FOOTBALL: Media Availability – 9/3/18

FOOTBALL: Media Availability – 9/3/18

The real season begins in
terms of game-week preparation. For the first game, the
format and the timeframe isn’t the same as
normal college football. You have a few extra days,
you have a few extra minutes, and you have some luxury to
possibly head down a road, maybe schematically
make some adjustments and still have time for
your first opponent. That’s no longer the case. So all around the country right
now, coaches, including ours, are arriving early
and staying late and operating within
the same timeframe to make the adjustments
from week one to week two and now apply it
in a regular week versus the second opponent. And so we’re right
in the middle of that and looking forward
to continuing to grow our team and our program. So I’m glad to take questions. You were able to rotate
a number of players on the defensive line. What does that luxury
allow you to do? And is that something you
would like to do in every game if you can? I would love to play as
many defensive linemen as are prepared to play. And that could be five,
it might be six maximum. Run-front defense
has a lot to do with fresh bodies,
physical bodies, and bodies that know what to do. And so the more that
we can play that fit that criteria, the
better, because it gives us a chance to play harder longer. And I don’t think you really
can control a game defensively unless you can keep the
opponent behind the chains and get to third
down with hopefully not manageable numbers on their
part in terms of the yardage. So I think first and
second don’t have a lot to do with that,
which have a lot to do with the defensive
line, play which have a lot to do with who you
have playing it and how many you
have playing it. Coach, when you
play an FCS school, things seem to go
either of two ways– what happened here two
years ago and people never seem to forget that or what
happened Saturday night when people say, oh, well, that was
the way it was supposed to be. So at what point
do you think you’ll have an idea of how
good your team is? December. I believe in a developmental
mindset and a growth mindset. And you have a chance to improve
until you’re out of games. And I really like
the reference point. If you go back to how
you framed it where it can go one of two
ways– where you’re upset or you’re viewed that you
weren’t ready or the program has a long ways to go–
or it’s the expected where you have a solid win
versus an opponent that is supposed to be of lesser
caliber based on division. And that is expected. And I would just as soon have
the result be in relation to exceeding
expectations, which I think we’re off to a good
start through week one. Lots and lots to improve. How good we are or anyone else,
to be honest, it’s hard to say. But we’ll find out. What stood out to you in
Indiana’s win over Florida International this past week? You know, I think there is just
a little bit more certainty as to who they are
under a new head coach. Year two always seems
to bring some momentum, brings a little
bit more clarity. And so I would just
say their identity is cleaner than what
it was a year ago. We saw two different
quarterbacks in our game and there was
different styles there. Their defense is more consistent
in terms of their identity. I just think it’s becoming
clearer who they want to be and why. And just to follow on that– Peyton Ramsey, their
quarterback last year, kind of came out
of nowhere and had a great game against you guys. What have you seen from him? Similar. So a quarterback that
can extend plays. Like much of college football
now, the quarterback position is is the catalyst for not
only yards through the air, but yards on the ground. And just, again, I
remember a year ago we’ve spent so much time in preparing
for the starting quarterback and when Ramsey came in, it was
a completely different style. And so the alteration
of the plan– I remember exactly what
that was like and kind of adjusting midstream. Do you see Brice’s
abilities as similarly effective as a
runner or a passer? Or is he ahead in
one of the areas? If I were to assess now, I would
say he’s ahead in the run game. But the most improvement
since he’s arrived has been in the pass game. So the growth and development
at a really rapid level has come in that area in
relation to where he started. And so I think it’s fair
to say that he’s ahead in the run game, but the pass
game has made the most growth. Coach, you’ve been around
a lot of players and a lot of runners, a lot of backs. I’m wondering– how close
does Jordan Ellis come to meeting the full potential
that a player has and can achieve? I would say that Jordan Ellis– not in comparison
to anyone else, but the way that he trains, and
the way that he concentrates, and the way that he
prepares is exceptional. Meaning that he is
one of the closest players to reaching
their potential that I’ve coached by his habits. So he maximizes what
he’s been given, what his capabilities are
through mindset, through work ethic, through training,
through diligence. And I think he is UVA football. That is the exact player that
I would like folks to look at and say, you know, what
are you looking for? And he embodies exactly
what we’re looking for. Was hoping we’d
get injury updates on Proctor, Cassius,
Pete, and Tyler Fannin. OK, so Proctor first– I haven’t heard yet. I have not seen our
injury report today. We were hopeful to have him
back for this week though. So when he went down, that
was what we were hopeful for. Tyler Fannin is most
likely out for the season. I don’t expect him to return. And Cassius Peat–
his shoulder injury has made it to where he
no longer wants to play. And just as of yesterday, he’s
not going to play football. What was that kind
of conversation like? Obviously he’s been through a
lot throughout his four or five years now. Difficult and
internal struggles. And yeah, just a cumulative
effect, I would say. Did you want to mention Dom? Dom Sheppard, he had
surgery this past weekend. It ended up being significant– ACL. And so he’ll be
gone for the year. After a really, really
strong Fall camp. That seemed to be a really
