Transcript from Al Groh's Weekly Press Conference
Q. It looked like there was a little bit of a rotation at linebacker. Is it the idea to get Cam (Johnson) a third of the reps or is that just how it worked out?
COACH GROH: Cameron (Johnson) took quite a bit in the game actually. I think he had 72 plays in the game, which is the most extended – which is clearly the most extended action he’s had on regular down. His play last year was on the dime and then unfortunately with three or four games to go he broke his ankle and he was lost for the season.
His number of plays actually last year were not a very high number. Those 72 plays far exceeded his total plays from last year, and he handled it very well. This is a player who has a very good aptitude for improvement. He takes instruction very well. He applies it very quickly. He’s made very good progress here through camp and perhaps some of you are able to catch some glimpses of him, I know it’s difficult without having game video to study but if you’re able to catch some glimpses of him, you can see that this is a very talented player for the position. He did a very nice job, Denzel (Burrell) could probably have played ‑‑ very clearly played the best but he has played at Virginia, did a real good job.
Aaron (Clark) has the background as a fifth‑year player, has the versatility to play on the right and on the left, and with Denzel and Cameron on both the regular and the dime defenses, they are in the game all the time unless Aaron can give them a break. So that’s one of Aaron’s principal functions is on first and second down to make sure that we can relieve the load off those other two players.
Q. I know the depth chart comes out tomorrow. Do you see any significant changes for the TCU game?
COACH GROH: No.
Q. You mentioned Denzel ‑‑ when guys have interceptions like that and kind of bobble the ball — do you want to rip your hair out on the dropped interceptions?
COACH GROH: During the game, we really try to restrain from all that, throw your hands up, throw your hat down, stomp around, I maen that type of frustration. It doesn’t do anybody any good.
And it’s time to get on to the next play.
But when it happens and in the evaluation of the game, clearly those are lost opportunities. Those are lost opportunities to have an impact on how the game is going to turn out. Just as if we throw a pass into the end zone and a player drops it, that stands out to everybody; oh, wow, those guys had a touchdown pass dropped. We had those opportunities to change the game with takeaways, they are big circumstances and as mentioned last night, we had one that it would have been a good race to see if (Chase) Minnifield could have been kept from the end zone, on he one he had a chance to intercept and when Denzel had a chance to intercept, which was a drive that was started in our territory and we could have killed the drive right there and the drive subsequently ended in three points. Now you can say the defense did a good job of coming in in difficult circumstances to keep it from being a touchdown and hold it to a field goal, but in reality we had our opportunity to turn it into a zero and on the other end we had an opportunity to turn it into seven.
Right there on those two plays, as we mentioned last night, there was maybe 13 or 14 plays out of 199 that impacted how the game went. And those were two of them and had we made those plays, could certainly had the potential to be a 10‑point swing on the scoreboard with everything else being the same as it was.
Q. Do you give your players any advice about outside chatter?
COACH GROH: Well, one of the things that we tell them before the season ever starts is a team collectively and the players individually have to be prepared to handle both the love and the hate, because both of them come during the course of the season. The players and the team need ‑‑ everybody needs to talk to themselves and the team needs to talk to itself because every week the team is going to get one or the other. Every week. If you’re 12‑0, the team has to be able to tune out the love. And if you’re 0‑12, a team has to be able to tune out the hate. Because either way that affects how the players think and all the players can think about is what they need to do to do their job.
So you don’t start saying that in the locker room after the game or you don’t start saying that the day after the game; you start saying that all year long. And when players come into the program, they have to begin to learn to understand that. And so a player hears it most of the time that he’s here over the course of four or five years.
Q. Obviously with turnovers, you can look back and wonder what could have been. William & Mary also had players behind your secondary and didn’t capitalize. What was happening on those long passes and how easy are those to fix?
