Al Groh Press Conference Transcript
QUESTION: Coach we talked about after the game your offense and your defense combined played probably was the best we’ve seen all season. Can you talk about how things are starting to come together for you guys and how you go forward from here?
COACH GROH: We’ve seen, I would say, two and a half games of positive progress, say half because not really speaking of the 30 minutes of that third game. But there was a good deal of positive progress just not enough to call it a complete game obviously with the result.
So we just, you know, we seem to be kinda getting our legs underneath us. It’s a long ways to go yet but the key thing now is for us to establish for ourselves what level of consistency of performance we’re going to get.
To have done it a few times doesn’t necessarily lock it in so we’re going to have two really ‑‑ I think we feel significantly challenged to try to step up and do that.
QUESTION: With two big cornerbacks who play man-to-man, does that allow you to call plays differently on defense?
COACH GROH: Their size is very beneficial, Zach, but really the key thing there is their athletic skills. We would probably do a number of the same things with Ras‑I and Chris if they didn’t have the same size but if they had the same athletic ability. Certainly we try to take advantage of what they do have and whether we’re playing zone or man, some of which we play both, whether they’re playing zone or man we want to accommodate what those guys do best.
QUESTION:You started the season with a large pool of receivers that were all fairly young. Who have you seen step up and emerge as the season has gone on?
COACH GROH: Clearly Kris Burd is making some plays for us, and he would be probably the one to put in that category. I don’t think there has been anybody else with enough plays to say that they’re in that category yet, but Chris has done it here now three games in a row so he would be deserving of going into that “emerging receiver” category.
QUESTION: Kris Burd was not a guy who had a lot of major-college offers coming out of high school. What would have been the major knock on him?
COACH GROH: He was, just raw vertical speed. Chris was ‑‑ we’re very familiar with his program. He was in our camp, and we can see what his work ethic was, and how he took instruction. He was one of those players, Jeff, as with many that just fit us.
QUESTION: He may not have that raw talent but he seems –
COACH GROH: He’s got good quickness and he knows how to find openings in it and we’ve had a lot of good players here that were not necessarily high named players, but were guys who fit us well, fit our program, fit this school and that’s an important thing in putting your team together.
QUESTION: Jameel has a lot of experience and so does Chris Turner. It seems like the offenses have caught up in the ACC. Is that strictly because of the quarterback experience?
COACH GROH: You’re exactly right, 11 teams played Saturday and eight of them scored 40 points or more. I know that ‑‑ I watched the Maryland/Wake Forest video, I saw our game, I saw a little bit of Florida State/Georgia Tech, I read about Duke/N.C. State, and in every one of those cases ‑‑ and I’m sure I’m leaving some out but in every one of those cases the quarterbacks had some real knock‑out days.
And usually that high scoring is a function of quarterback play. I thought Riley Skinner was outstanding, Lewis at Duke to go 40-for-50 must have had some great throws, so it was certainly a function of that.
QUESTION: Coach, it seems like Jameel and Vic have effective chemistry out there. Is that what you and Greg envisioned when they were out there together it would look?
COACH GROH: I would like to ‑‑ I think over time here, Jay, we’ll see what type of connection they have. A lot of it was a function of Vic was pretty open. Most of us would have had good chemistry with Jameel on that play. (Chuckles.)
QUESTION: Coach, you’ve run a lot of two tight end sets in the last couple of weeks, and there is only four tight ends on the roster, if you wanted to stick with those, is Rashawn a true tight end or would you have to go to some different looks if one of those guys were to go down?
COACH GROH: No, he’s a back.
QUESTION: Vic is not an experienced screen receiver. You mentioned the ‑‑ is it good to have a guy who has been through it with so many young guys on your receiving core?
COACH GROH: The answer to many questions like that, Paul, is you certainly wouldn’t say “no.”
So if it’s not “no” I guess it’s “yes” but how “yes” it is, how much they’re paying attention to what a veteran player does, but one of the beneficial things for young players is ‑‑ whether it’s within the total team or within their position to see those players who really know how to go about their business and just to watch them and find out, hey, that’s how you do it in college football, that’s how you come in early and watch video, that’s how you train in the offseason and that’s how you practice for every play because there is a big difference, okay?
