Notes from Today's press conference:
On Wake Forest:
Offensively they are definitely the best offense we've play. They are very balanced. Riley Skinner has 37 starts. He has a lot of experience and he really understands what he's doing... He's an excellent scrambler. The biggest thing he does such a good job of is scrambling around and finding a guy [downfield]. When he scrambles, he delivers the ball [downfield]....He dinks it out to a running back in the flat and you are out of position and he runs for 20 yards. He's what makes them go.
They also run a significant amount of misdirection with their offense. They are extremely athletic group up front. They are all redshirt guys and they all have a bunch of starts under their belt. They do a good job executing...They have good running backs- they are both veteran guys. Their wide outs are new guys but they have done a good job spreading the ball around.
They are definitely the best group we have played.
Defensively, they move and stem as well as anybody we play. They have a lot of movement right before the ball is snapped and as it is snapped. We have to be poised in our snap count and using that as a tool for us. They understand gap control. They do have a lot of first-year starters defensively but all of those guys have significant playing time and they've developed in their system. They do a great job of execution and that's what we have to do- execute. We have to eliminate the things that beat ourselves. I think this is going to be a big game for Kyle Parker. He's got to do what he's coached to do. We can't beat ourselves.
When he refers to "stemming" he means stunting and exchanging gap controls on the defensive line, generally on one side. It works off calls on the defensive line, and the offense can sometimes adjust to a stunting defense by going off the first sound, to try to catch them in a stunt and out of position. It also confuses OL in their blocking assignments.
In this terminology, a stem is usually the gap exchange of the linemen done before the snap, whereas a stunt is a gap exchange with a lineman and a linebacker or two linemen after the snap. For most intents and purposes they are the same things but if you want to be technical its a last-second shift on the DL (like everyone shifts over to the weakside at the last second, or everyone waits til the snap to put their hands down, etc.).
Brad Scott was asked about the OL and how they deal with this type of thing:
"Fifteen or 20 years ago, defenses played one, maybe two defenses. That was it. So you could really tee up and come off the ball. Nowadays -- y’all watch college football. I saw somebody made the quote that the day of the 200-yard offensive rushing day is probably more like 150 these days. …
"With the way the safeties are down, everybody is playing man coverage to get that eighth guy down in the box. You’ve got to run it up in there to keep them honest and to help you with your passing game. But I think there probably is a little bit of a trend where it’s a little more challenging to cover guys up. A lineman would love to just line up and come off the ball. That’s what all people want to see, and that’s what we want them to do.
But that guy that’s right there who you’re coming off on, he might just go two gaps over and be there, and that linebacker might be right there.
I don’t want to use the term slow step, but you have to play more under control. So it’s still an aggressive personality and attitude, but you better play under control, or you’re liable to completely miss guys."
The internet is blowing up with rumors of differences between you and Billy Napier. Is that true and have you overridden him on a bunch of calls this season?
Swinney: There's no truth to that. I hired Billy to be the offensive coordinator. I probably have over written three calls in five ball games. It's no different on the defensive side. I got a great relationship with Billy. I probably picked a bad day to invite people to practice. I don't know if y'all pay attention but we lost to Maryland. Everybody wants to write about me and Billy ... well what about Coach Pearman, and Coach Scott and Coach Steele. I have all the respect in the world for all my coaches. One of the things I like about Billy is he's got some fire to him. I had the band out at practice. It was one of those spring practice days where nobody was in good humor. And I'm glad about that. I don't know where that comes from. I don't override play calls or anything like that. I manage the game. I may say hey let's take a shot or hey let's run it. We aren't just randomly calling plays on game day. I don't know how else to answer that other than it's just way far from accurate. That's just part of this job.
Are you surprised that you've only overridden three calls?
Swinney: I hire people to do their jobs. I say three it may have been one or may have been five. I like to say I make all of the bad calls because it's my responsibility on both sides of the ball to make sure it's right. I've looked at all the film during this open date- sure there were times when you say well dad-gum that's a bad call. Most of the time, where we've had success it's been because of our crisp play and execution. When it's not going well, it's been a combination of us not executing properly or a missed assignment or a dropped ball instead of a bad call. That goes back to us coaching them better - bottom line. That's the attention to detail that we've focused on the last two weeks because if we execute we have a chance to be successful.
As I said in the Raycom blog over the weekend, I'll take his word for it even if I think he is exerting more control than that over the offense. Its Napier's head now for these silly play calls.
