Nov. 1, 2010
"Well, let's start by just reviewing the last game. Really not a lot different than how I felt after the game.
"We played with a lot of good, competitive team spirit. We showed more resolve than we ever had in the second half after a disastrous opening third quarter. Offensively, some good things throwing the ball for 11 yards an attempt. The third downs were good. But it ultimately turned on our inability to run the ball, which was disappointing. We really struggled to block them, and I didn't think our runners ran very well. And the sacks and the turnovers, which are just devastating to any team.
"On defense, it was a very similar script as Alabama. Played pretty well and then give up five just huge plays, and three of them in the fourth quarter, which was the difference in the game. It all came down to either poor execution of the defense or an inability to tackle a runner, and we've got to get better at those things.
"Looking ahead here this week, I know there's a lot of talk about November and Tennessee in November and all those things. But we're not really playing November. We have Memphis this week, and all of our focus needs to be on Memphis. They're struggling the same way we're struggling. So it's two teams searching for a good win. I expect them to play their best because they have a lot of Tennessee guys on the team, and I know they'll be ready to go. It's important that we go out there and play four quarters and finish a game on the road, and that's what we'll be trying to do this week.
"On the injury front, not a lot came out of the game. Marsalis Teague and Daniel Lincoln are still day-to-day, and we'll find out more this week. Montori Hughes is still hobbling around with an ankle; that's why he's not playing much right now. Herman Lathers seems to be OK. He's day-to-day. We'll keep working Nyshier Oliver back in practice, but who knows how he is.
"I know everybody wants to talk about the quarterback situation, so let's go ahead and get that out. We're going to start Tyler Bray this week, and I just feel like that's the best thing for our team right now. I had a real good conversation with Matt (Simms). Matt is a team guy, Matt's a high-character guy, Matt's a competitor and Matt's emotional. He was very apologetic for what happened after the game, and I really respect the fact that he came to me and said that. The decision, just as an aside, has nothing to do with comments. It's strictly a business evaluation of our team and where we need to go. I'm kind of putting that out as a separate issue, because I know there's been a lot of talk about his comments after the game.
"But he's a competitor, and he's emotional. And it's like I said earlier, I wouldn't expect a quarterback to be happy about getting pulled out of a game. But I do believe that he'll be a great team player, and we're going to need Matt. I told him that. It's not necessarily that Tyler has done everything he should do to earn a spot. It's just that's the decision we're making, and it may be four series into the game or three series into the game that we've got to go to Matt. So we'll just let the game dictate that and see how Tyler handles the starting role. That's about it on personnel.
"See if I missed anything you all might ask. You all go ahead. We'll go from there."
You said it felt right right now to put Tyler in there. Can you kind of give us more on the evaluation that makes you feel that way now?
"Without going into too much detail, you know, the facts are the facts. We've won two games. Even though we showed some signs of doing a lot better things against a good team last week, we have a lot of sacks and turnovers. That's not to say it's Matt's fault. But we just feel like we need to change things up to eliminate some of the bad plays that are happening. When you have the number of sacks we've had and the turnovers, even an extremely deep, experienced, talented team would be losing. So we can't afford to have anything like that."
As far as Simms and the number of sacks, I know you've indicated that he's holding the ball too long. Do you think there are times when he's holding it when he has receivers open or he's not seeing the field well? Is that a part of it?
"I don't want to break down why we're having -- it's hard to say this is the reason why we're having this many sacks. I think there's times when a guy comes scot-free, and we're not protecting the way we need to be. There's times when maybe a receiver doesn't look hot. There's times we hold the ball. And maybe we hold the ball for different reasons. Maybe it's because the receiver's not open. Maybe it's because we don't know where we're looking. There are a multitude of reasons. When you have this many sacks, it's hard to say it's one thing.
