The countdown to the opening kick-off of a new season, with a new coach and a new style has will hit T-minus 100 hours at 2 pm today (significantly less from when the tailgating begins). The depth chart was released yesterday. Also taking place yesterday, the Big East coaches teleconference and Coach Graham’s first gameweek presser.
The most interesting thing — at least to me — that came out of Graham’s time in the Big East coaches teleconference (mp3 file) was where his offensive philosophy came from.
Paraphrasing, but it went back to 1993 when he was coaching defense in D-II and had to go against DickRod’s team. The no-huddle spread “fascinated” him, and as a defensive coach this style was what he hated to defend and plan to stop.
That struck me as a very open-minded and creative approach. Definitely getting out of his comfort zone. Frequently head coaches from the defensive side tend to favor more traditional offenses. Basically, the offense they generally expect their defense to play most of the time.
I’m trying to think of head coaches at the BCS level that come from the defensive side of the ball, but embrace a more dynamic offensive approach. Gene Chizik at Auburn comes to mind as does Brian Kelly of Notre Dame. But these seem like the exceptions. Am I falling prey to an overgeneralization? I suppose it would be something to research at a later time.
Then there is his local press conference. Lots of items to examine.
Let’s start with pace on offense.
“We would eventually like to get around 12 seconds. I think we tend to forget that this is all new to these guys. Our quarterback has the biggest strain on him because he has to do everything he did last year and probably more. He has to communicate the call, protections, and checks while reading coverage at a lot faster pace. I would say if we’re at 18 seconds then we will be excited about that time, but I won’t be satisfied with it. We like to have the ball snapped every 15 seconds in our first year. We were doing that early and we’ve slowed a little bit. Our time is going to be the focus for us and we can’t start trying to scheme too much before we get the tempo established. That will be what sets us apart. I would like to be at 15 seconds but I think for the first game we will be around 18.”
The man obviously cares nothing for bloggers. How the hell are we going to handle commenting in liveblogs between plays at that kind of speed?
As much focus has been on the offense, the presser transcript is dominated by talk of the defensive personnel and how they are going to be used. Mixing savvy players with talented freshmen. To wit, Andrew Taglianetti:
“We are not trying to be deceptive on what guys are playing. Andrew Taglianetti is a winner in every way and is a kid who does everything right in all areas of his life. He is more of nickel spur so you’re going to see him in the game if it’s ten personnel, eleven personnel or sets similar to that. He’s not a base down spur. Our base down spur would be Todd Thomas or Greg Williams. We wanted to list him and he is a starter in my mind. Taglianetti is also the backup free safety and the backup bandit. He’s probably the next safety to go on the field. We will use him in a nickel a lot like they used Dom DeCicco last year. He is more of our nickel strong safety and Todd Thomas is more of our true outside linebacker.”
So Thomas is really the starter, but Tags will be all over the field in spots.So will true freshman Lafayette Pitts.
“Lafayette Pitts is going to play boundary corner and bandit safety so we’re trying to bring him along. How we develop those guys is playing with boundary and field people. If you play him at boundary corner then you better learn boundary safety. Right now he’s taking most of his snaps at bandit safety or boundary safety. He’s been progressing well and he’s a guy who is going to help us this year. It’s a little tougher in the back end because there’s a lot more to comprehend. We’re running over 20 different coverage looks so there is a lot to learn. Pitts has done very well at corner so we’re pretty solid at that position. We want to provide a little depth at safety. We think the bandit safety is a position that is going to be his primary position and he will also be in depth at the boundary corner position.”
The use of Pitts, might also be to help allow Jason Hendricks get a little more rest to start the season. The official word is that he is healthy after battling turf toe in camp, but that is a nagging injury.
‘Then there are the freshmen players not listed as a starter, who sort of are. Or at least in heavy rotation.
“Ejuan Price is a starter in my mind. Brandon Lindsey is the starting Panther and then on third down you will see Lindsey and Price as the outside linebackers. Those guys will be on the field in third down situations. Ejuan has tremendous talent. The only thing he has to do is keep learning what he is doing. Every snap just keeps getting better and better for him. K.K Mosley-Smith is basically in the starting rotation up front on the defensive line. He plays behind Myles Caragein. Naturally Myles can’t play every snap so K.K will be in the rotation up front. We will play a lot of defensive line when we rotate those guys. The Woodland Hills guys are representing well. I am pretty proud of those guys and how they came in. All three of those guys (Price, Mosley-Smith and Lafayette Pitts) are leaders in that class in how they work and how they go about things.”
Coach, you have to learn. It is now Juan Price, not Ejuan.
As much as we hear about the dizzying array of offensive sets, the defense seems just as confusing from afar. Yet, somehow, Coach Graham spoke of trying not to make mistakes.
Graham said that regardless of who the opponent is, if the Panthers make sure they take care of their own business first, the games will take care of themselves.
“Really, this whole game is about us and about us going out and performing,” Graham said. “Early in the season I am a firm believer that the team [that] makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win. Just don’t beat yourselves.”
I have to expect more than a few just because the players are going to get mixed up at times.
I don’t even want to think what all these different sets and substituting players on both sides of the ball while increasing the pace is going to do to Bill Hillgrove on the radio call. I’m not sure he’ll make it through the season.
It is confirmed that Trey Anderson is effectively the No. 2 QB ahead of Mark Myers. Hopefully we will see one of them sometime by the 3d quarter on Saturday because it’s a blowout.
While there are plenty of upperclassmen on the 2-deep, it isn’t hard to see a lot of the new faces listed. A definite change.
Those situations typically arise in all college programs when a new coach arrives. Players recruited by the current staff move quickly up the depth chart for reasons of familiarity as much as talent. Not surprisingly, freshmen Anderson and Jones, running backs Malcolm Crockett and Corey Davis, nose tackle K.K. Mosely-Smith, outside linebacker Ejuan Price and cornerbacks Lafayette Pitts and Lloyd Carrington are competing for significant playing time.
Talent remains the deciding factor, and that’s why [Shane] Gordon and [Todd] Thomas have caught the coaches’ attention.
Now if the new changes can only include junking “Sirius” from the Alan Parsons Project as the intro music. Cripes, that song is almost 30 years old.