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September 15, 2008

Weekly Coordinator Q&A: Mickey Andrews

Florida State's defense was one play away from a second straight shutout against Chattanooga. Despite giving up one long touchdown pass, Mickey Andrews' troops have preformed well despite missing several key players. On Monday, the 'Noles' defensive coordinator spoke to the media about a variety of topics including matching up with Wake Forest's offense.

Here is a transcript of the Monday press conference with Mickey Andrews:

Opening Comments:

"First of all, we played pretty good overall. We felt like we made progress from week one. That was our objective going into the game to be a better defense than we were the week before. The score doesn't indicate that but we feel like we did accomplish that when playing a little bit better opponent than we did the week before. Our players were disappointed we didn't get a shutout. With the exception of one play, and you can't take plays out of a game, but I guess we were four inches away from having another shutout. We will learn from it. We will learn from our mistakes and try not to make those same kind of errors again. Two weeks in a row we held a team under 200 yards. Second half they got no points and 26 yards. That was against a lot of our second and third teamers in there playing. So we feel like we got a lot done. Seven out of eight quarters we shut a team out. That is always good. We need to find a way to make it a complete game."

"Two major breakdowns. The 62-yard touchdown pass where we just didn't make a good decision and take a correct angle. Great effort on their quarterbacks part, number one getting the ball off, we were in a blitz, and a great catch and a great job working the sideline over thee. I thought he was out of bounds but he convinced the two officials over there he did not go out so he must not have. All in all, it was a good game. We had four sacks. We had a lot of pressures, hurries, and knockdowns. We tackled better. We only had 11 missed tackles in the game. That is a little bit above our goal. Our goal is less than 10 or 11. We had too many missed assignments. The things that caused us those two long plays were things that are keeping us, causing us to make missed assignments. We are just not disciplined on every snap like we got to be against good football teams. Hopefully we can correct that."

"We reduced the number of penalties down to one, actually two were called, one was assessed. A walk-on wanted to get in a little bit more of a hurry than he was allowed to. He moved before the snap. That part wasn't bad."

"The thing we have to do is find a way to get more turnovers. We had a number of big hits again. The shot that Kenny (Ingram) delivered on the receiver was about as tough of a shot you want to take, I think, playing football. Kenny made a remarkable play and also recovered a fumble. Those are the kind of plays we are looking for him and our other guys to make. We talk all the time about needing to force the turnovers. There was no question that ball was going to come out when he hit that guy. People are doing a good job protecting the football both with the pass and the run and we just need to be a little more, we call it violent pressure. Whether we are on the quarterback, the runner, the blocker, or receiver because that is the kind of game it is. We just had to find a way to create more turnovers. Especially with intercepts, we had three more opportunities this week and we didn't get any of the three. We always talk to our guys about having to make your play when it occurs. You never know when down the line you are going to give up a big play. You know what, two plays prior to that touchdown pass we had a chance to make an intercept and we dropped it. If we make the intercept, they don't score. How important is that play? It may the play that changes the whole complexion of the ball game. You just have to be prepared to make those plays and hopefully we will be in the future. It would have been a tough play, the guy was going, trying to make the play. Great players make great plays, so come up with it and save us a touchdown. It sure would have been nice to have two baseballs in a row for the guys but we will keep working at it."

"We have some areas of concern that we need to improve on, number one is a reduction of missed assignments. We can't keep helping the opponent. We are getting into our schedule now where opponents don't need to help so we have got to do something about that. We have to eliminate all long plays runs or pass. We had one long run the week before and two passes this week. We have to do a better job of winning on first down. We didn't force them into second and long with a consistency that you need to be a dominating defense. There were 18 first down plays and we only forced them into second and eight or more eight times. That is not good enough. We have to force some turnovers."

"A lot of good things. A lot of areas that we can improve on, that we have got to improve on if we are going to be a successful defense and help our team win this coming week."

Q: Will Budd Thacker start?

Andrews:
The guy that demonstrates it in practice this week that he is best at man for the job will start. Somebody asked me that question Saturday after the game about Budd. Getting Budd back doesn't make us better. Getting Budd back, wowed-eyed, scratching and clawing and getting after people will help us be a better football team. That doesn't take away from the fact we are excited to have him back because I think that is the way Budd will play.