One thing, the competition just for playing time is so much greater. Most of the players who were recruited to play college football it’s because they were the best player on their team, certainly the best player at their position, as such they were probably playing pretty early in their career and now all of the sudden the line at their position is full of guys exactly like them.
So how do you compete with playing time with the guys on your team and the other guys got there the for the same reason so how to practice and play on a consistent basis is kind of a new thing.
Now this is a player that had that attitude when he got there. Perhaps Vic profited by watching some other players, but he was one of those guys already. He was a high‑energy, high‑motor player. Jeff asked about Kris Burd before having worked with him many camp we could see he was one of those players, so when I talked about guys that were good fits for us, both of those players would fall into that category.
QUESTION: You have commented and the players have, too, that the team has practiced better and that these good performances the last two weeks are a result of better work in practice. Given that you’re not always one’s-versus-one’s, what makes a good practice?
COACH GROH: I guess it’s probably ‑‑ the last question and the answer would segue right into this. Players need to learn how to practice at this level, and collectively and, therefore, the team does every year, the more veteran players the more players n whom it should be engrained, but college football has such a rotation that I would say most every year, most teams could talk about the young players that they have on it. Essentially 25 percent of your team is new every year anyway, so I think it’s a standard thing. It’s part of the life circumstance of college athletics.
But it’s how to really develop that mentality as an individual player that every play of every practice is important and players who practice on that basis and learn how to “rev it up” they tend to play that way in the game. We do tend to do a good deal of ‑‑ during certain segments of each practice working each ‑‑ working our first units against each other for the competitive nature of it. We ask each player to challenge the player on the other side, challenge him to perform, in doing so we will find out how well the play really does work.
If you’re just a guy absorbing the block or a blocking dummy over there with a real helmet on then we don’t know whether the play is working or not and, plus, it doesn’t force the guy who is trying to execute the play to get any better.
I know a number of ‑‑ we did a great deal of that last year and a number of the players have commented about how that level of competition was a factor in improvement of the play of the team throughout the year. So we tend to do a good amount of that.
QUESTION: Coach, what elements of the spread have you retained and do you notice a comfort level in the players kinda going back to what you guys have done over the last few years and what they’ve done over the last few years?
COACH GROH: We certainly have a lot more accumulated turns in some of the things that have been successful over the years so obviously the veteran players, the guys who have been around have a better sense of it.
Now, Tim Smith and Torrey Mack and Colt Phillips and those kind of players, they don’t know any difference. They weren’t here for the old and they haven’t been here very long for the new. So it’s only a certain element of the team to which that would apply anyway. But I would say there is probably a good blend of the two circumstances right now.
QUESTION: Al, can you talk about Simpson, what you think makes him such a good back? What made you go after him? He seems like he’s not the stereotypical back that you usually get.
COACH GROH: Yeah, the two things about him ‑‑ really, Jerry, it’s the same answer to both questions. Amongst the things that we do like in backs and in all positions, but amongst the things we like in backs is versatility. As a high school player, he caught a lot of passes, he returned kicks, he ran from scrimmage, he played some defense, he was a good basketball player, you know, he ran track, he was an all‑around athlete who showed a variety of athletic skills and football skills.
To bring up ‑‑ Wali Lundy had a good level of versatility, one year he caught over 50 passes, scored 51 touchdowns, Alvin Pearman was a good kick returner for us, good on screens, good from scrimmage, so we prize versatility in that position, particularly that one and he has good vision, sees the flow of the defense and has a good sense of when that flow is going to continue and that there is a backdoor cut and maybe when that flow isn’t fast enough to cut him off in the direction that he’s going.
When he makes good, quick decisions that’s when he runs in the fashion in which he has been running. As we discussed, whatever did it ‑‑ and I’m not sure he really has an answer to it, either, but he got away from that type of definitive cutting last year, but when he played that way, in ’07 and the way he’s been playing this year he’s more definitive with it. One of the things you have to do with a player like that or with any back but is not overcoach the cuts, because not every cut is going to be perfect. There will be some that you might want to have back but as we have over the years reminded all the different running back coaches, if most of us can see it the way those running backs can, then we would have been running backs. But none of us can really see it that way.
There is certain “you shouldn’t do’s” in there but more or less you have to give ’em their head and let ’em make their decisions. So it was those very things, Jerry that attracted us to him.
QUESTION: Coach, what have you seen from Maryland so far in the season that worries you?