COACH GROH: Well, one of them was just a matter of attention on the part of players involved. The attention given to the pattern was not good enough. The other one was just a part of the confusion on the part of one player, actually a play that was practiced during the course of the week when we are in a combination coverage with a bunch and he made a wrong decision and thought the other player was taking him. So clearly he know that’s on video, other teams are going to see it and try to create it. When that worked once, there’s no reason to believe the other team wouldn’t try it again during the course of the game. That was addressed immediately after the series. And addressing it is not enough, we’ll give it some turns in practice here too to make sure it’s physically taken care of.
Q. Just wanted to know what you thought of Vic’s (Hall) first drive where he scored the touchdown in the spread offense.
COACH GROH: That was a pretty exciting play and showed the explosive nature of the player himself and really — that wasn’t a spread play, that wasn’t an I-formation play, it wasn’t a single wing play. That could have happened out of any system. That was just a Vic Hall play all the way and quickly saw the opportunity and had the speed to really make something out of it. So it ss confirmation to us of some of the explosiveness that he brings to the position. Clearly his circumstances were cut short a little bit the other night, so we still have quite a bit to learn yet about Vic as a player in that position.
Q. Given the short field that the defense was faced with often on Saturday, were you satisfied with their efforts Saturday?
COACH GROH: Satisfied is almost not existent I would say in most coaches’ mentality. Certainly satisfied is not a word I ever think or use. But, I thought there were a lot of positives and clearly there were a lot of positives in what the defense did. Certainly typified when they had to go on the field on the seven‑yard line and three plays later, I think there had been three yards gained, and really bowed up. I think that was a test of mental strength at that time, too, as well as just execution because it wasn’t the first time it had happened in the game. It was being called out to really do the same thing they had been called out to do a number of other times. We’ve spoken about any unexpected change of possession, either side – whether you get the ball or you have to go on defense – any unexpected change of possession from the norm that is following a kick or a punt or a kickoff, any unexpected change is a challenge to a team and a unit to prove what they really are. It is a challenge to you offensively, that if you get the ball to, show what you can do with it. It is a challenge with a team defensively, to show what they can do under those circumstances. And the defensive players met those challenges pretty well the other day. That should give them a pretty good sense of confidence. One of the important things after every game is there’s an overall reading that the team takes on the result of the game but there’s also an individual reading that players take. For example a team can win, and a particular player not play very well and he can feel very good about the fact that his team won, but not necessarily very confident in his performance the next week. And it goes the other way around, too. There’s a great deal of disappointment when a player’s team doesn’t win. By on the same token, if a player has played very well in the game, and you’re not just trying to throw him a fish or give him a silver ling. He, in fact, has played very well. Then that player should have the confidence that he’ll have ‑‑ that he’s on the right track to play very well again the next week. There’s a lot of players on that unit who played very well and their individual confidence should be up.
Q. Could you talk about your kickoffs?
COACH GROH: Yeah, we had three of them. The first two were both satisfactory in terms of distance and height. The third one was not really what we were looking for, nor was the coverage. The first two, the height – in other words _ the hang time and the location were good. Given the landmark of where we want to get the 10 cover people inside of was pretty good. I thought one of the significant turning points in the game, really changed the momentum of the game, as we scored the go‑ahead 14‑7 and then got a penalty on the play. So then we had to kickoff from the 15‑yard line, kicked the ball with the shortest amount of hang time that we had had, and we didn’t have as much down-the-field infiltration as on the previous two. The ball got returned to the 42‑yard line and one play later it was at the 36‑yard line. They end up kicking a field goal, but we are ahead 14‑7, you would think it’s 14‑7, you’re going to kick the ball off, the other team is not going to have advantageous field position and now you’re going to have a chance to really grasp the momentum on a very foolish mental error penalty in the end zone and then less than adequate coverage and the momentum swung right back the other way.
So maybe understated in the overall circumstance, but in a lot of ways not reported as such but it had the impact of what a turnover would be.