Q: How has Everett Dawkins held up? He is undersized but seems to be on that field a lot for you?

Andrews:
He is. His greatest asset right now is his man maneuverability and his change of direction, his explosiveness. Not that that can't be used in a run situation because it can but certainly against the pass where you are taking off on the ball and trying to whip a blocker backing up it works a little bit to his advantage to put him in there. We have been pleased with his progress as a defensive end. It is hard to move from any position on the line but when you go from end to tackle it is usually because you don't have the ability to play out there, that wasn't his case. We just had to have some help. We asked him to do it and he didn't hesitate at all. Of course, he had done some of it in high school but what it did was put him at a little disadvantage size-wise. We tell our guys all the time there is nothing wrong with being little if you don't play little, use your strength and fight through it. He is trying to do that. He and our other freshman, Moses (McCray), they have done very well for their first two ballgames.

Q: What is the biggest challenge Wake's offense presents the defense?

Andrews:
Well, the thing that they do is that they will attack you at different angles, both with their blocks and their runs. A lot of their running game is geared towards cut-backs. They get you moving in one direction and they cut-back or they get you moving in one direction and they run a reverse or a counter. You can't get away from it. That is not the reason they are good, they are hard-nosed. They will come after you. Their backs run hard. Their lineman, backs, tight ends, all of them, they block tough. It is not that they are tricking you. I guarantee that is not the situation. We are going to have to play more hard-nosed than we have been by far in any ballgame this yea. We are going to have to play at a higher level. We are going to have to reduce our mistakes. That kind of offense will have a tendency, when you have speed like we have got, speed will get you to plays but it will make you over-run plays if you are not disciplined. I would say a majority of our missed tackles are over-runs where you are taking a bad angle and allowing a guy to cut-back on you. We are going to have to be disciplined and not over-run the football but at the same time be aggressive, attacking blockers, and finishing tackles.

Q: Demir Boldin for them is having a nice breakout season?

Andrews:
He is a good player.

Q: Did Florida State recruit him?

Andrews:
Yeah.

Q: What jumps out at you about him?

Andrews:
He is a guy that is highly competitive, just like Anquan. Every play is 'the' play for him. He plays hard, he catches well, he runs well, he has great body control, and he competes. That seems to be the thing that really sets him apart.

Q: Can you talk about the difference in athleticism for Wake Forest today compared to ten years ago?

Andrews:
There is no comparison. They are much more athletic. They run a different type of scheme than they did. Since Grobe has been there, they have always challenged people offensively since he has been there but you can't overlook the fact that they play solid defense too. They have some good players on both sides of the football. They are well coached. They don't make a lot of mistakes. You know, the first thing to winning is don't beat yourself. If you are doing things that are helping your opponent, you might as well change your jersey. Go over there and get on their side if you aren't going to help the Seminoles. You know we talk about discipline and we talk about playing hard and sometimes we let playing hard override the fundamentals of the play. That is where you get in trouble. As we grow up and we get some folks back, we just have to learn there is a step a, a step b, and step c and then you finish the play. You can't go from a to c. You sure can't leave d out. You acquire that over there on that practice field. You play on Saturday because you prepared well right over there. If we prepare to be the best football team on the field Saturday, then it gets down to execution. Now go do it but you can't do it on Saturday if you haven't went through the motions over there (on the practice fields) with the work part.

Q: How about Alphonso Smith, was he a guy you gave a look during the recruiting process?

Andrews:
Yeah, I don't recruit that area. I can't remember exactly what the deal there was. The guy is a heck of a football player. We misjudged a lot of people in the past. We have overrated some, we have underrated others.

Q: Are you saying he is a kid you guys probably underrated?

Andrews:
Might have had something to do with it. People grow, people mature. Sometimes you don't know how much better a guy is going to get from the time he is a senior in high school to when he gets in college and starts finishing his career. One of the best players we ever had around here wasn't highly recruited by anybody. He might have been one of the best we ever had (Andre) Wadsworth. They do a good job of selecting their players up there to fitting their scheme. So many times it is not about whether a kid can play or not but whether he can fit what you are doing or what you want to do whether it be offense or defense. You look at him now, the guy has accomplished a lot, he and Boldin both. They are good solid football players.

