COACH FLOOD: Good morning. It's great to be back. The start of our conference schedule, an opportunity to be 1-0 in conference I think is a great opportunity for us as a football program and a conference that does not have a Championship Game. Every conference game becomes a Championship Game, and I think the team understands that.
You know, 11:00 A.M. local start time, very excited about that, as I think you guys are aware, we are a morning program, and this is a get-up-and-go game. I think it fits our schedule every day very well.
Coach Jones has got a good football team, certainly better than their record, for sure. I was fortunate to work in the run-and-shoot for five years. So June Jones is somebody that I'm very familiar with from afar, other than the fact that heknows who his opponent is this week, I wouldn't think he knows very much about me, but he is somebody -- June Jones, Mouse Davis, the innovators of the run-and-shoot offense -- and when I was at Hofstra between 1997 and 2001, myself, Coach Spence, at the time Coach Brock, and yeah, I think we are aware of what we are in for this week. You know, one of the true passing gurus in the country. And he's got Hal Mumme on his staff, who also is certainly one of the great innovators of the passing game in this day and age of college football.
So we are looking forward to it. We are excited about the challenges of going down to Dallas to try to be 1-0 and 1-0 in our conference. An opportunity to try to take our program somewhere that it's never been before, which is the BCS, so that road begins this Saturday at 11:00 local time. Questions.
Q. How much will you try to -- seems like their offensive line had protection issues, they did last week again. Is that something you hope to exploit and can you do it just with your front four or do you hope to bring added pressure?
COACH FLOOD: I think, again, I have five years of experience being the offensive line coach in this type of system, not that it was identical but very similar. I think the things that became the most challenging for us back then and I think itwill be the case this Saturday, are when you have to change it up in the game.
Certainly if you can just get pressure with four players, that is a huge advantage, because you can leave seven incoverage. I think that very rarely happens on a consistent basis all the time with just four guys. I think the way this offense is designed, at times, it's going to be four, at times it's going to be five and at times it's going to be six and there's going to have to be a mixture of it; while at the same time disguising which of those three options it will be.
I know we have got a good plan in place. We have got to do a good job in the game of trying to mix how we go about trying to get that pressure, because this offense is predicated on triggering the football, and those triggers can sometimes be because of your coverage structure and sometimes they are because of the pressures that you bring.
Q. Is there a unique challenge to this conference game in that it almost feels like a non-conference game in that this is an opponent that you've never seen before and won't see again?
COACH FLOOD: It does not feel like a non-conference game to us. It's a little bit unique in that it's the first time this group of players will play against this team. But that happens -- that happens all the time for us in the non-conference schedule.
But the conference has changed over the last couple years. You know, the last year, Temple was a conference game for us. I think when the players go out there, we talk all week about the opportunity to be 1-0 in conference play, and that is where our entire focus is.
It doesn't matter if we are playing SMU or anybody else in the conference. This week it happens to be SMU, so all of our focus goes there and I think our players are aware that this is a conference game.
Q. I see on the depth chart you have Lew Toler listed as an 'or' with Nadir opposite Ian Thomas. Can you talk about how that position is shaping up heading into this week?
COACH FLOOD: I think we have a lot of players there that can play, and play winning football for us. Lew has done a good job for us to this point in the season and Nadir continues to come on as a younger player. So we are excited about what he's doing. We need more people there.
Gareef will not be available to us this week. I apologize if I left him off. Gareef, because of personal reasons, will not be available to us for this game.
But I'm excited about what the younger players are doing, because we need depth. Guys like Nadir Barnwell, guys like Anthony Cioffi, they are going to play as this season goes on. To date, we are only a third of the way through the season. We have a lot of football left to play and we are going to need a lot of players to do it.
Q. I see Savon is starting but can you go a little more in depth about the carry/distributions between running backs?
COACH FLOOD: I don't know if I can predetermine the game. Savon is going to start the game and I have full confidence in Savon that he can play winning football and he'll get opportunity to go out there and start the game. But I think by the end of the game you're going to see Justin Goodwin and I think you're going to see Desmon Peoples.
We have a talented pool of players at that position and you can't always play three, four, five running backs in the game. But now with the injury to P.J., these other guys are going to get opportunities. They are excited and I'm excited to see what they can do for us.
Q. What have you seen from Daryl Stephenson going into this game? Obviously seems like he's going to have a bigger role in this game than he has ever at Rutgers.
COACH FLOOD: You know, Daryl is somebody that when we recruited him, we had very high expectations for. The two seasons prior to this, he has not been available to us, and now he's got the opportunity to be available to us and he's really made the most of it and he's getting better every week.