Q. Did Jameel (Sewell) get that penalty for making a signal with his hands?
COACH GROH: He did. Really in terms of what’s offensive to me, the way the William and Mary player after he was scored was penalized also. What’s offensive to me, what I think is over the edge, is a little different than the way the rule is written but that’s what the players have to understand. I didn’t think there was anything overtly wrong with either player, based on my sensitives to it but clearly that’s not the way it’s called and the players are informed that that’s not the way that it’s called. It’s a very controversial issue last year that some of you might remember with the BYU-Washington game where Washington scored at the end — very controversial, it got a lot of coverage – the Washington player scored to put their team one behind on the last play of the game and exuberantly jumped up and threw the ball up in the air and all he was doing was normal human reaction. His team scored on the last play of the game. Now that’s pretty exciting, to score in the last play of the game.
I remember watching the play on TV or on replay. He made a pretty good play to get there. It was pretty exciting, and anybody who has played any recreational sports, whether you are playing softball and you hit a grand slam or you’re a golfer and you hit a really good shot. This kid jumped up threw the ball in the air and ran over to celebrate with his teammates and the official flagged him. BYU took the penalty, blocked the extra point and won the game. There was a lot of controversy as to whether that should be called. I think every fan and every could would say that’s natural human reaction. There was no intent to call attention to himself.
I thought in a lot of ways, it was natural human reaction the other day. But maybe we’ve got droids that are writing the rules in terms of human reaction. But that’s what the rules are and that’s what players have to understand. That’s why we have officials at almost every practice during training camp and we have the officials talk to the players after practice relative to the position the official has, whether he’s the head linesman or an side judge, umpire or referee. These are the calls I’m charged with making and this is why I make the calls that I do. And in a lot of cases, those gentlemen are simply directed by the supervisors of their conference, this is what you’re going to call. That is not always in sync with the way the coaches see the game. But we are not in charge of the officials. I think that clearly in both cases, each player’s teammates quickly surrounded them so it became a team celebration, which is what they tell you, that if you celebrate as a team, it’s okay. But that’s the world that we live in and that’s the world that we have to accept and accommodate ourselves to.
Now if any of you would like to start a petition, okay, and send it around to the gentleman who is in charge of all this nationally would be much appreciated. And you won’t get fined for it.
Q. I think this is the first time you are playing your second game and your opponent is playing its first. How does that change the dynamic of the game?
COACH GROH: Yeah, I think you’re right. I haven’t thought that through. Well, the big thing is that we recognize that they have had the opportunity to have as many practices as they want to have on this game. We are limited by the amount of practices we can have on the game because our focus really didn’t turn toward this game until last evening and then many players will be off today as is normally the case as is part of our preparation for the game as well as their recovery from the previous game, having worked last night. So there’s the possibility that the opponent could have anywheres as many as twice as many practices for the game as we do. So we have to factor that into our thinking a little bit. On one side of the ball, we tried to get a little head start last night and on the other side of the ball we felt like we still had significant internal issue to get fixed before we moved on.
Q. When you look at what TCU did last year against the run, what stands out, because the numbers are pretty staggering?
COACH GROH: The numbers really point out why they are such a good team. First in the country in rushing defense, first in the country in time of possession, second in the country in overall defense, 12th in the country in overall offense, I think 20th in the country in scoring, I think 8th in the country in turnover margin. In other words, when they get it, they keep it and they end up scoring with it. When the other team has got it, they take it away pretty quickly and don’t give up very many points. So to be No. 1 in the country in time of possession, obviously is one of the reasons why a team is No. 1 in the country in scoring defense. If the other team doesn’t have it and you don’t help them score, our issue the other night wa we helped the other team score. So offensively, we impacted both sides of the scoreboard. We impacted our side of the scoreboard and we impacted their side of the scoreboard. That’s not a good deal, because it’s the defense’s job to keep the other team from scoring. When a part of your team is helping them score then it makes it doubly difficult in terms of keeping the points down and they (TCU) have done a good job in that. They get it, they keep it, they don’t turn it over, and that enables them to put together long drives, keep the ball and then they have been real good at the turnover deal, taking the ball away and then when they take it away and they/ve got it, they don’t give it back again for a long time. So that certainly puts the priority and that’s what’s happened with a lot teams. A lot of teams just don’t have the ball long enough to score enough points.
Q. As a follow up to Jeff’s question, are you able to prepare for them in the summer knowing that it will be the same look?
