done. So any acknowledging that
stuff does nothing for us. It is addicting, right? Praise is addicting and
it feels really good. However, every second
we spend dwelling there, it’s taking us farther
away from our objective. That’s my job, is to
make sure we’re on point. Was it mind-boggling sitting
there watching the Pittsburgh film of them rushing
for about 500 yards? And with the success you’ve had
against the run the last two weeks, how much emphasis
is on that this week? Oh, it’s huge. Because I believe Duke
is a good defensive team. And in college football–
maybe in professional football, not having coached
at that level, it just seems like
sometimes there are this just those games. But other times those games
are caused by great preparation on one side and maybe
an off day on the other. Big plays lead to
all kinds of yardage on both sides of that game. And I think it’s atypical for
that kind of game to happen, but it did, where
both sides were having those significant
number of big plays. Pitt is a unique challenge. If I were to speak about
their offense for a moment, I think they’re very physical. That comes from the past
couple years that we’ve played and just learning
about our ACC opponents a little bit better,
so I think they’re a physical and a
tough football team. So you have to be really
sound in your fundamentals. But then offensively, creativity
and misdirection and the type of run– so you have
a physical nature that you have to
certainly be prepared for in your fundamentals
and mindset, but then your eye control
has to be very good because of the nature of the
run game, so there’s lots and lots of misdirection. And that’s a unique challenge. And defensively they certainly– they don’t want the opponent
to run the ball an inch, they’re very aggressive, they’re
not afraid to take chances, and they rely a lot on players
and space in their secondary to make plays. And so I think when I
look at the matchup, it’s hard to acknowledge
anything other than the ACC records. And we’re, as I was looking
at this foreign one, and Pitt is 3 and 1. The games outside of
that, they certainly are relevant for
possible rankings or what your record looks like,
but really, this is 4 and 1 versus 3 and 1 the way I see it. And it will probably be about
that kind of matchup in terms of competitiveness as well. Sticking with that run game
theme, what has worked so well run defense for you guys? What’s been the key? I think that starting
from the minute our game finished last
year against Navy, just the sheer weaknesses that
were exposed that we had kind of played around and through
as much as possible through two years. But there had to be a completely
recommitted effort to size, strength, fundamentals,
and just simply the mindset to continue to play in your gap
over and over and over and over and again, what that looks
like, and what that feels like, and what mindset that requires. So it’s been a
relentless pursuit of run fundamentals the
minute the Navy game was over, just knowing that our program
would not nor could not take another step forward
until we got that addressed. That game just happened
to highlight it. And so it doesn’t mean
that we’ve arrived yet and we have plenty
of work to do, and this game will
certainly be a unique test. But that’s when it
started, and it’s ongoing. Nothing has changed,
including today. Do you have an update on Jordan
Mack and Malcolm Cook for us? I don’t have an update
on Malcolm Cook. Jordan Mack, he’s
getting better every day. And so it’s great timing for us. We anticipate him becoming
close to full strength if not this Saturday, by the
next one, but certainly close enough and well
enough to play this week. And so yeah, that
will really help. In the meantime, Rob
Snyder played really well in that last game. We already know what Zane
has been capable of doing, we’ve seen more of him. But maybe the hidden
story in this is Rob. Rob is really doing a nice job. I was going to ask you
about the Top 25, but– obviously you answered
a little twist on that. It appears that your recruiting
has gone better to this point than it has in your
previous seasons. What changes have
you made or do you think that the
success on the field has been the major factor? I think there’s two
things contributing. Certainly time has helped. So there was a strong
kind of first class, meaning just because
of the reputation of our staff and the
previous successes, there were those saying, man,
I want to be part of this, this could work. And then when we made it to
postseason in our second year, that continued. At the finish of that
year, Carla arrives. And I had basically
two years of experience here prior to our
first meeting, and I believe after those two years,
I understood more clearly we were understaffed in
terms of our personnel area. We were about
half-staffed in relation to what our competitors were. And so the coaches were having
to do more work in terms of the legwork and finding
in addition to coaching, while some staffs
had the legwork and finding happening while
the coaches were coaching, and so we were late. And we were still effective,
but we were late frequently. And so after presenting
that and then Carla assessing where we were
in relation to our competitors, she created positions for us. So we have more personnel– or more people in our personnel
area, as well as new on-campus recruiting coordinator,
which has really helped. And so that organization is