We knew he would be big and strong and physical, and now that he's finally getting the opportunity to play, he's finally getting better and better and better, and all that skill development is paying off for him.
Q. How much more prepared is your secondary now to face a prolific passing offense than it was the last time you faced one against Derek Carr. And obviously you have two true freshmen on the two deep; are they ready for that?
COACH FLOOD: Four games more prepared is what we are. It will be another great challenge.
You know, SMU, they have got an excellent quarterback, and I think he's Top-10 in the country right now in terms of the yards and completions and those type of things. They have four different receivers that all are in double digits in terms of receptions. They spread the field.
And again, I've been around this offense enough to know that you don't have that kind of success without a really talented quarterback. And you probably need a really talented quarterback in every offense, but in one that accentuates the passing game the way they do at SMU, they certainly have anexcellent quarterback.
I think we are certainly more prepared. I think when you play a team like Fresno, Fresno tested us in ways that are very hard to simulate in practice and, we did the best we could to simulate it and it wasn't good enough. We needed to be a couple points better than we were and we weren't.
So now we get another opportunity to see where we are, and I think this will be another hurdle or another point in the season where we can say, you know, we have improved. And how much we have improved, we won't know that until after the game on Saturday.
Q. Knowing you're going to face a stretch of teams that spread things out, how much influence is offenses you face, moving guys like James down to linebacker for more speed like that, or did it have no influence?
COACH FLOOD: I think you have to have flexibility within your system to play against different offenses, now more than ever. Because in our own conference, we've got some teams that will line up the way we do in a pro-style fashion, and we haveothers that will spread the entire field with skill players. And even if they have a tight end on the field they are not necessarily attached.
So you need some guys that can do some different things on defense, and we are fortunate that a guy like Davon Jacobs who can play, and the combination of Davon Jacobs and Quentin Gause really gives us an advantage. It's really two players playing -- they are not playing the same position, but it's almost two players playing one position because Kevin kind of flip-flops back and forth and those two guys have a different skill-set.
We saw last week that the matchup really allowed Quentin to excel in the Arkansas game, and Quentin is going to have a role in this game as well. But when teams want to spread the field like this, I think having a guy like Davon Jacobs can be an advantage, as well.
Q. In that same note, how much would you or would you not prefer to kind of, not reduce, but scale back the number of responsibilities that Kevin has, if you switch linebackers?
COACH FLOOD: I don't concern myself with that. Kevin is a very bright football player. He really could play any of the three linebacker positions for us. We've only asked him to play two in the games and it's something he prepares to do every week. He spends a lot of time doing that in preparation and he'll be ready to do that for us again this Saturday.
Q. Do you enjoy the challenge, the shift, you went from a power running team last game to one that's predominately -- I think two-to-one passing -- 45 passes a game; do you enjoy that kind of shift week-to-week or game-to-game in terms of the philosophy that you face?
COACH FLOOD: I enjoy it. You'd have to ask Tim (ph) if he enjoys it. I think playing against all these different styles of offense, it certainly keeps it interesting during the week, and it forces us as coaches to really examine what we do in game planning every week.
So obviously we went through a process for the Fresno game, and I thought we were in a lot of good positions and we needed to tackle better.
We've worked a that in the last four weeks to get better at it. I think we have gotten better at it. And now we'll be tested in a similar way, although not identical, but in a similar way this weekend in that we'll be really be able to measure how much better we've gotten at it.
Q. Some of Gary's best games have been when the other quarterback is a high-profile quarterback, Carr, Tyler Wilson. Do you notice anything different in Gary, like, I don't know, the mano -- I know he's going against the other team's defense, but when the other quarterback is a high-profile quarterback, does that get Gary's juices flowing a little extra, the mano-a-mano aspect?
COACH FLOOD: I don't know, I think players are aware whenother great players are on the other side of the field.
I think that what you're seeing is probably the product of close games, back-and-forth type games and games where we rely on Gary to make a difference in the game maybe or so than other games where we might run the ball a little bit more.
As I've said before, Gary has never been somebody who didn't want to be in those big moments. He thrives in the big moment. I think it's one of his strongest qualities as a major college quarterback.
Q. How much is the quarterback a running threat, too?
COACH FLOOD: He's athletic. He wants to move the ball through the air, but certainly he's athletic enough.
I think when you play against a team that throws the ball as much as they do, you're always aware of the fact, you've got to keep your pass rush integrity, your pass rush lanes, those type of things, because you don't want to give up a first down with his feet; ifthey are going to complete passes, you want to make him complete the passesbecause of the higher degree of difficulty, certainly when they do that. But no, I think he's a good athlete.
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