"But the fact of the matter is we're having it. And the first place you always turn to is the quarterback. We'll probably play (James) Stone some at center this game. It's time to start getting him integrated into the game. We didn't play him last week. We were just a little nervous about the snapping situation, and probably should have played him. But this where we were hoping to be about six weeks ago with James. But when (JerQuari) Schofield went down, we just had to move him (Stone) to guard. That just slowed our whole development at the center position with James, so we're kind of starting over. We were last week, and we were just a little uncomfortable.
"He's a left-handed guy. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but everything's the opposite when your hand's under the center. I'm not worried about his ability to block and get on the right guy and do a great job. It's just the execution of the snap. It's the fifth-grade part of it, not the college part of it."
How do you make this not become a divisive issue on the team, and did you get any input from any of the guys on the team at all as far as making this decision at quarterback?
"No. I try not to let our players evaluate the team and make personnel decisions. There's only one personnel director in our program, and that's me. Because if we have bad personnel decisions, I'm held accountable for it. I think the important thing to do is be a good team member. It's a lesson about the importance of being on a good team that coaches coach and coaches make personnel decisions and players play and support each other and do the best they can.
"As long as you keep those boundaries and respect each other's role, then it works out fine. Our players have been great about it the last two weeks even though we've played Tyler. It's hard to say it's a lot different now. I mean, we were throwing Tyler in there in the second quarter and first quarter sometimes. They've handled it beautifully. They went out there and made plays for both quarterbacks last week. Matt made some great plays; he really did last week. I don't see a difference, and I don't anticipate one.
"But certainly if a team doesn't handle it right and the quarterbacks don't handle it right, it could be a problem. I've been a part of this in a lot of years, I really have. You never like to be in this place. We had it when we got to LSU - we probably had it two or three times at LSU. We had it at the Dolphins, both years at the Dolphins. We had it at Louisiana Tech my first year. It's hard. But if you have a good team and you communicate what the issues are and why you're doing what you're doing, the team tends to move on."
Obviously he's starting, but did you see Tyler grow up a bit and get more comfortable in that second half against South Carolina?
"The more he plays, the more growth he's going to have. But you have growing pains that come with it. You saw it on (his) second play. That's a bad growing pain. I thought it was pretty good how he responded. He didn't get affected by it, so that was good to see. That's one of Matt's good qualities. Man, Matt got hit hard a couple of times, and he keeps coming."
On Jacques Smith, do you have concerns about a 19-year-old being out at bar at 2 a.m. in the morning getting into fights?
"Do I have concerns about it? Of course I would if it was my child, and Jacques is like my child. We don't have a curfew. We ask them to use good judgment, and he didn't use good judgment."
Was he hospitalized this weekend?
"I don't want to go into all the details of the incident. What's been out is out, and it was an unfortunate incident. It was an isolated incident. It was an incident where Jacques got a little emotional over a girl, and our players did the right thing and defused the situation. It's not any more complex than that. It's been happening since Adam and Eve, I guess."
How did Tyler handle the news this week, and what can you learn from watching him go through practice as the No. 1 guy this week?
"He handled it like he handles everything I tell him. `Yes, sir.' Tyler, your house is burning up. `OK. I think I left a couple things in there.' It's a little bit of the issue with the snap count and calling the play. But that's a good quality of his. We'll see how he handles it this week. I just think it will be business as usual. I think he's going to get in there and take the first snap instead of the second one."
Is the plan to play just one quarterback or will Simms get a shot?
"The plan's going to be exactly how I went into the South Carolina game, which was let's see how he's doing. If he needs to take a few series to kind of catch his breath a little bit, we'll put Matt in and see how Matt does.
"It's the same statement. Until a quarterback says, `Coach you're an idiot for not playing me all four quarters' -- by his play, not his words, by his actions - then we'll just keep sorting through. Neither of their actions say, `Play me for four quarters.' There's enough in both of their play to say, `Maybe you ought to put the other guy in a little bit.' So we're going to keep doing it until they perform at a level where we feel like we're really bad evaluators by playing the other guy."
It looks like a long shot at this point, but would you use a bowl game as motivation?
