"We are coming off a very productive bye week for us as we prepare for a very difficult conference opener in Georgia Tech. Our guys have had really a good week and a half of preparation, and so we are looking forward to getting to Atlanta and kicking the ACC off for us."
I wanted to check in on your defense, I saw you guys against South Carolina. How much better do you think you guys have got since that opener?
"Hard to tell you that. I mean, I think we played better in the game against Middle Tennessee State. Obviously the talent level was different, but there were fewer mistakes and we had guys flying to the ball. We had guys making plays and creating turnovers.
"So I mean, I want to say that we've gotten better. I want to say we've gotten better in the bye week, also. Obviously everybody knows the task at hand when you play the triple option and what it brings to the table. So we are going to have to do a tremendous job in that aspect of the game."
What are some of the particular keys in that game that you're looking for out of your guys?
"Well, we've got to play assignment discipline. That's going to be very important. Everybody has to take care of their job. We have got to defeat some blocks and we have got to get off of blocks and we have got to get as many hats on the ball carry as possible."
I was writing a story about you and your connection with Andy McCollum.
Can you tell me with him hiring you at Middle Tennessee to be the coordinator there, what kind of a break was that for you?
"Well, it was a huge break for me. I mean, obviously Andy and I had worked together at Baylor University for a few years, and we had a relationship.
"When Andy got that job, I was actually in Hawaii at the Bowl game with Air Force when he called me. Said, hey, would like you to be the offensive coordinator. And you know, Fisher DeBerry thought I was crazy in doing that, but it was a time for me to see if what I believed in offensively, if I could do it, because there were not a whole lot of people out there doing it.
So it was just a great experience for me, and I appreciate it very much that Andy gave me that opportunity."
Why did he think you were crazy?
"Why did Fisher think I was crazy? Well, middle ten continue was a I-AA program that was making the transition to I-A. We had won in those two years I was there, we had just won 23 games at the Air Force Academy and things were going pretty good.
So he probably thought I was crazy to leave that situation to go into an unknown situation and especially there was not anybody else on that offensive staff that I had ever worked with. So a lot of guys don't want to go into situations like that, especially at the coordinator position."
You were saying on the teleconference a couple weeks ago, and Andy was saying this, because of the personnel that you had there with Kendall Newson and Tyrone Calico, guys like that, that's how you all chose to go with your offense instead of maybe the triple option, and creates -- and what do you think would have if the personnel had been different and you all had chosen to go the option route?
"We'd have had success. I mean, I don't think there's any doubt about it. To me it wasn't so much the style of offense as far as fitting it to the personnel of what we had there. It just, you know, it was fortunate for me that we were able to do the things that I really believed in and wanted to do. You know, back then, in '99, there weren't many no-huddle teams in the country, and so-- and nobody was doing tempo. So it was something that I believed in and fortunately we were able to do that.
"But I do believe that if we would have had the personnel to run the triple option, we'd have had success doing that. We had just come from the Air Force Academy and had plenty of success doing it out there."
I wanted to ask you about facing the triple option and I'm thinking in terms of the Wake Forest-Army game. Last year he can which check would have played the triple option, sometimes that helps teams and sometimes it doesn't. What are the keys to that, to stop that triple option if you have some experience or not?
"Well, I always think, yeah, I think experience is good. I think it helps you. I mean, you know, because really, no matter what you try to do in a week for practice, with a scout team, running that offense, you cannot run it the same way that Georgia Tech is going to run it. You cannot-- the speed of the game, the speed at which they run the plays, you can't duplicate those in a practice.
"So it's kind of an eye-opener for your kids that first time when they get out there in that first series or first couple series, just the speed of it, before they settle it. So you have to understand that, if you've played against it early in the year, you have a little more experience and you're not as surprised by it."
I want to ask you about the contrast in tempos. You obviously want to run a very fast offense and wear out the defense and do that kind of thing. They control the ball - they are one of the top teams in the nation in time of possession - can you talk about that contrast? If they have a long 15-play drive and keep your defense out there forever, do you want to come out there and still maintain you fast pace and give them the ball back?
"Are you asking me if I want to go three-and-out?"
I don't mean three-and-out, but maybe three and a touchdown.
"I mean, it's hard for me to -- I mean, I do know this. You know, the more times you snap the ball on offense, the less likely you are probably to -- you're more likely to do something to hurt yourself, you know. And so unless you're a very, very disciplined football team, which -- their style, it's what they do. It is what they do.
"And so I -- it's just a different philosophy. There's no doubt about it, and Paul's been successful with it. I don't know; do I want to put the defense right back out there if they have been out there for 15 plays? No, I definitely don't want to do that.
Does that mean I go out and milk the clock? No, probably not. That's not what we do. We wouldn't have any kind of -- we would not be able to do that offensively and have any kind of flow in the game."
Not really a specific question, but can you imagine two more different styles: You run the spread, quick tempo; they run the option, control the ball forever. Is there any way it could be any different?
"Probably not. You know, I'll tell you-- and the thing about it is, both of them can be successful. I mean, you know, it's the game of football. There's different philosophies, different styles.
The great thing I think is you have a philosophy, and you make sure it's sound, and then you believe in it and that's what you do. And you know, obviously Paul's done that and we've done that. And you know, we are going to see Saturday which one plays the best and usually that's the one that will come out on top."
Can you give an update on Nathan Staub and Junior Gnonkonde?
"Yeah, both of them are playing for us. Staub is playing at the Mike linebacker. Junior is playing at the defensive end position. They are both in a backup role right now but both of them are definitely playing in the games and will be playing this week.
Junior is a guy that came in, was about 218 pounds and now he's 245 pounds. And Nathan has always been a big, strong guy, and you know, they both are learning the defense and are really contributing to our team."
I assume you saw the wrinkle they had in their offense, the diamond shotgun formation, Paul talked a little about it. How much attention do you feel you have to devote to that?
"I'm glad you told me about that. I'm going to have to go back and look at some film and see what they do.
"No, we did see it, and obviously it's a totally different style of offense. I mean, you have to prepare for the triple option, and you spend your time preparing for the triple option, and then they get in the gun and a three-back set back there that's kind of en vogue right now across college football and it makes it difficult.
"It's two different styles of offense, and they are able to do that because of Vad Lee. Vad is a very talented young man who can beat you with his legs or his arm. I think what they have done is they have put together pieces of both of those offense to be very, very successful, and it makes it really hard on your defense."