COACH GROH: Yes. We saw our preparation for that game internally as far as our scouting report worked and was similar with an opening game. We know nothing is going to change. So when we came in yesterday or when we finished our review of the previous game, we did not have to start doing our research or I get the video or ask the video guy if the video is ready on this team yet. Clearly you get to work on it right away since we knew it wasn’t going to change and we were able to put some plans in place some time ago. Now ther are always the things that do change. Teams change from year‑to‑year. Clearly we had to deal with some of those things during the game the other night but that’s expected in the early part of the seaon and it will still be the case in the third game. I’m sure by that time the systems are still involved and they might have some early-season opponents where they didn’t have to do everything that they might have planned to do in a particular game.
Q. With Steve Greer’s 10 tackles as a freshman, were you impressed with his performance?
COACH GROH: Very much so. Very impressed with him. There’s a couple of categories that are part of the makeup of a really good player and thus a really good team. One of the things that has always been part of what we emphasized, and sometimes we hit the target or sometimes certain players hit the target and sometimes we don’t hit the target, and that the saying – “good teams have lots of players who don’t make mistakes.” Now, good teams have lots of players who are doing other little things. Good teams have lots of players who are fast, good teams have lots of players who are big, so on and so forth. Good teams have lots of players who can make mistakes. There can be some RIVALS five‑star guys who jump high and run and have a really good 40‑yard dash time at the Army combine so they get five stars. But when they come to college football, they make a lot of mistakes and they are part of teams that struggle. The point I’m getting to, Steven Greer is one of those players who has the capacity and it’s part of his make up and part of his talent, he takes instruction very well. He applies it very quickly and he’s a player that doesn’t make very many mistakes. He’s where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there. And if he’s not there today, or this play, whatever direction he gets to make an improvement on, he quickly processes it and uses it to do better. He really did a good job of getting ready for the game.
He was well‑prepared for a number of plays that came up as part of the preparation that were even one‑time occurrences in the game, he was right on them. How do we know until he plays in the game? We didn’t know he would be this way either but that was certainly the indications he had been giving to us all through last year and through training camp and that might be part of it now. Clearly the competition is going to step up dramatically this week. For an opener under any circumstances to play the way that he did and be relatively error‑free, other than – we’ll expose him from the category of anonymous from the question last evening – but he was the player who just got to come off the field on third down one time. So that was about his only significant mistake that he made in the game.
Q. They threw a lot of short passes. Was that the way you chose to attack their offense?
COACH GROH: That was the nature of the game we were going against. In grading the tape, there were 24 passes that were thrown that were five yards less ‑‑ five yards or less down the field. In other words, behind the line of scrimmage, or no deeper than five yards down the field. A player can come virtually unblocked, unless he’s coming over the guard or center, a player can come virtually unblock and not get to the quarterback under those circumstances. Plus I think there were four or five plays on third down where William and Mary chose to run the ball so as to not allow us to rush the passer. We stopped four out of those five. So we got what we wanted out of the play, they chose not to run the ball in order to protect the quarterback from any particular rush. They got out of it what they wanted; the quarterback didn’t get attacked. We got out of it what we wanted; we got off the field.
Q. As a follow-up, you said in reference to the penalty afterwards, it was a very foolish mistake ‑‑ but also you said there wasn’t anything wrong with that kind of celebration.
COACH GROH: I personally don’t think either one ‑‑ I made a point to include both players. I don’t think it was over the top. For my personal sensitivities, obviously that’s not the sensitivities of the rule makers, so you have to know what the rules are. The rules say, virtually, there is no room for celebration. Even though they will tell you what the rule is for celebration. Now this is a symbol that this player (Jameel Sewell), in his previous playing time, okay, a few years ago, used upon scoring and was never penalized so apparently we had a particularly sensitive official so this circumstance. But in any case, the point has been made that to players, when you score, just walk away. You’ve got to overcome human nature. But clearly the excitement and the exuberance of the moment, blocked out those feelings.
