“We have had a couple days of preparation already. We just got finished practice number two. The guys are working awfully hard. We got a little bit of break before we started our preparation. It was good to let the kids get away for a little bit. We got a chance to recruit and to game plan. I’m looking forward to getting back to Rutgers Stadium and playing a home football game. It seems like we have been gone forever.”
What stands out about Syracuse?
“Offensively… they are executing well on the offensive line. Number three is a very good back. He is an NFL level back. Number 29 is also a very good back. Defensively, they are very aggressive. Statistically, it shows they are very good. They blitz six out of 10 times. They are a 60 percent blitz team on all downs. They believe it. They do it. They don’t care what you are in. Certainly we’ve experienced it last year, not very successfully for our part. We are trying to prepare for that.”
How about the Syracuse quarterback?
“The quarterback is a young, good football player. You can see he understands what they want. They run the West coast offense… that system. That thing has been watered down as far as the main goes. People don’t even know what it is. I grew up in it in Chicago. You can see a lot of the things that that tree, that family does. You see it over and over and over again. They are very diverse offensively. They kind of use all of the West coast philosophies. They don’t really pick one or the other. They are into all of them and that makes it a challenge to prepare for. The kicking game, certainly they have one of the best punters in the country. They have a local guy from my high school actually who is their kicker, [Ross] Krautman, who is doing a good job for them. They are sound in the kicking game. Bob Casullo is a veteran special teams coach, NFL special teams coach. He does a good job.”
Are you seeing those signs that this team is better in November than they were in September?
“Yeah, we are getting better. Now, not at every position and every play and all it takes is one guy on one play and the results don’t deem that. Without a doubt, we are getting better as a unit really in all three phases. Hopefully we can have 11 guys be better on plays and not 10 or nine because as I said, one guy jumps out of the gap, one guy misses his block it disguises any improvement you may have if in fact they take advantage of it.”
The depth chart lists Chas as starting, is that the case?
“Um, it is I think. The depth chart is something that Jason [Baum] puts in front of me every week and I know that people use it for their charts and their this and that, but I really don’t make decisions until the end of the week. Now, there are certain guys that you know are going to play. Steve Beauharnais, if he is healthy, right now he is performing at a level at MIKE linebacker that there is no one else that is going to play if he is healthy. Joe Lefeged… he is playing well… there is certain guys that you know and you see. But, then when there is competition where it is close I kind of wait. I am forced to I guess by the rules of football to put out a depth chart. Yeah, I think Chas will start. I think that is the way we are going to go, but if the week goes differently than I suspect and Tom [Savage] out-performs him it wouldn’t be out of the realm. Again, I make those decisions Thursday into Friday and sometimes even on Saturday.”
How much is practice during the week and what you seen in the game on Saturday factor into your decision?
“No doubt, it is a cumulative body of work. Certainly the games are weighted more heavily than the practices because they count. You are playing against somebody else. You are playing in a competitive environment, but I think it all is tied together. There is no doubt.”
Can you talk about Jeremy Deering and his control of the wildcat and what that means for your offense?
“Jeremy has been doing it all year. One of the things we were excited about when we recruited Jeremy was that we felt he could do that and take some of the burden off of Mohamed [Sanu]. He has been able to do that. I think won’t be 100 percent this week but who is really. I think he is much better than he was either of the last two weeks so Mo will get back involved in it and now we will have two guys doing it. It will lessen the hits on Mo and spread the ball around a little more and do some different things out of it. Hopefully it will be a productive package for us.”
Is this one of the longer stretches of games you have had at Rutgers Stadium?
“You know I just took a shower and Jason [Baum] came in as I was getting ready and I said ‘I feel like we haven’t been home in forever.’ It will be a month between home games. I don’t know, that is an interesting factoid to look up. It feels like it has been pretty long.”
What does it mean to be coming back and playing in Rutgers Stadium?
“I can’t wait. I love playing in Rutgers Stadium. It is my favorite place. Our students are unbelievable. Our fans are great. I can’t wait to get back in there and play at home.”
Are you pleased the way Tom Savage has handled this whole situation?