COACH GROH: One is their return game. Torrey Smith, he’s one of the really exciting dynamic players in the Atlantic Coast Conference and he’s one of those versatile players of which we speak. He has runs reverses, he’s caught the ball, he’s returned kicks, he does a variety of things.
He’s not just a receiver, but he’s got good elusiveness, he’s got good vertical speed. Early in his career I think he’s around 4th or 5th in the history of the ACC in kickoff return yardage.
This isn’t about the coach has to talk about who is good on the other team, the numbers speak for themselves early in his career. In all likelihood if all of us keep kicking the ball to him if he’s 4th or 5th by the time he’s finished he has a chance to be at the top. Dynamic player. They have a veteran quarterback who knows the offense very well who has experience and has had some real big games with them.
Defensively they’re certainly out of the norm from what we have played against here recently which have been more conventional 4‑3 defenses, so we have work to do on that particular phase of things.
QUESTION: I think ever since you put in that punting formation for the Gator Bowl you have not had a blocked punt, and you’ve had some good punts from the rugby punt. Why did you go to it and how do you decide which formation to use?
COACH GROH: Doug, it got our attention because it was becoming increasingly popular around the country. Every time we would turn on a video either we were ‑‑ not every time but frequently we were putting the video on and getting ready to play against it.
QUESTION: The rugby punt?
COACH GROH: Just the overall shield punt and the elements that go with it. So we were having to get ready for it or the team that we were preparing for had just played against it, and one of the things that ‑‑ of the two things that were noticeable about it with teams all over is that there were very few punts getting blocked and very few punts getting returned. One of the things it does ‑‑ the spread punt ‑‑ the history of the spread punt, it came about when the NFL changed the rules.
And when the rule change said that you could only release two players down field before the snap of the ball. So once that rule change came, the NFL said, well, if we can only release two players before the kick of the ball we better put them out there wide where they have a lot of room to release, thus was born the modern spread punt, it wasn’t because coaches said this was the very best way to do this, it was because the rules dictated that was the only way to it.
Also by rule now ‑‑ it’s not the same rule in college football but it’s the same protection but de facto is makes it happen. And that requires that the blockers on the line of scrimmage have to retreat in order to make the different pick‑ups, if you’re retreating you’re not getting off on the snap of the ball. So what this formation does is because of the shield behind and the different set of rules it allows all the blockers, whether they have an assignment or they’re uncovered to come aggressively off the ball and therefore there is quicker vertical coverage down the field on kicks.
So that is certainly an advantage, and it’s an advantage to be moving forward rather than be moving backwards. And with that as has happened with lots of different things, whether it’s an offense or defense, one an idea starts and coaches take it and are creative with it, then grows the variety of different formations that we’re now seeing.
You all probably saw the most extreme from Indiana the other day in which they had a few players around center and quite a few spread out wide with the idea being if the defense doesn’t accommodate those players there is the threat that somebody is going to catch the ball and throw it to one of them so you have to cover them as if they are wide receivers, which, in fact, they are, and that takes players away from rushing the punter, at the same time it has more players spread out and by the style of punt now are able to take off on the snap of the ball so you get more coverage from them.
So probably if you ask the question of most people who were employing that, everybody’s answer would be similar to that.
QUESTION: What about the rugby punt?
COACH GROH: That came about as another part of the creativity and the innovation that people did with it. It was to change ‑‑ as teams do with their quarterback that sprint out in order to change the passing point so that particular pressures that are aimed at the middle of the pocket now maybe the quarterbacks outside the pocket and it negates the pressure, it’s the same idea, teams do it to try to change the kick point as well as get a type of kick that has that roll which, again, makes it more difficult to return and cuts down on that particular challenge.
QUESTION: It seems that Chase Minnifield does not have the fair catch in his repertoire. Is that something that comes from the coaches or is it hoping to get a halo violation or is he just doing it?
COACH GROH: There is no official halo violation anymore, player has to be given a reasonable opportunity to catch the ball which you can see that “reasonable” means that the defender can get quite close to him, it’s really the one call that doesn’t occur, which is actual kick interference. He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability to catch it, he’s got a good level of courage to deal with whatever is impending so we just ‑‑ it’s one of those things we kinda leave it up to him and we talk about what makes good decisions.