Q. Do you want to back off on the foolish mental error comment?
COACH GROH: What are you trying to make an issue out of it? It was, it was something that shouldn’t have happened. Now the other player shouldn’t have done it either. It cost his team 15 yards, too. He was celebrating when he went into the end zone.
But you can’t do anything. Was it a foolish mental error on the part of the Washington player? Apparently it was. You just have to know, because you don’t know the mind‑set of the guy who is calling it. They are all different. You get a different guy every week, so all you can do is drop the ball and walk away in order to be safe. That’s all you can do. Otherwise you’re putting yourself and your team in jeopardy and that’s a hard thing for an energetic young player who has just done something positive. You all put yourself in his position; what would you do? Be a grouch?
Q. Who got the penalty for just putting his finger straight up to the sky?
COACH GROH: Wali Lundy was always, praise God when he scored. Wali Lundy was in a game against a MAC team, ran into the endzone and simply pointed at the sky and the official flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct. I said to the official. It was a couple years ago. We can’t even celebrate God anymore? That’s all he’s doing.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the shotgun ‑‑ the fumbles came on balls that never really got to him. Is that an issue at all?
COACH GROH: I think it’s pretty apparent that they are. I think anybody else in this room can answer that question, too. They had an impact on the game. They cost us one lost series because it created a second and 20. Could the ball have been caught? Yes. Should the ball have been in the bull’s eye? Absolutely. That’s the center’s job, put the ball in the bull’s eye. It only going five yards. You ought to be able to do it. The other ball never really got off the ground. How can that happen? It was as befuddling to me as it is to you. I cannot accept it, but I can at least see you snap is over the quarterbacks head and the ball became airborne, it’s hard to understand why the ball didn’t become airborne. It’s not as if we are under center sometimes and under shotgun other times. We have been in shotgun since March of the 27th. It ball never became airborne.
Q. Did it hit his (Jack Shields) leg?
COACH GROH: It never became ‑‑ I mean, I didn’t know what happened. I was like, holy smoke, what happened here. And when I got a chance to study it. The ball just, it was like it was stuck to the ground. Those are the things. Those are the mistakes that change games. And that doesn’t have anything to do with the system that you’re in. There’s a lot of things that I have a reaction to that happened, but I also have a sense of reality to them, too. Two out of the three systems on our team are new ‑‑ and that’s the first time the players have ever been in a competitive situation with them. I told myself in the beginning that there was a degree of patience that was going to have to be exercised and along with that patience, there is going to have to be on my part positively reinforcement to the players. If everything didn’t look the way that I wanted it to look on the first time we did it in practice, the first time that we did it in a game, was to show composure and confidence and belief that it’s going to be good, because that’s what the players are looking for in leadership. But there are certain things that transcend any system that you’re in; being able to snap the ball properly, carrying the ball high and tight so you don’t fumble it, catching punts properly. Those things are – it doesn’t make any difference what your system is. You did that in the previous system and we ran hundreds of snaps in the shotgun in previous years.
So this is something that we have been doing for quite a while. We have caught hundreds of punts in practice, there’s a right way and there’s a dangerous way. It wasn’t whether the player caught the ball, it was how he caught it. He caught it in a very dangerous way such that the odds are almost always that something bad is going to happen. We fumble the ball when it isn’t up high and tight and that’s something we always emphasize. There’s three plays that were worth a lot of points in the game that didn’t have anything to do with the system. Those are the kind of mistakes that, as I said last night, it takes a lot of good plays ‑‑ and it doesn’t many bad plays to lose a game. Those are some of the bad plays that lost the game. And then we had the opportunity to make two really good plays on two interceptions and we didn’t make them. And we had a chance for a non‑offensive touchdown there, which is what the scoreboard is all about and we didn’t do it in that particular case.
Q. Jared Green said during training camp that you were demanding guys be playmakers this year. Do you think you gave your players enough chances to make plays?
COACH GROH: We had two chances on those two interceptions.
