NU Football Press Conference - 10/01/02
I appreciate you hanging in there with us. We?re in a little bit, to a degree, of uncharted waters, being out of the top 25 and losing two straight regular season games after so many years. That?s always difficult on everybody. It?s difficult certainly on the players, coaches and many of the fans. The thing that we face right now is making sure that we as staff and players are all heading in the same direction, and that we are on the same page and working to make ourselves better. That?s where we?re at in this course in time.
I feel like McNeese State has some very good athletes. I think they?re playing extremely well as a team. There is no question that they are on a roll, and that they feel good about themselves. It will be a situation where it won?t be quite as easy as what maybe everybody thinks. On the other side of it, what we?re interested in doing is playing our best football and seeing where that takes us. As of yet we have not lined up and been able to get that done at the level that we want. I think very early on, we played fairly well for a young team on both sides of the ball. Beating an Arizona State team that we thought had very good talent helped us get a little bit on a roll, and now we?re on the down side of things. It?s a matter of making sure that we?re practicing at the level that we need to practice at to make ourselves better. We?re taking it one day at a time, and not trying to look too much in the past and not trying to look too far down the road, we?re just getting prepared for our very next football game and being the best we can play.
There have been a few adjustment changes on the depth chart. I?ll discuss any individual changes that you want to throw my way. At the I-back spot we will play David Horn some this week. He is one of the I-backs that has really not gotten opportunities on the field up to this point. We will use him, and we are practicing him as such. In terms of Thunder?s (Collins) situation, we have still not received word back from the NCAA that he has been cleared to play. We hope to get some kind of information back this week. Dahrran Diedrick will definitely start at I-back. We are not displeased in any way, shape or form with what Dahrran has accomplished. You look at the lack of producing a 100-yard back, and several things have gone into that. Certainly, it is not resting on Dahrran?s shoulders. We?ve used an awful lot of backs. We?ve substituted freely and we?ve not been averaging the number of offensive plays that we normally average. A lot of things go into that. That is a little different approach with utilizing David Horn at this point and seeing exactly what he?ll get done.
At the quarterback spot I really will not address that in a fashion that you?re going to enjoy because we have quarterbacks that without a question have different strengths. At the end of the week, we will identify the quarterback we will start, and who will come in second and how it will all work. I?ve been in touch with each quarterback on a daily basis, yesterday individually with all of them, and today will be the same way. There is an understanding of the direction that we are going, but we will not make any announcements until the end of the week.
On Naming the Quarterback
Ideally for you it would be today that we make an announcement, but there?s a strong possibility it will be Friday. When we show up for game time we?ll definitely know. I?m not trying to be evasive on this deal. Jammal?s (Lord) strengths are in the running game. He?s the best running quarterback that we have. If we start Mike (Stuntz), you know what you?re talking about is a guy that so far has come into a situation where he has only thrown the ball. He is an excellent technician at throwing the ball, and a very capable thrower and a good runner. In terms of making sure that we?re not throwing anything out there that?s going to help our opponent play to what our strengths are in terms of that position, we will hold back.
On the Possibility of Curt Dukes Redshirting
He?s part of that quarterback decision. There has been a decision made, but we will hold off on announcing that.
On Why Curt Dukes Traveled with the Team to Iowa State
He is still a potential player for us at the quarterback spot. He has shown an awful lot of things that you look for in a quarterback. He?s got very good poise, he?s a leader, he?s thrown the ball very well and he?s a strong physical player. There?s a good combination of things there. He did go through a point this season where all of a sudden he kind of got wiped out of being a part of vying for that position at that point in time and he has worked his way back into being a part of that. That was the reason for taking him. We were not afraid to use him in the Iowa State game. At that point in time, we decided to go with Mike (Stuntz) second.
On David Horne at I-Back for the McNeese State Game
He will get a fair number of snaps, but we want to get Dahrran his snaps. That is not in any way, shape or form indicating that the other backs are not involved. I think that Cory (Ross) has shown that he has the ability to make people miss and to make good plays. To say that we had an I-back line up this past Saturday and get something done big time for us, that did not happen. But that does not solely come back to the guys at that position. There were a lot of factors that entered into us not getting production from the I-backs. We?re looking for what will be our best guy, or combination, so that he will get a chance. He has shown well in practice. He handles the ball very well and has very good hands. He is a very smart football player and a very fluid football player.