It’s not a question of Laissez-faire coaching but it’s not micromanaging the circumstance and allowing a player to use his skills.
QUESTION: How familiar were you with Torrey Smith in high school and did you foresee him becoming the player he is now?
COACH GROH: Clearly if we foresaw him being the type of player that he is now, he would be returning kicks for Virginia. So, we’re not above admitting that there is a player that certainly has turned out to be superior to what many people thought, including ourselves. He’s ‑‑ regardless of what the circumstance was in the past he’s a superior college football player.
QUESTION: Would Simpson need to practice to play or does a player with his experience even need to practice before a game?
COACH GROH: Pretty much would be the case. You would want him to familiarize himself ‑‑ mostly, Zach, in the area of pass protection. The runs are going to be pretty much the same. Particularly because Maryland does bring a variety of different‑looking schemes which will be challenging, not only to the offensive line, but particularly to the backs.
Those are the guys who often have the dual pick‑up, lineman, if they stay with their roles ‑‑ where linemen get in trouble is they get disconcerted by different moving parts, and a guy will get off a play he should have stayed on because he thinks, oh geez, I’ve got to take this guy. Backs often have a lot more dual pick‑up or moving linebackers, and they’ve got to sort it out so that will be the particular issue there.
QUESTION: Now that Vic is playing both ways, how do you manage his practice time?
COACH GROH: Kind of like a tennis ball. You know, we do, we kind of bat him back and forth from field to field, and we do try to stagger things, so in the past for example both offense and defense would be working on goal line at the same time and both would be working on third down.
Because he’s not an integral part of either goal line, but is important to third downs, maybe the offense will work on goal line while the defense works on third downs, and he will go over to the defense, and when the defense is working on goal line and don’t need him, he goes up to the offense for third down. And we just try to make sure that he gets the plays that he needs on each side. So, it’s worth a few more minutes of organization because he brings a lot to both sides, we just have to ‑‑ it’s not complicated, it just takes time management.
QUESTION: How much of Jameel’s improved play the last couple of weeks is kinda him getting the rust off, how much of it is the blended offense that he was more familiar with? How much is the running game and maybe how much is his preparation has gotten better?
COACH GROH: Preparation, running game, rust, and familiarity, I would say about 25 percent of each.
QUESTION: Coach, after the game you alluded to the fact that going up to College Park is typically one of the more challenging experiences you guys go to every other year. What is it about this rivalry, understanding you take every game the same, what is it about this rivalry that makes it different?
COACH GROH: In most conferences, Mark, when you have border teams play, it’s usually pretty traditional rivalry, in the Big 12 you’ve got Kansas and Missouri; in the Big 10 you have Michigan and Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois, so most of those border school rivalries are amongst each schools most significant, whether it’s students come from both sides of the border or people graduated from one school and get a good job offer in the state of the other school, that’s pretty common in most of these rivalries.
QUESTION: Coach, you touched on Jameel’s success over the past couple of weeks. How much better do you think he can get over the course of the rest of the season?
COACH GROH: Let me get my crystal ball up here! (Chuckles.) We certainly don’t want to put a cap on that, but that would be hard for me to speculate. If I could do that I would buy stocks low and sell high.
QUESTION: You mentioned Mikell’s variety of athletic experiences he had in high school, another one of your players like that is Cam Johnson. Can you talk about how he’s progressed in his first season as a linebacker?
COACH GROH: Yeah, really, you really have wrote the first paragraph of my answer, just talking about if people are familiar with him, you know what David was talking about, he’s one of the outstanding ‑‑ in one of the outstanding basketball leagues in the country, was a real good player, most are familiar with how good DeMatha is historically in that league, well Gonzaga is in that same league, they went 37‑0 and won the big Catholic School national tournament at the end of the year.
And he was one of the best players on the team. Most of his high school was at wide receiver and safety, but he was a player with a lot of athletic skill and obviously a lot of height and good versatility that just the way nature usually works we could see was going to grow out of all of those things, Mother Nature lived up to her reputation and fortunately that was the case and he’s gone from being in the lower 200s when we first met him to being in the plus 250s now and obviously bringing that same level of athletic skill.
Sports makes ‑‑ basketball was the same way, we could see that when you watched him play, he had a sense of how to move and how to get open, when to be off-side on rebounds and when to be in front of the basket, sports made sense and ball movement and all those things and it’s been the same way in football, the game makes sense to him.
