Al Groh Comments on the ECU Game
Oct. 3, 2006
Charlottesville, Va. –
Video of Groh’s Comments
Q: What is your impression of East Carolina?
A: Offensively they are primarily a spread out team, primarily three and four wide receiver formations. (They have) a high percentage of intermediate and vertical passing, much more so than you probably see on a week-to-week basis. You know, these days a lot of passing games are (we call) `likely to be completed passes.’ That has something to say for the large amount of (teams) we see that complete 65, 66, 67 percent of their passes. They throw a lot of vertical routes and they have good speed to do it. They try to spread the defense, hit the seams in the defense. Defensively, they’re a 4-3 team, mostly an over team, more so than we probably seen here a little bit of late. (They have a) very good punter in a season in which we have seen some very good punters. (He’s) a very good punter with a career 43-yard average. That is usually pretty good because if a guy is a good punter he has dropped his share inside the 20. (He might have) some 27-yard punts but they were real good for his team. When a guy is up there 43+ (yards) over the course of 3+seasons, then he has hit a lot of really good punts.
Q: Has the East Carolina program gotten better more quickly than would you have anticipated when you scheduled the series?
A: They were pretty good. I just know from being an observer when you say `better’, they had some real good runs.
Q: They won five games over two seasons before Skip Holtz got there…
A: When Steve Logan was coach they won an awful lot of games there too. They beat Miami down there, so they have certainly had a history of good teams. A long time ago when I was coaching at North Carolina we played against East Carolina a couple of times and Pat Dye was the coach and they were very good with nine- and 10-win seasons. My familiarity with them either competing against them or as a fan, is that they have had very good teams down there. They take their football very seriously and they’ve got a good following, so we anticipated that type of opponent when we scheduled the game. In other words, our intent was to schedule a good competitive game and not a cupcake, and so that’s what we did.
Q: What sort of home field advantage do they have compared that of last week at Duke?
A: We don’t think much in terms of the environment whatsoever. If you do that you are either building in built-in reasons why you can’t win. I think every time the coach stands up and says `well, it’s a very hostile environment, it’s a tough place to play,’ he’s telling everybody that their expectations of winning are less than it would be under other circumstances. I don’t hear business men going to a different city and saying, `just because I’m conducting a meeting in Pittsburgh instead of in Boston, I probably can’t close the sale.’ It didn’t make any difference last week. I thought last week your questions were `well, how are the players going to be excited about playing here?’ Now your questions are, `is it going to be too excited for the players to play well?’ (Last week) they had a lot of juice, they had a lot of excitement and they created their own environment. I think that’s what teams have to do wherever they play every week.
Q: Have you seen a change in Jameel Sewell’s demeanor as far as in the huddle and at practices?
A: I can’t really say that because we really hadn’t seen him in the huddle that much before, so I don’t have much to compare it to.
Q: Sewell talked a lot about how he’s improved in the huddle. How important is that for a quarterback?
A: Oh very much so. How you present what you are going to do sometimes is as important as what the play is. In many circumstances there’s more than one play that could work, so how the quarterback presents what you are doing and his confidence in it and his agreement with the coach’s call, “hey, I got a good one for you here this time.” Plus, there is giving the impression to the players, “I really think you guys can do this one.” That is a positive part of it. Those guys are like a jockey. The quarterback in any huddle is the player who has got his reigns on the operation, and he can up the tempo, he can slow the tempo down, so the pace and the rhythm that you want in your overall operation often comes in terms of how fast the quarterback or how slow the quarterback is either directed to or chooses to drive the engine.
Q: Is this something you have to talk to a young quarterback more and do you talk to Jameel Sewell about that a lot?
A: We do, we do. We talked about it some last night. That is all part of what we said so many times because of the situation with these quarterbacks, we want veteran quarterbacks, which causes us to talk a lot more about things that coming with the position, and as I said here a week or so ago, there is so much more that goes into this position than throwing the ball. That’s why it is a little bit different to be a quarterback on a college football team than on the Sunday afternoon recreation league flag-football team. With all the things that they have to do, it’s the most complex, most dynamic, most challenging position in organized sports today. You think of all the other athletes that have to do things with precision; golfers, free throw shooters, baseball hitters, tennis players, and those things are very difficult to do with precision and nobody’s running at them and trying to hit them.
Q: Tom Santi says that he thinks Jameel is progressing as fast as anyone he has ever seen. Is that your assessment too? I mean he has obviously had a lot thrown at him as a freshman, kind of feels the weight of team is on him, could you talk about all that stuff?
A: I think Jameel’s progress is very encouraging. Probably Tom has had a limited amount of players to compare it to, of the extensive time span of his career (Groh and group chuckle)
Q: Marcus Hamilton was in here earlier. What qualities and attributes does he bring to the team other than the obvious on-the-field stuff?
A: Marcus is a guy who has been with us for five years so, I think it is probably a little bit more accurate and a little bit more meaningful to give an assessment of a player’s progress over that time span. When Marcus was a young player, he frustrated his coaches a little bit, they were looking for more diligence, more contact, more awareness. Now, if there is a corner that we want to try to give him a good model to follow, we just say to the young corner, “You see that guy over there? Just follow him around and see how he goes about getting ready.”
Q: What do you mean by contact, you don’t mean physical contact on the field?
A: Yes. Just that. (hits his hand) He was not sure of it, didn’t have a lot of confidence in doing that, didn’t have a lot of genuine confidence in his ability to perform, would quickly lose confidence in himself. We worked as much on that as on physical skills, talking to Marcus about, you know, “you got to get to the level where you have as much confidence in yourself as I do, because you’re the one who’s playing out there, and things happen out there on the corner, if you don’t have a deepseated confidence in yourself any one single play could take it out of you. You got to be able to learn how to live like a corner as well as play like a corner,” I guess is a way to say it. Now, his diligence and preparation, he prepares like a pro right now. He keeps a spiral notebook on every player that he plays, makes his notes all week long from his film viewing, he’s up on the tendencies of splits, alignments, down-and-distance things. Those are all the things that probably the startup corners on the team right now, they don’t even sense that that’s something that’s out there to be done. Every play in practice, he’s tuned in. You cover something in a meeting and that play’s run on the practice script, and he’s on it. So, he is a player who really shows the maturing process that goes from being a first-year guy to a fifth-year player.
Q: Eight interceptions seems like quite a bit this early in the year for East Carolina. Is it secondary driven, linebackers driven … ?
A: Their secondary is very much a veteran secondary. I think they had five against Memphis State, returned two for touchdowns. It’s very attention getting. It’s certainly something for us to be very alert to address and as we’ve been speaking here today, we do have a young quarterback, and (we need to) make sure that he understands that people on the other side want to catch his passes as much as his guys do, and those kind of things usually whet a secondary’s appetite and they kind of get the fever, and when they get the fever, they want a few more.