On Building Confidence in the Team
I think you get confidence in yourself when you do things well. That?s what we?re wanting to be all about. We want to start being very efficient in all phases of the game, and that?s what we?ve been pressing to do. Sometimes you get in a situation where you press so hard that good things don?t necessarily come. Sometimes bad things come. And maybe you don?t get a bounce. You look at these penalty situations. That?s something that I?m sure is coming more from frustration than anything else. Typically Nebraska football teams are very low penalized team. If you go through the course of it and look at the Big 12 record book in terms of penalties, you?ll see that we are one of the least penalized teams in the Big 12, and have been so up until this year. That has had an impact on us. Some of it is coming from frustration. Certainly, the turnovers have played into things. If you look at the games that we lost, and we lost by a substantial margin, turnovers and penalties have been a major issues. Those are two areas that we will continue to address.
On Practices Prior to the Iowa State Game
We had good practices. That part of it is a little frustrating. When you prepare well, generally things come off well, and you play well. But, there were a combination of things that happened to us, and many of those things happened to us at early in the game. A turnover very early in the game, a personal foul, a face mask penalty; all of those things kind of jump on you early. Then you press to make sure that no more of that happens, and sometimes the harder you press the tougher it gets. We are pressing right now, there is no question about that. We need to get back to just operating at a level that?s going to give us our best chance at practice and in games and move forward. It?s been tough on them. They?ve been beaten up every time something happens that is off a little bit in terms of what this program has accomplished year after year. It gets thrown in their faces and it?s very difficult for those guys to look at that and to move forward in a smooth manner. But, that?s what we?re all about, that?s what athletics are all about and that?s what we?ll end up doing. We?ll get to where we?re operating at our highest level.
On the Defensive Changes on the Depth Chart
I think what depth chart changes are all about is giving yourself your best chance. If a player has played extremely well in the past and maybe isn?t quite on top of their game right now, you make a change. If a player is playing at a level that is better than that player starting for you, you make a change. But, understand that what these changes mean is that the guy that?s not starting is now coming in second. He is going to get his snap and is going to contribute to the success of what this team gets done, so it?s not like we?re wiping people off the face of the earth.
On Whether Depth Chart Changes Would Have Been Made if Nebraska had Beaten Iowa State
I think it?s harder to make changes when you?re moving forward and you?re winning. If you beat Iowa State, you probably would have played a good football game. In doing so if there is a glaring weakness there, if there is an area that calls for a change, you make the change.
On the Importance of the McNeese State Game
Every game is important, and we cannot start to put ourselves in a position where we live and die with every game. We have to put ourselves in a position where we play up to our ability, and know that playing up to our ability is going to take us where we want to go. We?re looking at it solely from that perspective. That?s taking it to a degree, one day at a time, one game at a time, and that?s what we?re all about right now. That?s basically what we?ve been all about in the past. And sometimes we?ve been hounded about not declaring rivals. Every game is significant, if so, we wouldn?t be getting beat up like we?ve gotten beat up over the last two games. We know that. We understand that. The program has put itself in this position because we have won so much. That?s a great position to be in, and we would not trade that for anything in the world. Now what we need to do is just get ourselves in a mind set that?s going to give us our best chance to make this year what we want it to be. You do that by addressing each day, how you work - how you practice, what you get out of it; and you do that with each game.That?s the direction we?re headed.
On the Offensive Line
We have looked at the progress of the offensive line, and it?s clear that it hasn?t progressed as much as we would like it to. That to me is somewhat obvious. There are signs, and there are enough individual good plays to really give you encouragement. That?s why we call if an offensive line. That?s why we?re not calling it left guard or a right tackle. We?re calling it the line, because that group needs to operate. They need to operate together, they need to not have breakdowns. That gives you the best chance of starting to get things going. We?ve had excellent individual performances, and we?ve had stretches where we?ve played well as a group. But we haven?t had nearly enough of those stretches, and we need to get better. We need to cut back on breakdowns and that?s on both sides of the ball. We knew to some degree that we?d have some growing pains with our offense. We have a new quarterback, a new young line, one receiver coming back that was significant in terms of playing time and production last season. I don?t care what you?re doing, offensively. Running the ball or throwing the ball, there are going to be some growing pains. Should we expect to be further ahead then where we are right now? No question we should. And we will continue to press to be.
