On Wednesday the ACC held its Football Coaches Teleconference
Well, we’re coming off of a good opening win at home versus Charlotte. I thought our players learned a lot about themselves, and we did a lot of good things, but we did a lot of things that we really need to clean up and continue to get better at. We are looking forward to going on the road and playing at Syracuse in a very tough environment. I think it’ll be great for our team.
With that, I’ll just open it up for questions.
Q. Just your defense against Syracuse’s new style of offense, just what you can say about what you’ve seen on film and kind of how your defense matches up with that.
BOBBY PETRINO: They execute very well. You know, they’re going at a very fast pace. I’ve always liked their quarterback. I thought he was a very good player last year against us. He’s tough and has a quick release, and they’ve got good wide receivers, so it should be a good challenge for us. We’ve got to do a good job of communicating in a loud place and getting lined up quickly and playing fast, not hesitating.
Q. What can you say about the preparation going into this week for you? What did you try to do in practice to simulate what that speed of the game is going to be like?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we’ve had two teams running at our defense and trying to get the ball snapped within 16 seconds all the time and going really fast when we do what we call our crossover drills where it’s our two offense going against our one defense simulating Syracuse, and while we’re doing that we’ve got noise going on. It’s hectic when you’re at practice like that, but it really pays off for game time.
Q. You put up a lot of points obviously in your opener against Charlotte. How much did you go away from that game thinking, yeah, this offense is as good as I thought, or how much did you go away thinking, it was Charlotte, I still don’t know what the ceiling is for this offense this year?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, what we do is we just evaluate and grade every play and work hard on individually performing and getting better on our technique and our fundamentals. We always tell the players worry about the process, worry about one play at a time and the scoreboard takes care of itself. We don’t put a whole lot into what the score was of that game.
You know, I thought we did some good things. There’s a lot of things we need to correct. We are getting better in our passing game, which should help us.
Q. How concerned are you with your depth at defensive line, and considering Syracuse’s up-tempo offense, how much do you think you’ll kind of go into the bench, how deep you’ll go?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we always rotate our guys in, and the key there is to finding the right way to do it and the breaks on when you can get them in. We’ve been conditioning hard, and we understand the tempo that they play at is very fast. We like our defensive front and our outside linebackers. They’re good players. Certainly we’re looking forward to the challenge.
Q. And how big was the loss of Sheldon Rankins to the NFL, and how well do you think Drew Bailey has stepped into his place?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, Sheldon is a great player. He’s not only very talented, but he was one of the smartest football players I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. He really understands the game, is an expert at his technique and knows what offenses are doing. So certainly to replace him, we have to do it with a group effort. But Drew Bailey is playing really well. He’s always been a great pass rusher for us. He made a lot of plays last year. I think he’s really grown in his knowledge of the game and understands how to play both run and pass now.
Q. At your Monday media opportunity with the guys in Louisville, you mentioned, wondering if the chain crew might not have been set a couple times during SU’s game against Colgate and that you might inquire with the ACC a little bit. Did you talk to anyone, an official, and did you get any kind of clarification on what has to go on there?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, the chains have to be set. They’ve got to let the chains get down and be set before they can snap the ball again, and there were a couple times in that game where they didn’t get set. We have talked to the conference office, and that’s part of the officials’ responsibility is to make sure that the chains are set before they let the ball be snapped.
Q. And this is just kind of more generally speaking, obviously with more up-tempo offenses and teams trying to go fast, that chain gang actually becomes important to the strategy. My understanding is that schools and staffs hire their own chain gang. How much more time is actually put into that and aligning the chain gang with what you want to do offensively?
BOBBY PETRINO: Oh, I don’t know. That’s a good idea. We might need to look into it when we play fast teams at home, hiring some guys that don’t run very fast so they can slow it down. I’ve never thought about that. That’s a new idea for us.
The other thing we might need to do is get some oxygen down there and make sure we have a defibrillator in case they can’t keep up when they’re running down the field.
