Mark Whipple – Offensive coordinator and John Lovett – Defensive coordinator – University of Miami talk before the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Good to be here. It’s been really good week. Talking to the kids last night it seems like they are having a good time. It’s a very well organized bowl, hats off to the Sun Bowl. You couldn’t ask for better people to help you with everything you need. The biggest thing is that it’s about the kids and you saw a bunch of them in the hallway with the hypnosis session. I tried to bring that guy in for this game but I don’t know if that will work. They just seem like they are having a lot of fun and staying together and that’s what it’s all about.
On that end, I’m really excited about where we’re at and where the kids are at.
Offensively, is there going to be much change than what we saw during the season?
Uh, we’d like to get more touchdowns like always. You know, sometimes when you have this much time to game plan, you have somewhat too much time. I’ve asked the quarterbacks to look at some of those things and detail where we’re at. We’ve had more practices than we did at last year’s bowl game so when you have two guys there, so you kinda detail things a little bit more to each one of them. So change, we just wanna find a way to get one more point than Notre Dame.
Do you look to do a lot of different things or do you want to say with some of the same things?
You know, we’ll always have some wrinkles. I think it’s good for the kids and its kinda my philosophy. It’s probably why we need a closed practice today. It kinda depends on what the defense is going to give you and (Notre Dame) has been playing well the last three weeks and throughout the season. They have a lot of good players. Upfront they can rush the passer. The linebackers are good and the safeties can run, the corners can really cover the outside. We have to worry about ourselves. We’ve got to try and get some matchups and have balance. That’s the big thing. If we have balance, we have a good shot to score touchdowns.
Does their defense remind you of any team that you played this season?
They base out of a 3-4 so with that, but they move a lot more than Georgia Tech. They’ll do a little bit more than that. That would be the closed one because of scheme. Not anybody we’ve played lately. Georgia Tech would be a base for us.
Who stands out for you on the Notre Dame defense?
Number 45, the defensive end and outside linebacker. Obviously the Williams kid, the nose kid didn’t play a lot late, but you go back to early on and in the 3-4 you need that guy I the middle and he is certainly a presence. T’eo, number five, can really play; the leading tackler and can play sideline to sideline and is physical upfront. The safeties, 22 is really a straight-line fast guy. You see him run down Denard Robinson and some other guys. Walls, I remember when he was coming out of Woodland Hills and he was a big time recruit when I was in Pittsburgh. They do a lot of good things and they have players at every level. Anytime they come into a new situation, it might be change, and you look at the last three games I really think they are playing together as a unit with a lot of confidence. They’ve got good players, they’ve got good scheme, they believe in what they’re doing. We’ve got to really take care of the ball and try to win the one-on-one matchups when we get them.
Do you expect to have Stephen Morris at practice today?
I don’t know. We’ll see. He rolled his ankle so I don’t know. He was walking around pretty good last night, but we’ll just see where he’s at. I don’t think it was as bad as everyone thought.
Can you talk about Spenser Whipple a little bit?
It’s been unbelievable, icing on the cake. I’m not going to say it’s the easiest thing, but I’ve been lucky. It’s been a gift that’s been given to me at Miami to spend day to day with your son, see him mature, see him grow. It’s always special with the players, and it’s different in college than it is in the NFL, but with him, you gain a lot of confidence. Credit to Coach Shannon to buying in on him running the scout team. Coach Swayze and the weight staff have done a great job and the assistant coaches and the players. It’s always fun to be part of a team. But the day to day things that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life as a father and son deal that was tremendous.
He’s had some decent playing time?
Yeah, if you wanna call it decent playing time. (Laughs). He’s worked hard and has done a good job. He’s exceeded my expectations. He wasn’t gong to be on a Heisman watch or anything, but he’s done a good job. He worked hard and has been a good teammate and does the things you need to do and that’s what he’s always done. It’s worked out well.
What about your future? Do you know your coaching status?
I don’t know. The most we said when this all happened was that we came for the players, the kids is what its all about. That’s all we’re doing is focusing on practice and tomorrow get them mentally ready and then play the game on Friday.
But as far as you guys know if you are gonna be here?