"I think we're so far from that. Those kind of words shouldn't even be mentioned. We haven't won a game since (Sept. 25). To me, it's let's go execute for four quarters and finish a game and win. That's all we need to be concerned about.
"I've never been a `play for.' Maybe when we get to the last game, it's something we can talk about if we're in that situation. But right now, we're just trying to get a W."
I know you said you don't type up the depth chart, but right now it looks like Janzen's going get some work at punt returner this week.
"Jimmy (Stanton) thought that would be a good idea. (Laughs) Yeah, we'll put Janzen (Jackson) back there. And Janzen's got a lot of ability. He's almost our best at everything. We've tried say how can he help us most on special teams without taxing him so bad because we can't rest him on defense. So you're constantly saying how can we get Janzen to impact the game for us? We've been using him on kickoff and punt coverage, which is a taxing play, both of them, because it's a full sprint. He's helped us. We've contained some good returners. But now, we're in a position where Eric's been really good but he's muffed two punts. We need to put somebody else back there because we're not getting production at the position. We'll make a change and see how Janzen does."
Has Janzen taken punts in practice before?
"Oh yeah. He's been there the whole time, and he looks good moving around. It isn't like he's going to get punt-catcher of the year, either. I might close my eyes."
Would you like to have a running quarterback or a quarterback who can really run as well?
"I think mobility's important as well. I made the statement I like to have good quarterbacks. If he's a good quarterback but he's a special runner and not as special a passer, then you shape the offense around his special skills. If he's a good quarterback and he's a special passer, then you shape the offense around his special skills. I think the mistake everybody says is, `We need a running quarterback,' if you don't have a running quarterback. If you have a running quarterback, but he's not any good, then you need a passing quarterback. Well, what you need is a good quarterback. Some good quarterbacks are good runners and effective throwers. Some good quarterbacks are good throwers and effective runners. Some are good at both. They all have their different types, and I think as coaches you have to say here's what we've got and let's shape the offense around him.
"I think every quarterback has to have mobility. And I think the good ones that I've seen, there's always about two or three third downs in the game where you've got to move and make a good play with your feet. Even the dropback guys, so that's important, yeah."
So if you had a guy like Cameron Newton -- if he was on campus when you showed up, we'd be looking at a different offense?
"I can assure you, you'd be looking at a different offense. We have our system, but we try to build it around our guys. That's something that's a little different in college. Until we can draft what we want and pick exactly what we want, we don't have that luxury right now. I don't think many colleges do. You try to draft the best football players you can who can score points for you, then you shape the offense around them. Now, our philosophy wouldn't change; we'd still believe in the same things. The structure wouldn't change too much. But how you get to it would be very different.
"Cam Newton would be good in any offense."
Did you think Tauren was doing too much? Was than an issue Saturday?
"I told him that my wife after the game said, `Why does Tauren get the ball and stop?' Which I think that's your question. I told Tauren, `I saw you outrun the entire Alabama secondary. But then you get the ball on the outside zone and you've got green grass, and you stop. You don't trust your speed.' I think that's what it is. He doesn't trust his abilities in some ways because he's still sorting through it. So he gets a little jumpy out there. He ran a little jumpy the other night. Sometimes when you play a real good defensive line, they can make you jumpy. That had to contribute to it. Those guys are quick. They're slanting, they're moving, they're on edge. You didn't have clean reads all the time. Things would flash, and then you lose your trust a little bit. I think that's what happened. I think that's an experience issue, I do. Tauren's a junior, but this is his first season playing."
You ran Da'Rick Rogers and then Zach Rogers on those reverses a number of times. Was that something that you saw over the course of the game, or did you go into the game planning on that?
"Because of their defensive line, we felt like we needed some misdirection. We're going to need it all year because it's hard for us to just hammer people. These guys were pretty good against the run, so you're always trying to steal ways to get more rushing yards. Quarterbacks can help you on some of that too, but we don't do a lot of those. Those are different ways to get some good running yards, getting the ball to some different guys on the perimeter."