There is something to be learned on his part every day, even if it’s not something that’s taught David in the meetings it’s something that happens on a play in practice that you couldn’t forecast but now that it’s there, there is a good teaching moment. He gets it right away. Whereas there are some players particularly those that are at a relatively new position for them, maybe you’ve got to go in and show ’em the video the next day and explain it to ’em, he gets it right there.
If you’ll repeat that play, make a mark on the practice schedule, okay, if we have time I’m going to repeat play 14 so Cameron gets a chance at what we just talked about, if you repeat play 14, he’s usually right on it. Same thing in the game when we talk about things on the sideline during the game that have just occurred, if they occur later in the game or in a subsequent series he’s usually on it pretty good.
So his capacity to do that is excellent. There is a lot more for him to be exposed to in that his season was pretty well cut short last year he’s a second‑year player without the benefit of most of his first year, so we’re very well pleased with the position that he’s in right now and see significant growth potential within that ‑‑ I would say on a daily basis because of his capacity to get it.
Really kind of the way he was, we ‑‑ I remember the day that Mike London and I went to the school. I walked out like, whoa! I loved this guy! The action wasn’t that ‑‑ it was probably more basketball action on him than football at that particular point but you’re right. When we saw ‑‑ I mean that was one of the guys who fit what we’re looking for, it wouldn’t have made any difference if nobody was interested in him, he fit what we were looking for.
QUESTION: Since we started the press conference Ras-I Dowling was named defensive player of the week and Torrey Smith was the specialist of the week for Maryland.
COACH GROH: That will be a good match‑up.
QUESTION: Another guy from the Catholic League, Nick Jenkins, his stats don’t jump off the page, but what kind of year is he having?
COACH GROH: Very good. He’s one of the tough‑minded and physically gritty players on the team. Of course that’s necessary to play that position. It wouldn’t fit everybody but he really likes it. And it’s a position which some players can have ‑‑ whether it’s as a college player, NFL player it’s a position in which some guys can have a terrific career and it might be their only position. He’s one of those players. You know, he’s clearly not ‑‑ he’s a defensive lineman who is a nose. He’s not an outside rush end but it fits him well and he’s going to have ‑‑ he’s the kind of player we need.
And we’re the kinda team that players like Nick need, because we’ve got a spot for them that’s unique to which most are offering him and he’s got a talent unique to what we’re looking for, so we’re fortunate to have him and to think he has so many more games ‑‑ he’s played very well at each stage for a player who is in the early stages of his career, which I guess until a guy kind of belies the idea that just because a player is not a five‑year veteran he can’t be a proficient player.
QUESTION: What would you consider the best nose tackle that you had here?
COACH GROH: By the time he was finished, Andrew Hoffman was a good nose tackle. He was a player that really didn’t fit the pro-type body wise ‑‑ he would have been a good end for us, also, but we had other ends at the same time and it was a way for us to get everybody in there at the same time.
QUESTION: Coach you talk about your five games in your season, in the ACC you’re one of two teams who doesn’t have a loss in the conference, talk about the conference play.
COACH GROH: Well it looks like it’s shaping-up as some of the previous races that at the early stage, it’s anybody’s race. The two divisions look a little different but in any case it still looks like it’s going to be a run to the finish. I haven’t actually seen a lot of the teams play very much, so I know the results but ‑‑ especially those teams that we haven’t had reason to overlap with their opponents and their videos, I haven’t seen ’em very much.
As I say, I know what the standings look like, I don’t know how some of the teams are playing so it would probably be outside my level of awareness to try to tell you much else about that.
QUESTION: Coach, due to the success you had recently and the success that you’ve had against Maryland, do you feel that there is confidence around your team heading into this game?
COACH GROH: I think the players feel positive about themselves concerning what they’ve done the last few weeks, and they can see themselves getting better.
You know, the players are pretty smart, they’ve got eyes and ears and they can see ‑‑ they don’t always need the coach to tell ’em. When a player can see that he can do things better than he could do them before, sure, that makes everybody feel better, whatever we’re doing, so I think we feel positive about ourselves in those circumstances. I think it’s unlikely that any of us feel that previous games with Maryland have any bearing on how this game is going to go. This one is about the level of preparation that we have, how everybody understands and embraces the plan and most particularly how we execute on Saturday.