athletic play Mandy Alonso made on a sack, particularly
for a guy coming off a significant injury. What does his return to the
lineup mean for the line and where can he improve? Or do you want him
to improve from what he did as a true freshman? It was a great play on the sack. Mandy played significant amounts
and started the last four games, if I remember correctly. He’s dynamic, meaning that
he has a great first step and he has some explosion
and he has the ability to make plays behind the line of
scrimmage and in the backfield. And so besides just
occupying space, there’s a difference between
that type of d-linemen and a play-making
and active d-lineman. And Mandy is active. And so he’s still
not 100%, but it was encouraging
to see him perform and to contribute and then
make enough plays to where I think it helped us
all with our confidence that he’ll be back. And for this week, even at
a higher level than what he just was. Coach, Richard Burney
was a brand new defensive end last year in the
bowl game, can you just talk about what you’ve seen
out of him in terms of growth. He worked really, really
hard and diligently through the Spring, same
thing through the offseason. He tested really well in
the offseason in relation to our metrics. And he was, I think,
empowered by that. And that built confidence, as
well as learning the position. And so he’s still at
the infancy stages of the position-mastery
component. But his understanding
of the position and his physical development is
where most of the growth comes. Now he just needs
to play the game. And what we saw
in the game one– game one is a significant
jump from just throwing him in, basically,
versus Navy to now having some schooling and
training and development to play that position, which
he was off to a good start. And you mentioned Peyton Ramsey. But if I’m not
mistaken, he’s playing behind an offensive line
that returns all five of last year starters
and added a grad transfer center from Miami, I believe. What additional challenges
does playing a veteran front like that offer? You know, usually just fewer
mishaps and negative plays. It’s always nice to keep the
offense behind the chains. And if the offensive front
is cohesive and consistent, it makes that harder. Proctor in the back. Just from a taking
hits, staying healthy, that kind of
perspective– how do you think Bryce managed the game? I think he did really well. He ran with a really
strong presence. There were two runs where
he didn’t intend to go down. He was breaking tackles. He was fighting for yards. And it inspired the team. There are occasions where
that’s necessary– the fewer the better as far
as I’m concerned– in managing his health for
the long-term of the season. But I thought it was a good
start for where we are. Coach, if you don’t
mind if I can go back to Jordan Ellis for a moment. When he’s reaching– or close
to reaching its full potential, what is he giving
you on the field and what is he giving
you off the field? On the field, he runs with power
and he runs with confidence and he does it over
and over again. So his consistency,
his reliability, and the physical nature
in how he performs, it takes a lot for a
body to develop your body to handle that
kind of consistency and that many touches– and with the running
style that he has. He wouldn’t be what’s
considered a speed back. He’s more of a slasher,
and those players take lots of hits. And they drag tacklers and
there’s multiple tacklers on most plays. And he’s breaking more
tackles each and every year. He’s more physical, but his
preparation is leading to that. And then off the field,
he just sets the standard. Our team knows exactly what
we expect and what we want and they know they have
someone to look to that provides that reference point. And Jordan does that
and really epitomizes one of our other
guiding principles of less drama, more work. There is zero drama with Jordan. He’s always where
he’s supposed to be, doing what he’s supposed to
do, as hard as he can to it, and feels lucky and
grateful to do it. Where do you stand with your
reserve quarterbacks right now? And what was the
strategy the other night? Yeah, it’s still– Lindell Stone still
has a slight edge, I would say, if you’re talking
significant number of snaps and leading the team, for
instance, if Bryce went down. Maturity, decision-making
and just really how he moved the team in Fall
camp, it was slightly better. In game one, it made more
sense for Brennan Armstrong to get reps as it is game
one and it didn’t require much change for anyone else. So rather than the likelihood
of miscues or maybe moving to some different
emphasis within our plan, it seemed better just
to keep the same plan and let Brennan play. The fact that the redshirt
rule has changed, [INAUDIBLE]?? It is. It enters into all
of our thinking. First of all, really happy
to have been in a situation where we could let and
have some players play. But, yeah, it’s a
unique dilemma now as to how to predict when and
if you’ll need players later versus encouraging them and
seeing and evaluating them enough early to kind of
count on and try to establish your depth for later. So all of that was going
through not only my mind, but our staff’s mind. And I think we managed it well. Time will tell. Coach, sort of off the
beaten path question– what are some things,
maybe, that you didn’t see from your team? A lot of us have talked a lot
about Bryce this, and Olamide that, and Jordan this. What didn’t you
see from your team Saturday that you
maybe wanted to see or you still need to
see as you go forward? Oh just volume of plays. So there was a lot of
different scenarios that played out in
the game and a lot of different types
of situations that I think we were able to evaluate. Consistency right
now is really what we need to see–
how much volume will it take to truly determine
where our strengths are where our deficiencies
are and in between? So we certainly know in terms
of consistency we need to– field goal kicking is still– while that, I thought, was a
real significant improvement in Fall camp, I’m still trying
to identify where that range is and sorting out the