Do you see any challenges motivating a 2-6 team? How do you overcome those?
"You know what, our spirits have been pretty good. I think since the first day of the season, we keep trying to define ourselves by how we compete. And we've stayed pretty true to that except for one game. Probably the Georgia game's the one I was most disappointed in. But since then, we've seen another upward trend.
"What we've got to learn to do is finish and execute late in the games. If we can combine the competitive spirit and the fight and resolve, but have a little better execution, which we did in the third quarter and early in the fourth. We just had a couple breakdowns. I think that's the key.
"You play football because it's fun, and sometimes we lose sight of that. It's fun to go out there and compete and go lay it on the line for four quarters. And when players lose sight of that and they're so focused on what the record is, then that's how bad things happen."
Can you talk a little bit about how (Herman) Lathers and Malik Jackson are playing?
"Malik's the most consistent defensive lineman we have and the most productive. And he couldn't get on the field at USC, as an aside. He's doing great. I'm glad he's here. He's about 30 pounds lighter than what he should be in this league at that position, but he's in there fighting. So I'm glad he's here.
"Herman is getting better each week. He does some things really well and then there's a lot of times when he shows his inexperience. The more consistent he gets, the better he's going to become. But he's a fast runner and hitter, and that's a good start in football."
Can you talk about the play of your receivers in that game?
"All three of them, the seniors -- Gerald (Jones), Denarius (Moore) and Luke (Stocker) -- really performed the way seniors should be performing and the way we need them to perform.
"Denarius was kind of the star because of the big plays, but Gerald made some really big plays to keep the drives alive. Even the little play before the half. It seems like an insignificant play. We're on the 6-yard line and it's third-and-4. It's a big play because there's a minute left. If we don't get it, they're going to chop the timeout. We're going to punt; something bad can happen. They've got field position. So it saved points, to me. That was a big play. A couple little third down catches. Luke catches the big touchdown, and of course Denarius had a breakout day. That's what we need from seniors. That's what we need from guys who are experienced football players, that kind of production. And when you do, you get results."
What did Justin (Wilcox) say to you about being up in the box, and do you feel like that's where you'll keep him?
"Probably, it looks that way. He's been in both, so it wasn't something new to him. In fact, he's probably been in the box more. I think it helped us a little bit in the secondary, communicating between drives and adjustment and personnel in and out of the game. Both of our secondary guys (coaches Terry Joseph and Peter Sirmon) were up top (before Saturday), so I think that was a little help." (Joseph worked Saturday's game from the sidelines)
Stone's got kind of a unique way of snapping the ball, I guess. Is that something you guys are working with him on?
"It's the left-handed dilemma, and he's never snapped before. So it's a little different than the way Gooch snaps. There are two or three different ways you can snap the football.
"It's hard, because you've got a right-hander and a left-hander, and Stone's not your guy. So you're the quarterback - `Oh, who's in?' You get in the habit of catching the snap one way. I wish he was right-handed; it would have been a lot easier. But he's not."
Justin Hunter didn't look like he played a lot. Is that because of Jones and Moore playing so well?
"No, I think he got about the same number of snaps. He just didn't seem like he played a lot because he was a non-factor. We're going to have to try to get him the ball a little bit this week. He kind of went quiet on us. But he hurt his knee in the Alabama game. They knocked him around. We tried to get him the ball in the Bama game. He hobbled around all week in practice. So we need to him going. We need to get Da'Rick (Rogers) going.
"But you know, it's hard to. I always say let's get Da'Rick and Justin going a little bit, but when Gerald, Denarius and Luke are playing well, we only have one ball. So they've got to sit tight."
How much can this early playing time Tyler's getting help him down the road?
"Well, experience helps a quarterback. It'll be that way until the end of time. The only way to get experience is to play. Every snap he takes will help him."