just going around the clock now while the coaches are
also working around the clock with the football part. And so that’s helping us be
competitive and finding– early– developing relationships
early, evaluating effectively, matching our needs, and
then hosting appropriately, which really helps. It helps especially when
the games that kids come to or they watch us
play on, we win. And so when you consider the
fairly rapid turnaround that’s happening– not happened, but
happening at UVA, I don’t know how you
could not pay attention. And it’s not normal for it to
happen in this amount of time, and it’s certainly not normal
when the deficit was so large. And so that story is becoming
pretty compelling to those that have interest in our program. Bronco, back here. Joey Blout was just
in here, and he’s just a good example of
the second year guys you have all over the
defense who are playing bigger and bigger roles. How significant of an
impact– just that class as a whole on
defense and the way you’ve been able
to integrate them? Yeah, it’s great. We had one year with
them and we played I think 17 of those guys a year
ago, which was our first class, and now it’s just year two. They’re really, really close,
they like each other a lot. They respect each
other as players, that means they think each
other are good players. They like the mindset
that our coaches bring, and they came for a
very specific reason. And to this point,
I think what they’ve received is exceeding
expectations, and so they’re just happy. And they feel good
about the decision they made, they like the outcome. I think it’s possibly– we presented to them that
it’s not if, but when, and they would control that
talking about that first class. And they’ve taken that to heart
and they are controlling it. I don’t know if he’ll
ever have the stats to get All-ACC recognition,
but Eli Hanback as a three-year
starter on the line and an integral part of
your team in your defense, what’s his value to
the line to the defense and to the program as a whole? Just every single day that
he’s going to be there and he’s going to do his job. And he’s going to do it
in the rain or the snow, if we’re ahead, if we’re
behind, if it’s first down, if it’s fourth down. And then he’s going to show
up at practice and the weight room– he just requires
zero maintenance. And he just does his
job every single day at a level that is exemplary. And that simple steadiness
with what we just mentioned all the
younger guys, he’s just always doing what
he supposed to do, which is a great example. Speaking of Eli, now
that he’s at the nose, you haven’t had Jordan Redmond
on the field I don’t think at all the last few games. Is he still healthy? Does he play a
bigger role now given that you’re going to play
some obviously run-heavy teams coming up here soon? It depends on the
team we’re playing. So Eli and Mandy,
those two players– yeah, we don’t have to
take him off the field, we don’t intend to. And so they’re playing– basically their tongues
are hanging out right now, but they’re both
capable of that. Aaron Faumui has moved into
kind of the third position right now, and then
Jordan would be fourth. And so his current skill set,
his current ability level, and his current I would
say the match for his– what he can bring to our defense
is downhill and right at you. Once things start to go
lateral and side-to-side, that’s not currently a strength
and he’s working on that. And he’s working really
hard in practice. But it’s nice to have,
again, Eli setting the tone, Mandy learning from him, and
then Aaron learning from him, and then Jordan coming along. And so we’ve just been able
to staff our defense with more linebackers and yeah, we’ve– Coach Howell and
the defensive guys, they’ve done a really good job. And it’s exhausting
working hard enough to find the right 11 defensive
players with the right skill set to put on the field
versus what we’re seeing. And that’s why you see so
many guys running in and out. But we’ve dialed it in
pretty well up to this point, but this next week
is a challenge. You had a new look on
kickoff return with number 92 back there. What do you like
about Perris Jones and was that a one-time deal
or could he be back there? No, he could be back there,
he’s earned it in practice. Again, our practices
are very competitive, and yeah, I watch every play
of every player every day. And what he’s been doing from
fall camp all the way to now, it just became the point
where he was outperforming others in practice, and that’s
a great way to get on the field. And I’m not happy currently. I’m happy with our special
teams collectively, our kickoff return is
underperforming in my mind. I’m pretty happy
with the other three at this point, and the
progress and some of the steps we’re making. So yeah, there’s
just another message being sent that if you do your
job really well in practice, then you can help
our team in an area that I think needs improvement,
and we’re going to try you. And that’s what’s happened. He did a nice job, too. Do you have an update on
the health of Tim Harris? I don’t. Nope. The accelerated week,
basically no one’s talked to me other than
you guys right now, and so I’ll have to fill
you in maybe tomorrow. And building on
Doug’s question, you mentioned when you got here,
you were kind of understaffed. Was the size of the
staff different from what you had at BYU? No. We actually had more