As for the argument, it is being overplayed. Coaches do argue on the field, but like he said, it looks bad because it happened on the field with the Band and others watching and our problems have been mostly on offense. Austin said he chewed everyone out on the team, as he should.
What have you changed during the off-week? Anything?
Swinney: Yeah. We don't go to the next play unless it's right. It's got to be right. Got to do it right as opposed to get our reps in. I'd rather get less reps and get it right. Last Wednesday and Thursday were two of the best practices we've had. Yesterday was excellent. We will have a chance to have a much more successful start of the season.
Well what did you guys do this offseason? You said you simplified the playbook and pared things down. If its too complicated still, then you shouldve figured that out in MTSU-game week.
Is it enough to get better execution on offense or do you make personnel changes as well?
Swinney: We've got a good system. We have to execute better on both sides of the ball in critical situations. Certainly there is always the opportunity to make changes personnel-wise and we'll make tweaks here and there. We have to gain that confidence from practice to make that critical play that is required.
This week Dalton Freeman is getting alot of the reps at Center, partly because he can do it well, and partly because they want Cloy over at RG to light a fire under McClain's ass.
How would you assess the offensive line at this point in the season?
Swinney: Far from dominant but we are better. We aren't the same group without Chris Hairston. Glad to get him back at 100 percent but we are nowhere near where I want us to be. We are better- there's no denying that. You watch our game against Wake Forest last year and I can hardly watch it. We've done a better job of not getting sacked. Last year we had a bunch of sacks. We are one of the top teams in the conference as far as not getting sacked. We have to be able to run the football- but just one thing is first down. We have to be better on first down. That would fix a lot of our other issues. First down efficiency- that's a big focus for me. That's run, pass, play-action on first down. we don't need second and 12 or second and 10.
The debacle at Wake last year was the worst offensive performance I've ever seen, far worse to me than Maryland last week. I disagree with him that we are much better up front. Through 5 games I see hardly any improvement in run blocking except for a few less missed assignments. They hit the right guys, but they still dont do anything when they hit them.
How much of the offense 's lack of success is due to a first-year quarterback starting?
Swinney: He has certainly made mistakes but he's not the reason we are 2-3. He's given us the opportunity to win. He's going to make mistakes. He's a freshman. We have to do the best job of minimizing mistakes. He's made some really really good plays. He's made some big plays and had some little things like a third-and-five and he could have easily scrambled for it but he's looking for the big one or maybe missing a protection.
And having to simplify the offense means what? Either the QB isnt getting everything, or the whole team. I'll have to lean to the latter, but Napier coaches both of 'em. I expected Parker to have a few freshmen-like games, and I still expect Korn to play more this year than he has because of it. What Parker does well is throwing it away in trouble, too well lately. If he would step up in the pocket and become a run threat, it would create opportunities for receivers behind the LBs in the underneath zones, he has to be coached to do that...not just run to the sideline and throw it just out of bounds.
Strelow's blog mentions the tussle between Napier and Dabo as well, when asked about it today Napier said this:
"I heard that too. I also heard that I didn't go to the press conference after the Maryland game. A lot of things, when you've got a situation where you lose a couple of tight games and you've got a little of that looking for answers, and you've got people at practice who maybe aren't used to being at a college football practice, it's probably a little surprising, some of the things they see.
"It was no big deal. It's a competitive sport, it's an intense sport. We've got to do our job as coaches, and that's to motivate our players. Coach Swinney obviously has to do his job as a head coach and motivate not only the players, but the staff. It was a very intense open date, Wednesday practice. Very typical of some that we've had around here in the preseason and in spring practice. You've got to do some things to catch their attention as players. I think it's really helped our guys, and they've fed off the intensity. And we've had better practices the last couple of days.
"I didn't think it was that big a deal. Obviously when you've got the band at practice, rumors are going to fly. Just a normal, intense practice with intense, competitive guys. Hopefully we'll have more like that."
What exactly did happen that triggered it?
NAPIER: "I think they were caught off by the vocal, just the loudness and really getting after the kids and the staff, getting the little things right. You guys have been in practice before, and it's a little violent. It's no different than it has been. I don't know if those guys have ever been to one....I think our players actually fed off of it. So it's been a good thing."
Napier goes further to say that the staff collaborates on the scripting of the first drive, and says they have looked at expanding that, as well as something to start the 2nd half. I wonder what took them so long to figure that out?
The rest of Napier's presser comes off the way he usually does: excuses and "we need to get the ball to _______ more often" and "we need to coach them better". I'm getting sick of hearing what he has to say honestly.
EDIT: Strelow gives the Steele and Napier interviews here.