QUESTION: In speaking about player development you said there were certain players that you could see would be contributors to the team but would not start until around mid‑season. Is that starting to happen? Who are those players?
COACH GROH: We spoke last evening, there was a question about Zane Parr, he certainly is one of those players. He was a few plays ‑‑ actually last year on the nickel and dime was a player that because of his athletic skills we could see where he would fit but the role didn’t really take.
His playing time decreased there. He wasn’t getting much time on the regular defense, then he hurt his knee and was lost for the season. Spring practice was okay, but found his footing and got some traction with his game and has come on very strong, doing a real nice job. He’s one of the players that here repeatedly, Zach on Thursdays ‑‑ the Thursday video should highlight the teams preparation and the players’ preparation, in other words, everything that’s been covered during the course of the week happens on Thursday. There have been a number of Thursdays, man, where we said, wow, this guy has had one of the better practices of the week.
So he is one of the those players who it was discussed earlier about practices and the like, he’s one of those that has learned how to practice like a college player. He’s prepared for the games and improving his game and as y’all can see by watching him play it’s showing up in terms of production.
He would be a player to come to mind. I would say that we talked about chase, somebody asked about Chase Minnifield, but he’s one of those players that we can see that happening with, Landon Bradley on the offensive line is one of those players who’s game continues to progress. He went against that Quinn down at North Carolina, who is a terrific player and it won’t get much more challenging than that for him over the course of the rest of the season and the next few years, but that was a big challenge to be exposed to and then he came back with these two guys this week who had real credentials, those two kids from Indiana that wasn’t the coach talking about, we’re playing against the greatest guys in the history of the universe, these guys had credentials, they had been nominated for national awards and they flipped him, so he and Will got each of them during the course of the day, he handled that nicely. He’s another player similar to what we talked about with Cam Johnson, he’s another player amongst his skills are his ability to take instruction and put it to use and that’s a significant skill in a kid becoming a good player.
Those are the things that no rating service can tell you. For that matter, lots of coaches in the evaluation, it’s difficult to come across that. In fact, unless you really know the people that you’re asking the questions of, it’s really hard to get that. You certainly can’t get that by watching a video. If you get somebody’s combine times, that can’t tell you how well the player can pick things up. We’ve had a couple of players here over the course of time that have been amongst our best ‑‑ have had amongst the best grade point averages on the team. They couldn’t play because they just couldn’t get the football, make those split‑second, on‑their‑feet decisions. But they’re on the academic honor roll. It’s a different type of decision-making. And when Landon is one of those players at the early stages of his physical development and not ready to go into the game it was apparent that he was going to be able to play the game. That’s another thing that attracted us to Cam even when he was much smaller than he is now, he had good athletic ability for the position and he was really ‑‑ he was a sponge for information, and Dave was working with him in the camp just as he is here.
He was very impressed with how quickly he could learn things and that’s such an important thing at that position. Those are a few of the guys that I’m sure I’ve left out a few, they’re the only guys that are improving on the team, Zach we probably would not have gotten to where we are but those are guys that are significant.
QUESTION: Every team has lots of guys that are cause for concern, but when you face a team that has its backs against the wall, is that something extra that you look at?
COACH GROH: No, we go ‑‑ I don’t really ‑‑ look, I’m having a hard time coaching this team, you know, just taking care of one team. I don’t have much time to try to think about what’s going on with another team. I think most coaches are probably that way. Coaching this team is a full‑time job much less trying to think about the mind‑set of another team.
From that standpoint since you only get 12 chances at this, I think we’re pretty accurate in assessing that every team is going to be pretty desperate to win every game. How many of those can you afford to give away?
QUESTION: You were spoiled early in your tenure by having a quarterback who completed around 70 percent of his passes. Is Jameel capable of completing 60 percent of his passes on a steady basis?
COACH GROH: Well, he’s had those kind of ‑‑ he had those kind of games in ’07 and principally as he began to pick it up, but kind of back to what David was asking about the quarterbacks in the league, one of the things that you can see with ‑‑ every year is there are certain teams because of their stature in college football, they got a good quarterback every year. USC has a good quarterback every year. Ohio State has a pretty good quarterback every year. Texas has a good quarterback, those kind of places, that’s where the quarterbacks are going. All the rivals, top-5 quarterbacks in the country, that’s where they are.