difference of how to use both of our kickers. Again, we have AJ and
then we also have Hunter. There’s a different
range level there. So I’ve got to push
harder in practice to try to create
scenarios to get that dialed in a little
quicker so it doesn’t just show up at game time. Coach, two big-time effort
plays from Saturday that kind of underscored the increase
in team speed you guys have– Britton Nelson chasing
down the Richmond receiver on the 54-yard completion,
and then on the pick six, Tavares Kelly almost completely
chased down that linebacker. How much do those plays
resonate in the locker room and with the coaching staff? Those plays. They resonate not only
from an ability standpoint, but more from a
desire standpoint. And so Bratton, I think, many
of us knew from a year ago and coming from the track team,
maybe, what he was capable of. This year, hopefully, his
durability and consistency will allow that same
kind of production to happen from beginning to end. And it was no
surprise for our team to see Tavares Kelly chasing
down someone we’ve been– our team has had a hard time
catching him all Fall camp. And really he hasn’t
had yet the exposure that, at least for the fans and
for others to watch us play, that the team has. Protection didn’t hold
in a number of cases where the ball was
and he was the target. But that was– for
those who were watching, that was a play to
know that he is quick. He is tough. If you consider the
game or the play where the ball
was pitched to him and there was really a
defender that had a clear shot and hit him, really
as hard as he could, and he just bounced off and kept
going and made positive yards. Tavares is little,
but he’s not small. He plays big– big
heart and he’s tough. Just one last quick follow-up
on the redshirt rule. Are there guys
who you’ve already identified as– these guys are
playing, redshirt rule or not, as opposed to
evaluating everybody? Yeah, there’s a couple already. We’ve talked about
defensive line. So Jordan Redmond already. Aaron Faumui for sure– Bobby Haskins at
offensive tackle. Tavares Kelly– those ones
are kind of non-negotiables. The others are different
levels of decision. First start for Darrius Bratton,
how did he look in your view? Yeah, Darrius did
a really nice job. According to our
grading system, there wasn’t a defensive player
that graded higher. And so, in fact, I made that
a point in the team meeting today in showing a
few clips of film. And Darrius’ debut,
if you remember, was late and kind of clean-up
play in our win over Boise State last year and he got beat
over the top for a touchdown. And it was just
devastating to him. I remember seeing him
in the locker room and to have earned
a starting role and to have played as well as he
did, it was really gratifying. The team was really
excited for him as well. So he played really well. We’re going to be talking to
Jordan Mack and Malcolm Cook in a few minutes. Can you talk a little bit
about where they stand and what impressed
you about them? Wow, two really unique
and different stories. Jordan Mack is cut more in
the mold of Jordan Ellis where he would prefer not to
be in front of camera, prefer not to have to
speak and just work. He is fiercely conditioned
and requires no extra effort to have him on our team
or manage him in anyway. Again, he’s Jordan at
linebacker in a different build. And so he just is
really a joy to coach and has amazing
speed and athleticism for playing that position. Learned a lot under Micah
and with Micah a year ago. And probably right after
Chris Peace would be the next most-respected player
within the defense– kind of from a leadership-ish
type of role and consistency– not necessarily from playmaking
and dynamic and vibrant personality. But just in terms of
consistent and durable, Jordan would probably
be that player. And then if you switch
to Malcolm Cook, that’s a completely
different story where there has been
injury, and there’s been inconsistent
seasons, been unique, challenging personal choices. And a lot of time that he
and I’ve spent together. And he played well also. We moved him to the inside
linebacker position. He’s adjusted to that. And he knew as well as I–
and he actually came to me and just said, you know, I
understand for our best 11 players to be out
there, someone’s got to change positions. And I knew it was him
and he knew it was him. I didn’t tell him,
he kind of told me that this makes a lot
of sense and it always works better that way. After the final practice
of the Spring in April, you talked at some length about
Hasise Dubois, the penalty he got on the final
play of the scrimmage, and how he needed to
grow up off the field. It seems like that’s
held him back more than anything on the field. Have you seen the
growth you wanted from him over the Summer? And through the Fall so far? And where is he as a receiver? Yeah, I would say
I’ve seen growth. I think he’s made a conscious
effort in his decision-making. He has the support
structure in coach Hagans who works with
him significantly. He was consistent in
the game Saturday. He has been consistent
through the summer. And so from that point of the
last play of the Spring game to now, he’s meeting
expectations. And so his hope and my hope is
that it continues on and off the field. Which, to this point
since that play, it has. And, yeah, I’m encouraged. He’s encouraged. The team is encouraged. And he did a really
nice job Saturday. And, again, has since
that teachable moment. Real quick one– Delaney puts the ball through
the end zone with regularity. Would you use him for a 55-yard
field goal if you needed one? It’s not out of the question. Again, going back to
the PAT and field goal kicking and just that area. I’m not concerned, I’m
just I’m not settled yet as to where exactly we are. It was– I think
after the game, I talked about the special
teams kind of being neutral. Delaney’s performance
was not neutral. I think six of the seven
were out of the end zone, which is exceptional. And the other one was one
yard deep from what I saw. And so he’s off to
a really good start.

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