Q. I mean offensive playmakers.
COACH GROH: Well, the receivers, there were approximately 40 passes called and when the pass is called it is up to the receivers to get open. The quarterbacks had plenty of chances to run and pass with it, so I certainly don’t think they were inhibited from their opportunity to make plays. Did they execute their opportunities well enough? Clearly had we done so, we would have scored more points.
Q. Did you intend to rely on Vic and Jameel to run so much or was that part of your plan?
COACH GROH: They are two of the better runners on the team. Clearly they had two excellent runs for touchdowns, so in terms of allowing the playmakers to make plays, to inhibit them from doing such would be taking the ball out of their hands in a way the defense would have difficulty doing so.. Some of those runs came on scrambles that you add to the total, but I would say it’s unlikely that we will see a number that high in the future.
Q. I’ve heard coaches who have been involved with the spread offense say that it takes up to a year for the team to get up to speed on it. How far along do you think they are and are you pleased with where they are?
COACH GROH: All I know about how far along we are with it is, clearly we are as far along as we were on Saturday night as we needed to be. How far away that is from the finish line, we’ll just have to wait and see as things play out. Many of the teams that are majoring in this system right now, not being able to say exactly what the reason; but I know a lot of the teams majoring in this system are Big 12 team. While this style of offense now has prolificated throughout high school football, lots of teams are running it. Texas is an area where it is very abundant. In fact the coach now at North Texas achieved tremendous success at it in high school and went directly to the job at North Texas.
Many of the quarterbacks who are playing in the Big 12 in these systems have been in this system nowliterally or eight or nine years because it’s what they played in high school and they came and red‑shirted for a year and now you are seeing the quarterbacks in Missouri and Kansas, for example, the previous three or four years, both those teams had great success after switching to this offense. Those quarterbacks chose their schools and were recruited by their schools principally because they already knew the offense almost before the coaches did. Yeah, I think probably the learning curve is a little bit more significant or a little bit more extreme for those players than if they were players who have had a long‑term background in it.
Q. On Saturday it seemed like you were hesitant to change the gameplan and throw deep passes and use the superior size on the offensive line. Is that the case?
COACH GROH: No, actually I think there was a series there where we went ‑‑ I know a change occurred because we talked about it on the sideline and tried to use these particular pass plays. We put another player in at quarterback to try to accommodate that fact. We can’t use pass plays and then use the lineman to push the ball up the middle at that time. We have to be either running it or throwing it. At that time we decided what we wanted to do, we were not getting the push and the movement that we wanted out of the running game. We wanted to try to major in the passing game and unfortunately we had another one of those non‑system related glitches; on a play in which we had a guy pretty wide open for what would have been a significant gain and the quarterback had difficulty executing the throwing motion and lost the ball. Not only did we lose probably what was going to be significant gain but we lost field position from which they ultimately scored.
So another one of those mistakes, I can understand some of the reads that came a little bit slower as a result of this is the first game in competition with the system, but shotgun snaps and throwing motions, those are things the players have to execute when those things come up.
Q. Utah ran the table last year, BYU just beat Oklahoma, TCU is nationally ranked. What are your overall impressions of the Mountain West?
COACH GROH: It’s a very strong conference. BYU has had great success for a long time. TCU over the last last five or six years, TCU is one of the four or five winningest programs in the country. They finished seventh in the country last year. They have won 10 games or more, something like six out of the last eight years. A very, very strong team. A lot of continuity in what they are doing with their systems. Again, a lot of carryover. You can see that the quarterback they have was the 5A Player of the Year. He played in a similar system to what they are running. This is his third year as a starter with another year to go. So he’s been doing what he’s been doing for a long time. He’s a very good player. I hope we can make it such that you don’t see that for yourself. But watching him on video, just evaluating football players, we are very respectful of him. He’s a really good player. He runs. He throws. You can tell he’s a player that has a great belief in himself. They have as fast a wide receiver as we will probably see this year. They have two 350‑pound tackles, so live will change a little bit for Matt Conrath and Nate Collins come this Saturday. Things will look a little bit different up there. They have a fellow who led the country in sacks last year.