Q: How much more help are you getting in preparation during practice from your own offense now because of them being a year further along? Will that help when you are facing somebody like a Wake Forest?

Andrews:
If you are preparing right, you will help each other get better. We go back and you look back in the 90's and we practiced against, we didn't see the same competition on the field as we saw Monday through Thursday. We are getting a little bit closer to that now. The harder that our receivers work the harder that it makes our defenders work and vice-versa. If you have a got little pride and a got little dog about you, you don't want to be the loser in a 1-on-1 drill or 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 or whatever it is. We usually culminate it on the goal line and there is not a lot of wideouts or corners in there during that time but we get a chance to see who is going to get down there and knock people across the line of scrimmage and attack and just play hard-nosed, fundamental ball. That kind of sets the tempo for the whole day.

Q: Markus White is a guy who flashed some potential during preseason camp but he hasn't done a whole lot in the first two games, how have you seen him progressing?

Andrews:
You haven't watched the same film I have. That guy gives more effort than anybody we've got on our team.

Q: Do you think he will play more this weekend?

Andrews:
Well, Jody (Allen) decides how much he plays. A lot of guys didn't play a lot of plays because we are letting the young guys play a lot. His thing is that he didn't get to go through spring training so he doesn't have as solid, as basic an understanding of what we are trying to do technique-wise, fundamental-wise. You see him getting a little bit better every day. As he gets that down, he is going to be in that class with those guys that we had in the 90's. You can mark that down. If he stays healthy, because there is nobody out there that gives greater effort than he does when that ball is snapped.

Q: He is a Reinard Wilson type?

Andrews:
He is a lot faster than Reinard was. This kid runs a 4.6. He is 260 pounds or whatever. He is strong as a bull. He has great courage. He has just had to learn how to turn loose and play totally in our package now. We are very encouraged by what we have seen from him. Has he had huge number of sacks or tackles-for-loss, no he hasn't but that is going to come. I think in the three scrimmages we had, I think he picked up a fumble and ran it back just about every scrimmage. He just does some things, he is so talented and he plays hard. We are glad to have him with us. He has a lot of room to grow, he sure does.

Q: How concerned are you with the secondary and especially the drops?

Andrews:
With the drops, I can't do anything about the drops. All we do is we go out there each week and we work on making an intercept. I don't know if you were out there early, I got onto Buck (Terrell Buckley), well I didn't really get onto him but I just asked him if he thought they were wearing the players out even before the game started. How many games do you want to play before you play the game? Each player must have had 30 intercepts before the game started. I didn't see them drop any balls then. It is just a matter of concentration. If you catch a ball with your eyes, soft hands, you look it in. I see other people making great catches. I think maybe they are just trying to hard right now, trying not to drop it. Go get the ball.

Q: Will Ingram stay at linebacker when you get everybody back?

Andrews:
Yeah.

Q: He has played safety for you before though, correct?

Andrews:
He did, that is where he was. We moved him last December when we were getting ready for the bowl. He is a linebacker, he will stay there.

Q: What has it been like for you to watch him grow into that role?

Andrews:
He is still learning. He had some foot problems, one thing or another, that have slowed him down in practice. You see him pressuring the quarterback, breaking on the ball, and the hit the other night. Hopefully he has some more big plays left in him. He will continue to get better like I said if he will go out there (to practice) and pay the price out there.

Q: What about Toddrick Verdell making the move to linebacker?

Andrews:
He is going through the transition as well. He came in from junior college as a safety. He played safety all his life. We were deep at safety when he got here and we recruited him with the idea of making a linebacker out of him. We like the way he ran. He had very good pass skills, very good coverage guy. He is a good tackler. He broke his leg or did something last spring or last year, he missed some games last year. He was making very good progress up to that point. He got back and couldn't really do anything in spring practice, limping around. He has had a shoulder problem all fall. It is hard to prepare mentally and physically when you are wearing a blue shirt. He and several other guys have had to do that, it means no contact. You can go out there in practice but you can't have contact. Well, hard to get better tackling when you can't have contact. He is a guy that has played well for us so far. Hopefully he can get well and he can play a stronger role as we go along.

