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September 17, 2013
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"We are playing again between the hedges, and we are very excited to play another game. We had our open date last week and got some good work in. We practiced three days last week and got some good fundamental work in pads Tuesday and Wednesday. We actually scrimmaged with a lot of the guys who didn't get a chance to play. We had two eight-play drives on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, which was really good for the guys who needed the work. We came back yesterday. I thought the guys actually did a pretty good job, considering there were three days off. They put the pads on and got after it a little bit. I thought our coaches did a pretty good job of preparing. We're definitely ahead of schedule on our game plan. When you have an open date you have time to prepare, so we got a lot of good scout work in as well.
"With North Texas, I'm very impressed with what I see on film. Coach (Dan) McCarney has done a great job with his team. One of the things that sticks out to me is the number of junior and seniors that they have playing and starting for them. There are nine juniors and seniors on offense and 10 out of 11 defenders are either juniors or senior - mostly seniors. So they are a very veteran team."
"I see a team that is very well-coached. I know Coach McCarney has had the opportunity to coach on a national championship team with Coach (Urban) Meyer at Florida. He's been a head coach for many years and has had a lot of success. I think they are believing and playing hard and they'll be ready for a big game on Saturday."
What is the team's potential this year?
"We talk a lot about getting better. We talk a lot about how good we can become. That was one of my main discussions with the staff this morning. We are improving, and part of the reason why we are improving is because our coaches are pushing them. They're doing a good job of being demanding, and the guys are responding well, too. There's a competition each day out there at practice. I think guys probably sense that they have a chance to play, a chance to start, or a chance to make a travel team. That may not have been the way they felt going into the season, but it's playing itself out that way. We have guys working hard, and it looks like they have a lot of hope of playing, and because of that, we're going to improve as a team. The point I'm making is that we think we can become a really good team, and we hate to put any kind of limit on what we can do. We go into every game thinking that we're going to win, and we plan to where we can win the game. There's a lot of optimism around our players right now and how they're practicing and performing."
On whether he watched the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game last Saturday
"I watched some of it. I thought I may have sat in front of the TV all day, but I found some other things to do. My wife helped me out with that."
Did you watch the game thinking what you would do if playing against either team?
"We're always thinking in terms of going back to Atlanta and playing for the Southeastern Conference Championship, so you're kind of wondering if we do make it there, who would be on the other end of it?"
What is your take of the defense so far?
"First of all, we did play two really good offensive teams that are outstanding with senior quarterbacks and the ability to run the ball. Plus, there are coaches that know what they're doing scheme-wise and all of that, so we played a couple of good teams. I think if you look at some of the better defenses in America statistically after a game or two, you can't get too crazy if you play a good offensive team. We all know Alabama has one of the better defenses and has had that for awhile, and they ran into an offensive team (in Texas A&M) that could move the ball and make plays and score points. You can't get too crazy about that. The thing that we focus mainly on is where do we break down and how can we get better? A lot of it is just fundamentally doing a better job of taking better angles as we tackle, wrapping up better and hustling to the ball better. Tackling has a lot to do with effort and a lot to do with technique, and some of these guys are relatively new at it at this level of ball. Some of it is just making sure that we're putting our players in the best position through our schemes to have success, as well. So we're always evaluating what we're doing and how we're doing it, and we're always evaluating the players themselves as to who should start, who should play and if it's time to make a move at one position or another. We're not in a panic by any means. We're just focusing on getting better."
What is the talent level of SEC quarterbacks this season?
"You have a great chance of moving the ball and having success when you have a veteran quarterback. We kind of knew as a league going into this year that there would be a lot of guys that could play well. Between (Aaron) Murray, (Johnny) Manziel, AJ (McCarron) and (Connor) Shaw, you have four of the best in the league, and I think they're four of the best in the country. It's harder to defend guys that can't be affected by the pressure that a crowd will make or the pressure a great defense can make. If they can stand up to the pressure, you've got a chance to move the ball and have success. It's probably a little bit of a cycle right now, and we have some veteran quarterbacks that can handle it."
Are you pleased with the defense's ability to affect the quarterback?
"You hope to put more pressure on a guy. Certainly a sack is something statistically that you can see that you're pressuring a quarterback, but there are other ways to pressure him without getting him on the ground. You can force him to throw it away or break out of the pocket, which isn't always good sometimes. Sometimes you want to try to keep guys in the pocket, but we need to do a better job of that, I don't think there's any doubt. The more pressure we can put on the quarterback, the less pressure there is on a relatively young secondary back there."