We saw some speed off the edges the other night and we’ll see more speed. Talking to people who are in the Mountain West Conference, they have said to us, here is the exact quote we got from them, “They are the fastest team that we play and they are getting faster.” So the person who told us that sees them every year, and sees them as getting faster than they have been. Again, one of the things people from around the country go to Texas for is speed, and there I think their roster has something like 96 percent of their players are from Texas. So they are finding a good amount of speed there.
Q. Last week you made the analogy with Jack Nicklaus. In regards to your offense, what is the main thing on offense that you will be point toward?
COACH GROH: Good teams have lots of players who don’t make mistakes. That’s the one thing that has to be corrected on that side. There’s a lot less mistakes made, many of which I think we’ve enumerated here this morning.
Q. With Will Barker, does the challenge fall on him on following Hughes?
COACH GROH: At least last year, he was always a left‑side rusher for their defense, so it will be Will. Eugene (Monroe) last year, a little bit the same thing. We went down last year and played Georgia Tech and they had the two touted outside pass rushers. Certainly the way Eugene performed in that game enabled him to solidify his draft status; that is, the scouts could look at him and say, okay, he’s blocked a certain amount of players but they are never going be to NFL pass rushers, here is a guy who is touted as an NFL pass rusher and he really dealt with him. Well, Will had the same kind of player on the other side. I believe it was in that game he was the ACC Player of the Week. That won’t do him any good this week. That won’t help him block this guy because both of them will be on team’s lists. This will be one of those games, that for each player, will give him an opportunity to ‑‑ I’m sure this game by personnel people, those two players ,will get a real good luck.
Q. Of all the turnovers, Mark’s was the one that was the most of a fluke. Other than that, were you pleased with his play?
COACH GROH: Yeah, I thought he did decently. There’s nothing to just take your breath away there. I would say that pretty much for that unit. There was no stand out in a particular area. So across the board, we have to give it our concentration to overall improvement.
Q. Having three quarterbacks sharing the playing time ‑‑ at what point do you just pick one?
COACH GROH: Do you want a calendar date on that? Clearly when one of them shows that he is by far the best option, with the two quarterbacks, who as I mentioned earlier, Vic and Jameel, have amongst their skills the ability to run with the ball. For those teams that have that kind of player, TCU has one of those players. Their quarterback was, I think, the third leading rusher on the team last year. And so when a team ‑‑ you will see a number of similarities in the two teams’ offensive styles. TCU is primarily, more than any other personnel group, they have four wide receivers in the game. They will be in the shotgun almost all the time and sometimes those four wide receivers will turn into five receivers when they go empty. Teams that have the quarterback who has the capacity to run the ball as their quarterback clearly does and as two of our quarterbacks do, the defense does not spread out to match the five wide receivers, then there’s an open player. So the defense, whoever you are, whatever your defensive system is, that spreads the defenses out. And when the quarterback is capable of being a runner as well as a passer, he nearly becomes like the 12th man on offense. So the team has five wide receivers out, and six offensive linemen, and then still have a runner in the backfield, that adds up to 12. And so they do very well with that. That’s one of the significant issues that they are going to have to deal with on defense. Fortunately we had 35 or some‑odd practices of dealing with that with our team. When you have that type of quarterback, it’s a comforting thing to know that you have two of them and that you’re able to utilize one more than you otherwise would if it weren’t for somebody else who could come in and do the same thing. With these two players here, in order to be able to exploit the skills of one, it’s really necessary to get the other one equally ready. Otherwise, if one of them is banged up or unable to go, then the whole system changes. But with two of them we have a great facility to do that. In the case of those two players, I think that will certainly be the case for some time.
Q. Because of the increased amount of turnovers, do you feel that limits you on the defensive end?
COACH GROH: No, I think it certainly could become more relative if it happened later in the game, like the second quarter plays, so I wouldn’t see it as much of a factor. It’s just a question of catch the ball, not catch the ball. Unfortunately, Chase (Minnifield) doesn’t fall into this category. Chase was a very good multiple player. In high school, he played running back, kick returner, defensive back, kicker and punter. So he’s a real football player and he’s a really good athlete and he can really catch the ball.