That’s irrelevant at this point.
Is it emotional?
Randy put a great staff together, good people. It’s part of the deal. When you win big games and championships, the staff breaks and when you don’t when the staff breaks. But the relationships are really with us; with John and all the other guys on offense and defense, but mostly the players. It hit home a little bit when Mike Price, an old friend, said it at practice the other day “I was really surprised at your enthusiasm.” Not surprised, saying hey, but you don’t know what’s gong to happen in this situation. I think that’s a tribute to this staff and Stout, what they’ve done, the relationships this group of men have with the players. Hopefully it will continue today and through Friday.
Spencer Whipple is a Jr?
Yeah, he has two more semesters: this spring and in the fall he graduates.
Does the weather change mean anything?
We’ll worry about that that day. Whatever is out there today, we’ll practice in that. We had early morning deals in Miami, which were probably low 40’s. In a lot of throw games, it’s the wind than maybe the cold.
There is supposed to be a lot of wind. How does that effect things?
Somewhat. It depends on where you throw the ball, not knowing the stadium. If it you throw it well, it doesn’t really matter. They guy that doesn’t throw spirals will have problems. The kicking game comes into play more, fielding kickoffs and field goals. It’s just another set of circumstances.
With the starting job open at QB, how has that impacted Harris and Morris’ performance or competition.
I think they have both gotten a lot better. Obviously Harris is healthy both physically and mentally coming off that kind of violent concussion. Those guys have been tremendous. The both said this is what we are going to do, split the reps. Harris had more reps yesterday. I feel really good about that position going into the game, the best I’ve felt where Steven’s at. It’s been a positive. They have both gotten a lot of reps, more practice than we did last year. It’s been really good.
Moving forward, do you thing the guys will continue to push each other?
I don’t think competition is ever a bad thing. They talk all the time and they always have. When Steven played, Jacory was on the sideline helping him out with things. They would be out there together with Spensor, saying “look at this corner, see that safety, check out that backer’s eyes.” All things we told them and carried over to the field. That’s why when Randy and I talked, we felt it was important that Jacory went to the Georgia Tech game. He wasn’t going to play, but it was important that he was there. It’s like having another coach. It’s really an important relationship and I think it’s grown. Those guys are respectful of one another and have a great relationship.
Is there anything that you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks that you feel good about?
Overall, we got a lot of the young guys a lot of work. I don’t know if that will show up in the game. We gave those guys a lot of reps. There was a lot of encouragement from the ones all the way down and that’s where we build some depth and that’s really good. We may not want to play all those guys, but they way they have all gone about their business, they’ve matured from where we were a year ago.
Which of your seniors do you feel would be your highest draft choices?
I don’t know. If I was in the NFL, like four years ago, I’d tell you. I haven’t talked to anybody. We got a few. Allen Bailey is a good player. Leonard Hankerson has really helped himself. Those guys can play. There’s guys, but I haven’t talked to anybody. They’ll worry about that at four o’clock after Friday.
I’d just like to echo Mark’s complements of the bowl committee and the things that have been taken care of for us this whole time and it’s been really great. From coming down here, the accommodations, the practice facilities, everything’s been top rate. I know the kids are having a great time. We’re looking forward to getting to this game.
Someone just asked about kids turning pro. What about on the defensive side?
I really don’t know what the underclassmen’s plans are. There are several kids that I think people have interest in, but I would not sit there and comment on who might be going out or leaving. I have not heard anything like that, so I fully expect that all the juniors will be back. We, like every school in America, they have the NFL committee and look at any guy that has significant playing time and give them a grade and those grades are given to the kids. The head coach speaks to them about that information and helps them make decision. Nothing has been relayed to me or anyone on our staff that anyone is coming out early.
Do you generally think it’s better that kids come back for their senior year?
I would think that number one that the kids are here to get an education because that’s going to last longer than anything else. If they need to come back and finish their education, I would suggest they finish it. I know in some case the kids are so far away, and I’m not saying here at Miami, but at other institutions I’ve been at, that maybe their best chance is to go on and they have a good enough grade and a chance to go on and take care of themselves and their families, they need to look at it on a case by case situation.