resources and personnel than we had at BYU. But what I also
learned really quickly is it does no good to compare
any other place to Brigham Young University. That school, that institution
is magical and very unique. The 98.5% of all the
students that attend are members of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, that’s one faith. There’s a natural
and immediate draw as soon as members of
our faith have children, and they’re hoping
they can play football. There’s already a strong
push to play at BYU. And so the finding component
is filtered much differently than what we currently face
in Power Five football as one of the schools that many of
these kids can choose from, maybe not the school
they’ve always grown up wanting to attend. And so those two simple
reference points, it didn’t take long to figure
that out and then reconsider how we best build this program. So you coached there, kind
of playing double duty? Mm-hmm, but not
nearly the volume, meaning that you might recruit
an entire class of anywhere from 35 to 40 total players. Players that are then were
Division I football players who also wanted to live the
standards of the Church. Who also had a desire
to play at BYU, and then have to fit
a position of need. And so you can’t have
a more constraining set of filters than that. But the existing
personnel staff numbers, we knew where every
single LDS player was not only in
the United States, but in multiple countries. And then any
additional work came to young men of strong Christian
values that maybe wanted those standards that weren’t
members of the Church, but wanted a similar lifestyle. So again, it’s not comparable,
and I learned that quickly when I arrived here. Coach, I think BYU went
independent in 2011. So you haven’t kind of
been in a title race as a coach in a while either,
so kind of two questions. One, are you having fun? Two, did you go back to old
binders for your title race time of year or how
are you framing it? No. I haven’t needed to go back
to the title race binders. It just is refreshing
to not have to travel all across the
country to play games that not many people maybe
are interested in later in the year. Early in the year
as an independent there’s strong interest because
people are willing to play. Later in the year when
conference races begin, folks don’t line up to play
BYU or travel to Provo. So it’s a neutral playing
field that every game matters. They all have significant
influence and import– I think it’s just
good for the players. It’s great for the mindset
of the organization, but it’s also– it’s just– it’s a more
meaningful and rich college experience when you’re
part of a conference and especially if
you’re performing well enough to be in the hunt
going into November/December. Bronco, you mentioned
after the game but Bryce has exceeded expectations,
our quarterback. I think I mentioned
before the season that it’s kind of unusual
to have a quarterback not be one of the
captains, but it sounds like from what the guys
that were in here earlier said that he’s kind of
become a de facto captain. Yeah. And one who has no
history with last year when you guys got cocky
after five wins or whatever. How much has that meant to what
you guys have been able to do? Yeah, so I think it’s
mattered a lot simply through his performance. And yeah, captains are voted
on at the end of fall camp based on the information
that’s in front of us through a winter and
a spring and a summer. And so that’s
limited information. It’s much like a
head coach or leaders asked usually– like
my day is usually full of making
decisions that are impactful with
partial information given to me–
someone usually that has a different agenda
than what might be best for the entirety of
the organization, and it’s usually
under a timeframe. So in this case, the
players did their best to identify players that
they absolutely knew, and that history with
we’re trustworthy and certainly could play. It hasn’t taken long, though,
for Bryce to basically be considered as that without
necessarily the title, and I think everyone
is great with that. I’ve been asked– in
relation to the second part of your question, I wouldn’t
say that our team became arrogant or cocky,
our team just faced a brand new set
of circumstances, meaning they were winning. And they were winning and we’re
qualified for postseason– there was still games
to play, and that was quite a unique place to be. And so I think as we consider
that just the simple outcome of bowl eligibility
after this last game and you compare it
to fans storming the field after
Georgia Tech a year ago and our fans, the
way they reacted, the expectations
have already moved. And so that’s just part
of growth and progress, which, again, that’s
developing, not developed, but we can already sense it,
and there are some indicators if you just take last
week that kind of show based on the reaction that,
oh, OK, we expect that. Now what else? And that’s more indicative of
where this team currently is. You mentioned that Pittsburgh
is 3 and 1 in the league. When you look at the
standings and the rankings, Syracuse gets in for the
first time since 2001. BC gets in, three teams
drawing the pole kind of at the tailend this week. What does it say about
the ACC that some of these programs that have been
carrying the banner for so long are kind of almost
taking a backseat to some of these rising programs? Well, I think it’s a