Q: What safety positions were Verdell and Ingram?

Andrews:
Both of them were free.

Q: Is that normal to see, to have two free safeties make that transition?

Andrews:
What we were trying to do was strengthen our ballclub, our team. They could help us more at linebacker than they could at safety. We needed more help there. We asked them to move and they did. I remember one year we had three of our top four defensive backs coming back were at free safety. We moved LeRoy Butler to corner, we moved Bill Ragans to rover, and we kept Dedrick Dodge at the free. You just try to fit in your best players where they can help the team the most. When we asked them to do that, neither of them wanted to but they decided to try to help the team. It has been a good decision for both of them.

Q: Is there any part of their skill set that helps them to make that transition?

Andrews:
I think the ball skills you develop help you in coverage. I think that has been beneficial to both of them. The hard thing is getting their run fixed. Usually as a safety when you take on a blocker you are running downhill full speed and the blockers are usually not as big as they are when you are up there as a linebacker. Both of them had to make that adjustment.

Q: How did the defense play as a unit last year at Wake Forest?

Andrews:
We played very well with the exception of two long plays. We gave up an 80-yard run and gave up a long pass. If we don't give those two up we win. That is just something that sometimes you get so involved about trying to stop this or stop that, that you get a little careless. We have got to overcome that. If we are going to get to where we want to be we are going to have to learn to eliminate big plays and still get great effort on all the other plays as well. All we can do is focus on when we go on the field and try to gain field position and try to do some things that will help our offense. We just haven't quite down a good enough job with it.

Q: What do you see in Riley Skinner?

Andrews:
They don't ask him to throw a lot downfield. A lot of his passes are short, intermediate routes but when he does, he has great accuracy. He is one of the most accurate passers we have ever faced. He makes very good decisions. He doesn't beat them. He has no turnovers this year, has not thrown a single intercept, he has completed 76% of his passes. What else can you ask your quarterback to do? He has been the heart and soul of their team and he has come through for them numerous times.

Q: Are they throwing the ball more than they have the last couple years?

Andrews:
There really is not that much difference right now. (When they faced) Baylor, they could do whatever they wanted to. They were challenged a little bit more against Ole Miss but they do a great job with trying to take advantage of the areas that you are eliminating certain plays and forcing them to do certain things. They do a great job with that.

Q: (Brandon) Pendergrass has done a very good job for them in addition to Josh Adams.

Andrews:
They have two outstanding running backs, no doubt about it. A big fullback, most of the things they do this year they take their basic 21 personnel and make it difficult for the opposing defense because you don't know what formation they are going to be in. They might be in empty, one back set, they do a lot of different things. It makes it a little harder on you calling your defenses. They get great execution on top of it.

Q: Is this maybe one of the most difficult challenges you have faced considering the inexperience at spots against this kind of offense, that being a recipe for disaster?

Andrews:
We are not approaching it like that. The challenge will be stiff, there is no doubt about it. We are not going to classify it as a disaster at this time. We are going to look at it as a challenge, as an opportunity for some young kids. If we coach right, if we play right, we will raise our level of play up just a little bit because that is what the challenge dictates.

Q: Since Grobe has been there would you say they have been among one of the more difficult teams to prepare for?

Andrews:
Yeah. We had trouble with them before he went there. I remember one year we are up there and it is 14-0 and only about three minutes gone in the first half.

Q: What do you see in Jermaine Thomas when facing off against him in practice?

Andrews:
The only time we see him is when we are going 11-on-11 or maybe skeleton a little bit. He is a youngster that has some special tools. He has great vision, can make great cuts, he has some toughness. Hopefully he makes those same kind of runs Saturday.

Q: How much has it helped working against a scout team that has Preston Parker?

Andrews:
That has been big. Preston, he practices just like he was competing against us in 11-on-11 drills. That has made our guys that little bit more focused with knowing who they were playing against. We are certainly looking forward to seeing him on the other field than on our field this week.

Transcribed by Chris Nee


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