Is Al Golden here? Has he been involved in any of the game planning?
No sir, not that I know of. He hasn’t been involved in any of the practices. He and his staff has come out and what they have done for the most part they have looked at the players to look at their recruiting needs.
Can you talk about the Miami secondary and the challenge they have with Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd?
First of all, Wesely McGriff has done a great job, we call him Crime Dog. He’s done a great job with the kids and the kids have really responded to his coaching. He’s been around them for 4 years and they’ve kinda grown up with him. They’ve played very, very well. Each week when we go in and take a look at the different opponents, we try to figure out who the guys are they try to throw the ball to, their strengths and weaknesses and just ry to adjust our coverage a little bit to help our guys. Crime’s been very instrumental in that and he’s got the kids playing fast.
A guy like Floyd, he’s a big player, he’s a big physical receiver. I can remember him when I was at North Carolina and we played Notre Dame and they had him and Golden Tate, who went out last year. But Floyd gave us nightmares. He was very physical, they could throw the ball up in the air and he had the ability to just go and get it. We are going to have to know where he is on the field whether they line him up at 1 weak , 1 strong, or if they put him in the slot. They doe different things formationally depending on where they put him.
Are you gong to have one guy on Floyd?
No, we pretty much line up with field and boundary guys and set it up that we. We feel pretty good that if we need to do something, we‘ll adjust our coverage to help him. We’re not going to try to run a guy all over the field to cover him because the other thing they’ll do is put him in the slot. They can move him around to what we do and I don’t want to bastardize our coverage for him. We can do things with our coverage just keeping our rules squared away.
Coach, your reputation is that you get you pass rush through the front four. How do you adjust your defense for a young quarterback who had problems with a USC team that ran zone blitz on him?
I think you have to look at it, you have to do what you do and then you adjust that to things that attack their protection, as far as pressures. You don’t just sit there and say you’re going to blitz. Number one, if you put something in, your kids have to learn it, and when they’re learning, they aren’t playing fast. When they’ve got it, they’re playing fast. We wanna do what we do and do it better and that’s what you practice for. If you have your kids playing fast, our defensive line which way they are sliding for their protection or we can set up pressures to attack their pressures, that’s what we’ll do.
They have the chalk last. We have to react to what they do. They can give us something different and all of the sudden you do something totally different we would not be comfortable playing out there. A lot of times, as I told the kids when I got here, it’s not what I call, it’s how well you execute what I call. I think it’s key when you play a good football team. You have ot out execute, whether that’s tackling, leveraging the football, catching the football, whatever that it. If you do that well, you’re going to be successful.
Can you asses Allen Bailey’s performance this season?
I think Rick Petri has done an unbelievable job developing him. Allen has been a kid that came here and played a lot of positions. He’s such a tremendous athlete. He was recruited to come here and play linebacker, defensive end. When I first got here, he was playing tackle and I was really excited and thought “you’ve got him at tackle, holy cow, a kid with his athletic ability.” I think he found a home and he really took to Rick and has really developed as a player this year. Believe it or not, when we had injuries and Clinton Porter got hurt and made us think inside and then we had some other guys, Josh was banged up, so we were limited with number at our d-line. So Allen played inside and outside for us and was able to do that very well. I think Allen Bailey is one of the most underrated players this year. He will make a squad and stay a very long time because you’re not going to find a harder working human being and more dedicated person than that kid is. He totally unselfishly said “Coach, whatever you need, I’ll play nose guard, I’ll do what ever you want” and not a lot of kids would do that with everything he has at risk.
Can you assess Brandon Harris?
Brandon has played corner for us and plays nickel in most positions and that’s basically what he’s done. He hasn’t really changed anything from what he’s been doing from the last two years. Brandon is one of the guys that has a lot of gifts physically. His dad was a coach and he is kind of a gym rat. He’s one of the guys that if you walk in to a guy and there’s a lot of people playing basketball and you wanna have a pick up game, he’s one of the first guys you pick. He has a way to figure out how to be in the right spot in the right time and be able to make plays. I think he has really developed as a player. Now he hasn’t been nearly as productive. I’ve coached some Thorpe award finalists, Ty Hill was a guy I coached at Clemson, and Ty might have had a little better stats as far as some things going, but Brandon doesn’t necessarily throw him the because he is taking care of his business and that’s a complement to him. Those quiet guys you don’t read about especially on the back end, they’re really doing a good job. You don’t hear much about 13, but 13 has done a pretty good job for us this year, silently.