compliment to Coach Addazio and to Dino at Syracuse and the
consistency and work they do. It’s really easy to
default every single year to picking ACC standings,
how they have been before. It’s really easy to default
to national rankings and list the top 10
just by, I don’t know, monetary or history– it’s easy. It takes more diligence
to report, but also to support teams
that, wait a second, there could be something
special happening here. And so I just think it’s timing. Again, it’s taken
eight weeks’ worth. [PHONE RINGING] Is that important there? [LAUGHS] You’re supposed to pick
up some milk on the way home, I think. [LAUGHTER] I like a kind of a home field
to our press conferences, that’s good. [LAUGHTER] I like that authenticity. Anyway, I think that it’s
nice for the teams that have earned their way in through
eight weeks to be acknowledged, and that really is the
message that I see. It doesn’t mean any of us
will stay one more week based on the outcome, but
I think it’s healthy, and I think it’s necessary to
see possibly seven teams go out and 11 come in, or
11 go out and seven come in as basically
an indictment against the current rankings
as to what are we doing, and why does it even exist
prior to this time of year? And so I actually think
the playoff ranking timing, they have it right. It no longer to me is relevant
for anything before then. And that’s probably the greatest
compliment at least to our team and the others you mentioned is,
at least at this point, yeah, nice job. And then that gets you at least
till next Friday or Saturday. To follow up on that, are you
a dramatically better-improved football team than the one
that went and lost to NC State? Or how should people
kind of separate there? No, I think that just particular
on that day there were three to five plays as always that
man, they made and we didn’t. Had a couple scores that are
a fourth down and a score at the end that might have
made that a one-touchdown game. There’s plenty of opportunities. NC State played
better on that day, and that’s what
happens in the ACC. You have to make the plays
necessary to win the game, and we’ve done that
more since that game. They made more in that game
and they deserved to win it. How that would look now if they
came to Virginia in week nine? I don’t know. And I’m not saying
that that discounts that win, because they played
better, but man, week to week it changes pretty
rapidly, and man, there’s a small handful
of plays each week that really determine outcome,
including our last one. Looking specifically at
Bryce’s three touchdown passes in the game, two looked like
really good throws, really good routes. The throw to Hasise wasn’t
great, Hasise made the play and then turned
it into something. Are you seeing his
receivers making more plays, doing more for him as
the season goes on? I think it’s just been similar. I think Olamide is always
capable, and to this point, though, has not
been where there’s been these mind-boggling
number games back-to-back. There’s kind of been one
and then a little less, and then one that’s kind of
been in every other thing. Certainly attributed
to some of the way the defenses are playing him
after a big week, but Bryce’s delivery and where
he’s putting the ball and how I think he’s
been pretty consistent. Hasise has been consistent. What was good to see– so
to answer the question, I think Olamide and Hasise
have been very consistent throughout. I think Bryce has been– in this game, Joe
Reed was downfield making a nice play,
which man, that was a great thing for all of us. And then Evan Butts
was downfield. Normally he’s just
a chain mover. And so really, the story in
relation to your question was Joe Reed downfield
and Evan Butts downfield making
significant plays. That’s new and
different than what has been happening in
relation to that other group we were talking about. And Kelly, is he adding
something to that? Yeah. We worked hard to
get him the ball. And didn’t have the
yield that I thought we would with the
number of touches we worked to have him get. However, there’s– I think it’s
certainly worth the investment and it’s going to take us a
little more time to get that role dialed in as
tightly as we want it. Very early on the other
day, you praised Lester, and his numbers aren’t
what they were last year, he hadn’t had a lot
of 60-yard punts. Seems like he’s gone
to the rugby kick, and why did you make that move? Yeah. I think Lester’s performing
really, really well. In fact, the average
return against us right now is I think
under three yards. So there are no
returns against us. Where Lester is putting the ball
is exactly where we want it. And really, what’s hurt Lester’s
statistics more is our– and we’ve worked hard
on this recently– early in the year we were not
downing the pooch punts nearly as effectively as
we did a year ago, and there were three
to five of them that were mind-boggling
that we weren’t downing the football effectively. And so with increased
emphasis– but that’s hurt some of his
numbers, but I think he’s performing every
bit as well– maybe even better than a year ago in terms
of consistency, ball placement, and helping our team. So we just haven’t supported him
in some of the pooch situations of downing the
football effectively, and about three or
four weeks ago we started addressing that
with a different vigor than we did before.

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