There are a lot of teams that run their offense and defense about the same from year‑to‑year. That is pretty good. But the results aren’t always the same. A team that I would cite to you would be Michigan State. Michigan State has been ‑‑ the reason I cite them is because I know some of their people, I follow what they’re doing, the secondary coach there is a guy that I once coached.
Everybody out there tells me they’re doing a really good job coaching, they’re recruiting really well. Their quarterback last year is now the back‑up quarterback in New England so they’re going through a quarterback transition, they’re probably not scoring like they did when they had a guy who was good enough to be Tom Brady’s back up. But that doesn’t mean they’re not playing the same quality of overall football.
And I didn’t know this until last week but somebody told me in the Notre Dame versus Michigan State game is Michigan State had a guy open and he overthrew him. If Brian Hoyer was still playing for Michigan State he wouldn’t have overthrown him and they would have had a great victory. I think you see that with the great places, always looking for that type of player. We’re fortunate to have a player like Matt Shaub who was 70 percent yesterday, against the highest level of competition so he’s staying up there around 65 percent or so throughout his career.
We were talking about quarterbacks with the staff the other day and I mentioned Chad Pennington, who I am familiar with because we drafted him when I was with the Jets, and I happened to hear this recently, but for all the great quarterbacks in the league, Sammy Vaughn, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Chad Pennington has the highest completion percentage of any quarterback in the history of the league.
It’s no coincidence that every team that Chad’s been on has been a good team. Marshall won two or three national championships when he was there. If you’re in one of those places and Chad Pennington is there, that’s your time to make hay because they don’t come around all the time. So we’re in that circumstance and the teams that are scoring in our league are teams that either have high‑talent quarterbacks or kids who have been in the system for a long time and have developed their skills and got the reads and know where to go with the ball and they’re proficient in their accuracy and that’s what produces points.
It’s those guys that you can get open and they hit ’em when they’re open. And you try to scheme up a lot of stuff and you get ’em open and you just miss ’em, you don’t miss ’em by much you just miss ’em, it affects what the scoreboard looks like. That’s how points get scored. He’s had those kind of games, he had ’em a couple of years ago, what I think Jameel’s up side is, I’ve always been a Jameel fan. We’ve always felt that he had tremendous ability to have a highly versatile game, which he has demonstrated on many occasions. I would certainly never be the person that would put any limitations on how high his game can rise.
QUESTION: Al, Will Barker was talking about how frustrated the line me know have been with themselves and how determined they were to get things turned around in practice. Can you sense that frustration as a coach? How do you guys go about helping them to get to where they feel like they need to be?
COACH GROH: Jerry, I wouldn’t say I sense it as frustration. I guess that’s what was the catalyst to what I did see. Staff wise what we did see was very determined effort on their part, but which really didn’t make that group any different than a lot of other positions that wanted to see our team play better.
It was a real strong determination just to keep grinding and I think that’s occurred collectively within each position either from the reinforcement or whatever that the players got from their teammates to do so.
QUESTION: How cognizant are you of crowd size, and what role does the role of a college coach have in responsibility of helping to put fannies in the seats?
COACH GROH: The head coach’s role is however extensive it’s asked to be. Whether it’s in the area of academic counseling or recruiting or boosters, or fans in the stands. We are happy for the fans. We are appreciative for the fans who are there for us and for the players and as you can see this is a high‑energy, high‑character bunch of kids who are deserving of all the support that anybody would choose to give them.
QUESTION: Maryland has been using Turner a little more to run the last couple of weeks or so. How much of a different dimension does that give them and how much of a different look is that for you?
COACH GROH: He’s been effective doing that and has opened some things up and certainly when a player has shown at that position just as we do with our players sometimes, those one‑back formations are actually two‑back formations, you can’t consider the quarterback just to be the quarterback. We dealt with that in a number of games this year so it’s certainly a factor. That’s part of the thinking of some of those teams that employ some degree of this so‑called “Wildcat” formation.
Those quarterbacks who are in the pocket as a quarterback, if they’ve got another dimension it makes them that much more difficult and so, too, do those backs that the teams but back there in this Wildcat, if the player has the capability to throw the ball it makes for ‑‑ no matter who is back there, it’s the old deal about having balance with the things that you can do and the more versatility in the scheme the more challenging it is for the defense.