Q. I was wanting to ask, what did you think of the amount that Seth Dawkins played in the second half, how he did off his kickoffs, and getting in at wide receiver and just the development that you’ve seen from him during the fall camp?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yes, Seth is going to be a really good player here before it’s all over with. He’s still learning and learning the speed of practice and learning the playbook, but he’s very, very talented. He’s big and he’s strong. He really runs well with the football after the catch, which we saw when he made that touchdown run. He makes one or two catches every day in practice where you go, wow, I’m not sure anyone else on our roster could do that because he’s got really long arms and can track the ball.
We’re excited about his future. He’s just got to keep developing and getting better as the year goes on.
Q. Talking about Lamar’s play last week against Charlotte, seems like the kid in on all cylinders right now. I talked to him at the Kickoff Classic. Talk about his development going through camp and after the first game.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, he’s worked really hard in camp of being right with his footwork and getting his shoulder correct on his pass plays so that he’s more accurate. I really like the way he’s throwing the ball right now. He’s been hitting helmets and hitting hands and putting the ball away from defenders and throwing receivers open. He’s doing a nice job of that, and he still can really run with the ball.
He didn’t do everything right in the Charlotte game. He missed a couple reads and a couple things that we wished he would have done a little bit better, but he keeps working hard at it. He’s a very dedicated and motivated young man that’s really fun to coach.
Q. Talk about Syracuse; you guys are going up to the Dome. When was the last time you were up in Syracuse?
BOBBY PETRINO: A couple years ago. Yeah, I’ve been up there a few times. It’s a hard place to play. It’s always very loud, they’ve got a great crowd, and they’re a good football team. They do a lot of things defensively that are going to make us have to make sure we can block line movement and attack coverage. Offensively they’re running a very fast-tempo offense. Their quarterback is a good player, and they’ve got good wide receivers. I think it’s going to be a good challenge for us.
DINO BABERS: Well, first of all, we know we have a huge task in front of us. Watching the tape, Louisville has quality athletes on both sides of the ball. Their defense is extremely stout. It’s very difficult to run the football on, and they have some pass rushers that are just some very, very gifted athletic speed. They’re a very, very fast defense, which means you don’t have a lot of places to run the football when they’re stout up the middle and they’re faster than you are going around the edges.
No doubt for our offense that’s going to be a difficult task, and then when you flip it over to the defensive side of the ball, they’ve got to go against the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, and Lamar is a fabulous player, responsible for eight touchdowns. I’m not even sure I’ve got eight touchdowns in my career. He did eight touchdowns in one game, and the way he did it, he’s just an outstanding player, and that’s not to take away from the running backs, the offensive line, four out of five starters back, receivers that can flat go. Coach Petrino has got a heck of a football team. Those guys have been together for a while. He’s got a veteran staff, and the task is going to be very, very challenging for Syracuse.
Q. To kind of speak on Amba and just what you saw in him and what it is about him; he said that the Syracuse coaching staff didn’t have to chase him, that he had seen enough when he went up against Bowling Green about what you do. So just about bringing him in and how excited he was for an opportunity to come to you and obviously play this game this season.
DINO BABERS: You know, I just — Amba had some qualities that we really need here. He’s a very quality person, a fine student, and he’s got God-given abilities when it comes to speed. He’s one of the faster guys on our team, and I think when you put someone that’s a good person and really understands what you’re trying to do here and he got an opportunity to see what we do firsthand when we played Maryland last year when I was at Bowling Green. He was eager to be a part of it, and I think that was half the battle. I’m really happy for his success, and hopefully he’ll have more days like that in the future.
Q. And when you look at your offense and obviously wanting to go fast each time, it was brought up by Louisville’s head coach Bobby Petrino that he wanted to make sure that the chains are set, and obviously you’ve been running this offense for a while. What can you say about making sure that everything is done correctly, and have you been approached about the chains being set as you go forward?
DINO BABERS: Well, I was always under the impression that the box was the most important thing, and if the box was set, then the chains could come later. I’m sure the officials will straighten it out and tell us how they do it.