Can you talk about Notre Dame’s running game?
They do a lot formationally to try to help themselves. They’ll spread you out and then try to dictate your coverage by being spread out and then they’ll move some people around to get you out manned in the running game and they do a very nice job of that scheme wise. They’ve been able to pop some runs on everybody. They’ve been able to run the ball on everybody. Armando, I don’t think he’s playing, but even without him, it’s not necessarily the player, it has to do a lot with the way they are doing things. Obviously he better player doing it, bigger plays will happen. Coach Kelly has done a good job scheme wise to give you some problems.
A few years ago, Notre Dame went through a similar situation with the coaching staff and it didn’t turn out well. What makes you think that you cohesion is still there and players are responding?
I’m not a prophet. I can sit there and look at our practices and see how hard our kids play and the level of competition and the chatter that’s going on between them. So, it hasn’t been any different this week or last week than it was earlier in the year when we were playing for everything. I think they are excited to play the game. I think they will go out and play pretty hard. The only thing you don’t know is if you start out fast or start out slow how they will react to that. I think we have a pretty good core of player that hold this thing together. That’s what I believe in.
Coach Kelly has been pretty honest about not having Tommy Rees manage the game and leaving it in his hands. As a defensive coordinator, dose that give you any advantage?
Not really. That’s smart for any coach to do that. If you put it on one player and you take that player out of the game, you’ve taken away the other ten players so he uses all 11 players on offense. I think that will make him a better, more effective player, the quarterback, than without putting the pressure on his shoulders and telling him to do. He indirectly is putting the pressure on the him, but he’s just asking him to carry out his role. I don’t think Coach Whipple is telling Jacory that the game’s in your hands. We’ve got a lot of people on offense to spread the ball around to and I think Coach Kelly is basically saying “We are going to run our offense and you just operate it. We’ve been very successful running it over the last few games.” (Rees) hasn’t played poorly and they’ve been doing pretty well and he has pretty good stats.
Can you talk about the commitment that you’ve made to continue follow through with all of this and how you are all together and how frustrating it is that you’ve done a good job and know you won’t be coming back?
It’s part of the business. When you’re in this business, it’s a people business and it’s driven by a lot of different people. It’s not necessarily the guys in the room, the guys on the field. There are a lot of things that go on: T.V. revenue, fans, whoever. People make decisions on how things are going to be and they go on with it. When you make a change, for whatever reasons you make a change, bottom line was that we didn’t win enough games to keep people happy around here. The statistical part of it really doesn’t make much difference. We could be 116th in the country or we could be 1 in the country, if we don’t win enough games to keep the right people happy, then change is made for whatever reason.
Has it been emotional for you and the team?
I think for the players. You make bonds with kids and that part is always tough. You get friendly with coaches and you’re used to being around them and that’s always difficult. You understand coming in. I remember reading a book by George Allen, “Merry Christmas, you’re fired” was one of his famous lines in there and you understand that when you get into this business. It’s a rough business, it’s a people business. You all out there, when you write, you sit there and say we’ve got to do this, this and this, well we do need to do this, this and this in order to keep our jobs. If I did this, this and this I may be walking in there and saying “I’ll see ya.” I may be going somewhere else because somebody wants to do something else for me that the University of Miami may not want to do. That’s all part of the business and we’ve all been there. Head coaches come and go. A head coach will get hired and when they do, they bring their staffs or people they are comfortable with in. That’s kinda what’s happened here. I know Al Golden very well and I have no animosity toward him at all and I have no ill feelings toward the University at all. I knew when I came here, I knew what this place was and what the expectations were and didn’t think anything short of this would happen with what happened this year at the end of the year. I’m just going to leave it at that because I don’t want to get into anything else. It’s a tough business and it’s toughest on the families. We just move forward as we go.