You talked about (Alshon) Jeffery's play, but all those big receivers have had big games. Were you pleased overall with how you handled their receivers?
"I was. I was until about 10 minutes to go in the game. I thought we did a great job back there. We challenged them. I thought Prentiss (Waggner) really stepped in and filled a role where we needed him to. I thought he functioned well at corner.
"But we gave up probably the play of the game to their best guy. Even though I was pleased, we've got to do be able to do it for four quarters. We really struggled stopping (No.) 21 (Marcus Lattimore). As good as we played in the back end, we didn't play very well up front. We were getting blocked and shoved around up there, and it's hard. When that big guy gets past the front, it's hard to get him down."
You're team's been huge underdogs the last several games. Now they're a big favorite. Are they mature enough to understand that?
"You mean we're a favorite this week? Wow. I don't know. I hope they're not looking at that stuff. The last time we were the favorite, we went into OT against a team from the same league. So hopefully we learned our lesson. That was a nail-biter, and this one will be too if we don't go out and play the best we can for four quarters."
With Waggner's size and natural abilities, could he maybe be a better corner than a safety?
"Well, you could make a case for the same thing with Janzen, but then who are you going to play at safety? That's the dilemma we're in. Prentiss has good ball skills. He's got more corner-type size, he does. So that's what we're doing now. Brent's got a little better safety size than any of the other guys. He's at 205. He needs to be about 215. But those good safeties are about 215. If you want to go tackle (Marcus Lattimore) and good backs, you've got to have some stout safeties that can come up and hit. We're thin there.
"Janzen really has position specifics for a corner -- his size, speed and everything else. But he's our best defender back there. When he's in the back end, he makes up for a lot mistakes ahead of him and getting guys down. When he's not in the back end, and he wasn't on the long run, it hurts us."
So you're not one of those four corners guys?
"Not in this league. You better be able to come up there and hit a runner in this league. You look at the good teams we're playing, I think Alabama's safeties were about 220. Come up and strike you. You've got to have a bunch of corner guys, too, when it's time to cover. But you can keep those safeties from being exposed in space by your scheme or having a corner guy sit on the bench until it's third and 10 and they put four wides in the game. Then put the little guys in.
"But when the big boys are in, you better have some big boys to match it. And if you don't, it's that old boxing match deal. It's going to hurt you."
Oregon's offense is kind of the talk of college football. Is it as unstoppable as it seems to be?
"It's hard for me to say. It looks that way, but every time you think something looks a certain way in football, something comes along and says, `Oh no.' When we played them, what I saw was a ridiculously experienced offense, No. 1, who's deep into their system. So they've been doing it a long time and played a lot of snaps. Combined with phenomenal skill and combined with a tempo that's probably unmatched anywhere in college football. So those three things result in what you see. They're explosive. Not very complex, but they make you miss and then here goes the runner and he's gone. Or they play-action and they hit the guy down the seam and they're gone."
Do you think more teams will try to use that kind of system?
"That's usually what happens. I think a lot of teams have tried and are already trying and not having the success. When you've got a good runner, a good quarterback and a receiver, you're probably going to be pretty good on offense no matter what you run.
"Whether you score 30 or 50, that's going to come into the tempo and all that other stuff. It's a little bit out of the norm from a traditional standpoint because if it's not working and it's not hitting on cylinders, it can really put a strain on your defense. That's the downside. The other is if you're quarterback's getting hit a lot, which they've done a pretty good job, I think, of utilizing the throw and the running backs."
If you were putting together a defense to combat that, what's the main thing you would look for personnel wise?
"I'd start with four great defensive linemen, like I would stopping any offense. That's the equalizer. I doesn't matter who you play, what offense you play, If you don't have four great defensive linemen -- that's what gets plays started.
"The teams that I've seen have some success against really great offenses generally have four good defensive linemen. You look at South Carolina, they have four really good defensive linemen. They have a special receiver and a special runner and a veteran quarterback. That's their formula."
"OK. Thanks guys."