“I am pleased. I think it is eating his guts up, he is a competitor. He wants to play. Again, I think he does know that whether I am right or I am wrong in the final decision I make, I most certainly give everybody the opportunity to compete. I always say to the players, I don’t expect you to agree with my decisions. As a matter of fact, if you agree than I worry a little bit how you are looking at things, but you have to respect it. I certainly have more at stake than anybody else because I am responsible for this program. I am going to try and pick the person that gives us the best chance to win. Am I right all the time… heck no, who is. I don’t know anybody that is right all the time.”
How is Khaseem Greene performing at safety?
“I think Khaseem has had a good first part of the year. It is my job to always forecast. I don’t do it publically, I do it privately because of recruiting and all those things, I have to think two years in advance at the minimum. I think Khaseem has played himself into a position where he can be a top-flight safety in the BIG EAST Conference. He will have to do it though. We talk a lot about knowing and doing around here. A lot of people know what to do. Most of America doesn’t go do it. They have the ability and the knowledge but they don’t go out and do it. Khaseem has started to do it. He is making plays. He needs to go and continue to make those plays consistently and that is how you become a top-flight player.”
Has Khaseem been able to pick up real quick on it?
“He is because he is a student of the game. He loves studying tape. He loves being around football and he has a good instinct.”
How tough was it for the offensive line to watch the cut ups from last year’s game against Syracuse?
“I imagine pretty tough. It was tough for me to watch the whole game. Last night, before I went home after the whole game plan being in, I just put the Syracuse offense vs. Rutgers defense on one more time to watch the whole game in its entirety. At the conclusion of the game, it was enough to get my rear-end out of the door because I didn’t feel very well.”
Does the amount of turnover on the offensive line help explain some of the unit’s problems?
“I don’t know. That is college football, there is going to be turnover. Maybe it is more than normal but that is part of the life we live. We have to be able to get guys ready and have them ready and develop them so when it is their shot. They may not be as good as the guy who just went to the NFL but hopefully they are in that progression where they will be someday. We need to play better on the offensive line that is no secret. We are working very hard to do that. I do see improvement. There is definitely a want to. It is knowing and doing… you have to do it.”
How important is it to play better on first and second down to accumulate sacks on third down?
“It is always important because it puts them in situations that are defensively favorable and offensively unfavorable. You get third and behind the sticks and third and seven plus it opens up what you can do defensively. Having said that, with the exception of the Pittsburgh game, we have played some good defensive football. Even last week, the kid rushed for a buck whatever thirty-five, but there was a lot of good stuff on that tape. Schematically they got us. We didn’t do enough on one play really and it was probably good for 50 or 60 yards. That eats at me. You can’t say ‘well we played well except for these three or four plays’ because that is what the game is about. I always say to the players, I wish I could tell them which five, six seven plays were going to be the ones that decided the game, because then I could just say ‘hey play 43, 68, 19 and 22 and be ready to go and the rest of the plays just hang out’ but that is not the way it is. You have to go hard and smart every play because you never know which play is going to be the game breaker or the game changer.”
What have you seen from Justin Francis the last couple games that you have liked?
“I think he is getting better and better. He is performing better and better. He is still making mistakes, but we all are up front. We are making some really good plays and then we are making some mistakes. We need to be more consistent on our defensive front as well as our offensive front.”
What does De’Antwan Williams have to do to get into a game?
“Sometimes it is not as much as what he has to do as what some other guys maybe won’t do or can’t do. The cards are kind of in order right now and there has been nothing to change that order so there is only so many touches. I have talked to you guys often times first or second down there is generally 50-60 plays, more towards 50, that you get if you run a regular offense. It doesn’t take long to use up those 50 touches. One of the big things I think you have to do as an offensive coach is ‘ok at the beginning of the week who is getting the touches’ and build the game plan around who is getting the touches. I think too many times people make the mistake about building the game plan around plays. I learned a long time ago, it is about players not plays.”
How is De’Antwan’s pass protection?
“He is fine. That is not a reason that is keeping him out of the line-up if that is what you are alluding to.”