How can you do a better job stopping the running game?
"I think you always hope to stop the run game first. With teams that spread and throw it a lot, if they can run the ball at will, you are in trouble. It's definitely a big focus for us. We think we'll get better over time, and I think by continuing to substitute our players and trying to keep them fresh and taking better angles and game-tackling better, we can close that gap down. But when you do have quarterbacks that add to the run game, it doesn't necessarily skew the numbers because it all counts, but the traditional tailback running game hasn't gotten completely out of hand, in that regard. We just need to wrap up those quarterbacks better."
What players have surprised you to this point?
"With Quayvon (Hicks), we saw it in the spring. We felt like he was taking the job over in the spring. We saw it as a freshman that he had it physically, but he just didn't know his assignments well enough to overtake Merritt (Hall). So it wasn't a total surprise to us because we saw it happening before it happened in the games. We saw it happening in practice. We saw the same thing with Sterling Bailey. Even last bowl practice when we do scrimmages for guys that weren't getting a lot of playing time, Sterling was showing up and making plays. Those guys are certainly two of the guys that are making some progress, but again, we saw it coming and were hoping it would come through in the game."
What is Paris Bostick doing?
"We're hoping to let him put the regular pads on and at least go through all of our warm-ups and pre-practice stretches. We're not exactly sure. It will be very limited what he does, but we'll probably let him do a little bit of fundamental drills with Coach (Kirk) Olivadotti at the linebacker position. We just have to see how he looks and if we can try to get him going this year at not. He's going to get a little work at linebacker. He just got big, kind of like (Alec) Ogletree."
On junior college transfer Toby Johnson
"Toby actually had a very good day yesterday. He made one play where he had Coach (Chris) Wilson actually run onto the field and chest bump him. He's getting there, and he's learning. He's one of the guys that we want to roll in there as a substitute so that we can keep guys fresh. He had a good day yesterday, and he's getting better."
On Garrison Smith adjusting to nose guard
"Garrison's doing a great job for us up front just wherever we put him. He still plays some end. He's not always inside, but I think more than anything else, he's shown up as a good leader. He's been practicing hard every day and every play, and he's kind of expecting that from his teammates. He's stepped up in that role. I was hearing about it in the summer, but since we're not coaching them in the summer, we don't really know what's happening, but the news was that he was really trying to lead a lot of the other guys. I see it in practice now, too, so that's why he's been the captain at least once or twice for us this season."
Will Hutson Mason see action against North Texas
"We hope he plays. Our goal is for him to play as much as possible. Like I've been saying for awhile, he's more than ready to play."
On junior college transfer Chris Mayes
"Chris has made some good progress at nose guard. He's very physical, strong and in very good condition. He did miss some practice that sat him back a bit earlier in camp, but he's getting better and better, and I don't think there's any doubt that he'll be getting more playing time for us."
On the challenges of keeping players motivated during an off week
"I don't see a problem with our guys being motivated right now. You can gauge how they work in practice, and for whatever reason, I don't know what their motivation is but they're practicing hard. They're practicing with a lot of energy. I think it goes back to the hope of earning more playing time and earning a starting position by maybe beating somebody out. We want to have great success as the season rolls on, and we know there are a lot of challenges down the road, and not just this week. Right now, I just think we're in a good place as far as guys giving great effort and not being bored with it. I think it was probably a good time to have an open date, even though it's early in the year. Knowing that we have another one, I think it came at a good time for us."
On the rotations at inside linebacker
"The quality of the play is fine. I would just like to be able to see them get a little bit of rest and not have to take every snap. You build a little bit of depth if you get some other guys in the game so if god forbid a guy got hurt, than you throw a guy in there that really hasn't had any snaps. The goal like everywhere else up that we're subbing is to keep guys fresher in the second half and fresher at the end of the game and the end of the season. It just builds morale. The more guys that play, the more excited they get about practicing and working hard."
On Ramik Wilson
"I think he's done a very good job, but I do see times when the team gets a six, seven, eight or nine-play drive, it wears on them. You can see them huffing and puffing pretty good, but you're going to get tired in a game after pursuing some quarterback on a scramble or whatever it is. Cumulatively, you can get run down in a game or a season. I'm just hoping we can get a little bit more confidence in some guys to let them play."
On Brandon Kublanow
"He's practicing with our offense. He's not doing any scout team work right now. He's practicing well, and we're not counting out his chances of playing this year. We're not sure if he'll play, but we're not counting it out right now."