On Naming the Quarterback
There will be more than one quarterback playing in this game, and that?s the extent of what I?ll talk to you about at this point on the quarterback position
On the Passing Game at Iowa State
There is no question that we should have thrown more play action passes early in the game. My mindset was to go in and to get first down after first down, keep our offense on the field, and keep Seneca Wallace and their offense off the field. That all sounds good, and it is a good game plan if it works, but it did not work. Of course there were a combination of things that led to us getting behind, and then once you are behind, any kind of a game plan should be adjusted as you then try to come back and get things done. If I had it to do again, I would definitely throw on earlier downs and try and use more play action pass. But understand where we coming from with the running game a little bit here. We have found ways to move the ball on the ground. It?s worked against almost everybody we?ve played. What that means is, just because they put an extra guy in the box doesn?t mean that all of the sudden, we?re throwing it, and that every time they drop a guy out we?re running it. If it were that easy, everybody would be running the same offense. There?s a lot that goes into it. You find the ways to attack the extra guy in the box. Our offense has that built in. You find ways to make sure that you?re not outnumbered. The bottom line is that we were not able to be productive on first and second down runs like in the past. There was a combination of reasons for that. What does that do to you? We threw the ball 29 times in the last game. And most of that was in catch-up mode. If I had to do it over again, I?d have thrown a little earlier, but that would be knowing that we weren?t going to be able to get the five-or-six yard gain on the first down, which would give us a chance to be an offense that stays on the field, moves on the field and puts points on the board. It?s a little bit of a catch-22 there, but the bottom line is when it doesn?t work, you should go the other way.
On the Upcoming McNeese State Game
There?s been more changes than we make in a given week with regularity. These changes will either show to be good or not good. There all guys that would have played regardless of whether they started or didn?t start. Regardless of who?s playing, McNeese State will challenge us. They have good athletes. They?re winning for a reason, and one thing we?ve understood is that you don?t have to have a big name in college football to show up with a good football team. We?re not taking anything for granted. What we need to do is get ourselves put together and play football in a manner that is going to give us our best chance of winning.
On the Depth Chart Changes
They?re major to everyone in involved. If you are one of the guys that?s been starting and now you?re not, that?s tough. That is a major blow and major change. To us, it?s also a major change. We don?t make changes lightly. We just don?t do it at the drop of a hat. There has to be a sound basis for the changes. If not, you?re constantly in turmoil. There?s a reason behind it. The player in those cases that is not starting will still play a significant role in the outcome of the football game.
On Using the Running Option Against McNeese State
We can help ourselves certainly with execution and being smart about what we do. Although they do have a good secondary, McNeese State?s strong point is that they?re big inside. They are physical. (John Paul) Jones is a true freshman who is an excellent player. You look at their linebacker (Roderick) Royal, he runs all over the field and makes plays. They know what they?re doing, they execute well and they have athletes. Nothing is automatic for us. Whether we?ll be able to establish the run, and be able to run the way we want to run, we?ll see. We need to make big plays. We do need to come up with a way to get that involved in our arsenal. We do need to get better at all phases of the game, but we need to find something that we?re going to give ourselves a chance to be good at. Any offense has to have that. I don?t care if you?re a throwing offense, I don?t care if you?re a running offense you?ve got to be good at something. And if you can be good at something you can build off that. You can move the football and can put the points on the board. If you have a horrible game, or a horrible season throwing the football and you throw 40 passes game, it?s not because you?re offense is outdated. But, if you?re running the football and that happens to you, it?s almost exclusive that that?s going t be the case. I don?t know why that is. You need to change your thinking. We traditionally have been able to put points on the board. We?re not doing it now. We need to look at that and make adjustments to put points on the board.
On Fabian Washington
We thought that he legitimately had the athletic ability to step onto the playing field and be a player for us as a true freshman. We felt he would be an outstanding cover corner. It is playing out that he is that. Now, almost any true freshman has to grow somewhat into the situation that he is in, in terms of playing significantly with a top football program, top football team, or any team as a true freshman. He has done a very good job of making those adjustments. He has put himself in position for us to use his athletic ability.
On Josh Bullocks Starting Against McNeese State
Understand that Phillip Bland can play safety as well as rover, but the way we plan on starting it is the way you see it on the depth chart.
On Changes to the Depth Chart Regarding Quarterbacks
I think anything can change. At a pivotal position and if a guy has horrible practices throughout the course of the week, that?s the guy you ought to start. We have not established ourselves at quarterback at this point that is to that point where you overlook bad practices for a couple of days and say that it?s still going to work. Part of the reason why it hasn?t worked to the level that we thought it would work with Jammal comes back to a lot of areas and should not be shouldered by Jammal alone. It?s a combination of things that have gone into us not moving the football. He takes a big hit, and that?s just the way it is.
On Jammal Lord
Early in the season, I thought he played well to where we felt he was just going to get better and progress. We thought that about offense in general, but that has not happened at this point.