Denzel, I wouldn’t say has quite the same ball skills as Chase. So it’s a little trickier there. Chase is a very capable catcher. In fact, on last Thursday, he had a very good interception. He was jumping for the ball, body was ‑‑ well the ball was clearly in his hands. Body was a little bit torqued, no reason not to catch the ball. But it’s just one of those unfortunate things. I think sometimes, actually we had an occasion in training camp, with both Chris Cook and Ras-I Dowing found themselves in a similar position and they were running to catch that very same ball and were so aggressive in going for the ball they almost caused themselves no knock the ball down. It really does occur that so many of the interception chances or ball drills, the defensive backs, the circumstances that come up in practice are on deeper balls and we did set up drills in training camp for the corners for this; that is my point being, that a lot of catches that they make on interceptions in those were defensive backs running away from the line of scrimmage and they are catching the ball this way, almost the same fashion as a wide receiver. They have less opportunities in practice to catch the ball coming downhill. Linebackers catch the ball coming downhill. Seldom catch it going backwards. It’s the other way around for defensive backs and I can only conjecture that maybe that had something to do with it. We’ll be back to that same sideline drill here again this week.
Q. I’ve heard you talk about the shotgun in short yardage situations before. What about the quarterback sneak?
COACH GROH: Overall on quarterback sneaks, kind of my feeling overall, now we have used them on occasion. I’ve always felt that runners run, passers pass, catchers catch, this is it one of the most critical plays in the game when you do it, and all of the teams I’ve ever been associated with, it’s the least‑practiced play. It is hard to simulate in practice unless you are going to do it in the scrimmage, the actual dynamics of the plays, much less so than other plays. So, when the game is on the line and you have a critical fourth down play, I’ve always been reluctant to run a play that gets less practice turns or less full‑speed practice turns than all of our other plays. Perhaps I’m influenced by the fact that I can remember two times in games that I was involved with as a defensive coach and our team had the ball and called time out before a critical short yardage play. After all of that time to think about it, decided to run the quarterback sneak, and in each particular case, the quarterback sneak was snuffed out and in each particular case, we had a running back on our team who will eventually be voted into the Hall of Fame. Those particular kinds of experiences color our thinking.
Q. One of the keys to making your offense go is your wide receivers. Were you pleased with their work and what needs to happen to make them really go?
COACH GROH: There’s a lot of refinement necessary there yet, in terms of the precision of the route running. We’re looking for a lot more precision in that, and probably a lot more definitey, and what I mean by that is just the player being very confident at very high‑rated speed which opens up holes in the defense faster. That’s on the list of ‑‑ back to the question about priority targets for improvement, that’s amongst the areas that are relatively young crew over there. (Javaris) Brown’s first game, (Matt) Snyder’s first game, (Quintin) Hunter and (Tim_Smith, their first look at it; we are hoping they are able to challenge for playing time soon. The availability of these young players who have not been in this type of play previously in the program, not very many of them, would enable us to do some things that, frankly in the past, would have been ill‑advised. But now that being the case, I’m very anxious for those things.
They are one of the things that I have to make sure that I’m not being overly patient but in the same times being realistic in pushing for more and faster.
Q. You spoke in particular about two nine-win teams that rebounded from a season-opening loss. Is there a common thread with those teams?
COACH GROH: That is among the things that we addressed yesterday for clarification’s sake. I told the players we had two teams ‑‑ in 2002 and 2007 that lost the first game. In fact the 2002 team lost the first two games and both went on to win seven games in a row and cumulatively won nine games. That history doesn’t mean that that’s a resource to do it again other than to point out that this has been done; it can be done. What they did have in common, they stay unified; they stayed consistent in their approach. They kept working and they kept believing in what they were doing and in the system and they used practice every day to get better and to keep marching forward. Probably I don’t think ‑‑ as I don’t really remember, but I think it’s probably unlikely that from outside the walls of the building that those two teams were getting a great deal of positive reinforcement either. But they got it to where it was necessary and that was through the relationships that they had with each other and the confidence that they had in the system.
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