Q. Have you ever had an instance before where the officials have said, you guys need to slow down and make sure these chains are set, or a coach has ever questioned it before or anything like that?
DINO BABERS: (Chuckling) No, I haven’t, and I’m not concerned about the chains being set. I’m concerned with all the defensive speed they have and offensive speed they have and really good coaching and physical players. I don’t think the game is going to be decided about the one or two seconds and whether the chains are set or not. I’m more concerned about that top-20 ranked football team he’s bringing up in here than whether the chains are set or not.
Q. How close was your Colgate game to the kind of offense, the kind of tempo and the rhythm that you want to get into?
DINO BABERS: It’s too slow. We’ve got to get faster.
Q. How so? What needs to speed up?
DINO BABERS: I think all the mechanics need to speed up. I thought our team was moving too slow between play to play. We can play faster than that.
Q. Is there a certain amount of seconds that you shoot for to get back up to the line?
DINO BABERS: Nope. We’re not going to put a ceiling on it. We’re not going to put a wall on it.
Q. You obviously were implementing a new defensive scheme this year, as well. How do you think the defense responded in that first game?
DINO BABERS: I was really proud of the defense. The Colgate football team is a nationally-ranked FCS team. That team is a quality team that’s going to go deep in their playoffs. Even though we were playing an FCS opponent, we’re playing the top 20 at that level, and a lot of those teams can come up and beat the bottom half of Power Five schools.
That was a good football team for our defense to give up only seven points to that quarterback running type offense and to be able to shut them out the rest of the way. I’m extremely proud of the way they played against them.
Q. My kind of understanding is that the way chain crews work is that they’re hired by each individual school to do their home games. With kind of the emergence of tempo offenses and this discussion we’re having this week about it, it would seem that it would benefit a team that’s going tempo to have a fast chain crew. Is that something that crosses your mind and you plan for, or is this kind of all being overblown?
DINO BABERS: I think it’s a little bit on the latter (chuckling).
Q. And switching gears a little bit, we’ve heard Juwan Dowels on the 1-yard line over Cordell Hudson. I know Cordell got beat a few times on that first drive. Is it a matter of how they played at Colgate or more of a matchup thing for Louisville?
DINO BABERS: I don’t like to single out any individual when it comes to wins and losses. I think when we added up all the grades from the games and whatnot, I think that the other young man just deserved an opportunity to go out there first. I’m pretty sure both of them will play.
Q. Just kind of curious, when Sterling Hofrichter takes a punt, what are you looking for each time and what stands out about him and his skill set?
DINO BABERS: I did not understand what you said.
Q. What are you looking for from Sterling Hofrichter, anything specific?
DINO BABERS: You’re talking about my punter?
DINO BABERS: I would like for him to kick it extremely high where there’s no return and make sure that he fields the ball and gets it away at a decent time so that we can operate efficiently so it doesn’t get blocked, and then when we are sky kicking, we would like for him to drop the ball inside the 10 where it gives us an opportunity to down the ball or it goes out of bounds close to the goal line without crossing it.
Q. Is there anything in his skill set that stands out to you?
DINO BABERS: Yeah, I think he’s a really good punter. I hope not to use him too much, but I think he has the ability to be an excellent punter for us.
Q. First question, what did you think of the offensive line play against Colgate?
DINO BABERS: I thought for us to get 500 something whatnot yards versus that defense, I thought that our offensive line played well.
Q. Obviously Kendall Coleman came in this year coming off an injury. How well do you think he’s responded not really having been able to train for a couple months coming into Syracuse?
DINO BABERS: He has responded extremely well. Any time you can get a freshman that can come and start at any Division I school in college football and play in the very first game and run out there with the first unit, his response has been exceptional. He is going to be a good player.
Now, is he going to be — at 18 is he going to be able to handle all these 21, 22 and 23 year olds? He probably has some growing up to do. But after he initially goes through that a year, year and a half, I think we’re going to have a really good player.