Aug. 12, 2011
Storrs, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team held its annual media day on Friday (Aug. 12), with players and coaches taking part in group photos, interviews and for the first time ever, a live web cast of the days activities. Below are quotes from head coach Paul Pasqualoni and the 2011 captains; Kendall Reyes (Nashua, N.H.), Kashif Moore (Burlington, N.J.), Moe Petrus (St. Laurent, Que.) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Edinboro, Pa.).
Make sure to check out the photo gallery from Media Day by clicking the link above!
Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
"Thanks for coming to media day here. I want to start by saying that our prayers and condolences go out to Dave Solomon's family. I knew Dave back in the days of Southern Connecticut College. He used to cover us there. Great guy. Southern Connecticut guy. New Haven county of football and sports. Just brings back into perspective how important things are. Just a great guy and I feel terrible for his family. We'll miss him."
"We had our first scrimmage yesterday. I thought we got a lot done. We're a 10-installation concept which means we try to put the entire offense, defense and special teams in by 10 days. We are through six of it. Usually, the first six have a little bit more information in them than the final four, so to speak. The guys are, from an information standpoint, over the halfway mark which is a good place to be. The way the legislation is, they are allowed to have media day today and not be out on the field. We had meetings this morning and we will tonight. It's a pretty good day for them to get off their feet and get their legs back a little bit. A couple of the bumped and bruised guys have a chance to get additional treatment today. We'll get them started back up again tomorrow. I think things are going as well as we could expect them to go. We are in the process of getting the offensive line configured. That's an awfully big priority for us. WE have a lot of experience there. We have some guys who know how to play. They are doing well. We think that that's a very very important piece to this in the fact that once we do select a quarterback, we want to give the quarterback all the support we possibly can, regardless of who it is. That's got to start up front with the offensive line and with the run game. Obviously pass protections and giving the quarterback the necessary time to make his drop, get his reads and deliver the football. That unit of the offensive line includes the tight ends and certainly the fullback and tailbacks. They are heavily involved in the success and failure of every protection we have. Those things are coming along. Those areas of the game are something that not anyone masters in one week. With the complexes of defense you see, that's a very big undertaking. We're making big progress in all those areas. From a defensive standpoint, it's well know that we have experience up front and that shows. We have some experience in the back end and that certainly shows. We have some inexperience in the linebacker position and the fact that Jerome Williams went through most of spring ball and now we don't have him out there is a factor. We moved the linebackers around. We are working hard to get that configuration the way we want. We'll need every day we have preseason before the Fordham game to get everything settled. The punters and the kickers should obviously be one of our strengths which will be important. It'll be important in helping the quarterback again in the field position game. We'd love to be able to play great defense and put the ball in a short field to help the offense too. I feel that we've gotten as much done that we possibly can in the first week. We'll take a little break here and catch our breath and get geared up and get ready to go for week number two. The way preseason is configured is that the week starts on Friday and ends on a Thursday. For me, Friday is the first day of the week. That's where I'm at."
Have you ever been in a situation where you've had so much that's new to a team?
"When Coach Parcells left the Cowboys and Wade Phillips came in, everything was new there. When we went to the Dolphins everything was brand new all over the place there. So yeah, we've been around it. Part of what we did when we came here was that we brought in new coordinators but we retained quite a few coaches. We wanted that continuity. We wanted to be able to garner as much information as we possibly could through each phase of the year, especially with the players and the personnel. The guys that stayed on the staff have been tremendously helpful with that. Sure there's a lot new, but at the same time I feel like we have a pretty good sense of the people and the way things have been done."
How helpful is it to have Moe Petrus on the offensive line at center with all his experience? How helpful is that to the quarterback?
"Absolutely. That's critically important. The center is such an important communicator. Those guys have to be great communicators. Having Mike Ryan in preseason camp as well. We didn't have him in the spring. Having Mike here, a veteran whose played a lot of football, that really helps. Having Adam Masters who's played football, that really helps. We do have a little experience with the other guys. Those building blocks so to speak are critically important to us. Having a guy like Moe at the center position that can recognize defensive alignments and fronts and blitzes and linebackers from a protection standpoint, he's confident enough to communicate that and be a leader in that area. That's really important. To have Moe back has been a really big help."
Is Adam Masters going to be an inside guy on the offensive line this year?
"We're not instant evaluators. We don't believe in that instant evaluator's thing. We've had all different combinations as you can see. We've had all different alignments in there. We're putting people in different places. We're doing that for a reason. We want to gain as much information as we can. By the time this thing starts in two weeks, we want to have it right. We don't want to have to go through three games to figure it out. We're trying to do all that work now. It's not easy to do. It's not easy for the players, it's not easy for the coaches but we feel we have to do it. Clearly Adam can be a right guard or a right tackle. He can certainly play both. Where he's gonna end up to start the Fordham game, I don't know. He'll be over there somewhere."
Are there any updates on Jerome Williams' return?
"He's really doing well. Our goal is to get him back for October 1. That's our goal. That's what we're working towards. I'm not telling you he will be back then; I'm giving you some information that that's what we'd like to have happen. He's working hard in the training room. If you notice, during pre-practice we're lucky we have the training staff and Bob Howard's (Head Athletic Trainer) group. Then we have Jerry Martin's (Strength and Conditioning Coordinator) area and we've added Todd Devers (Asst. Strength and Conditioning Coach) and their staffs. Part of Todd's specialty in pro football was to work with those guys during the course of practice. Martin Hyppolite, Jerome and a few other guys are working during the drill period. We're trying to do all we can with their rehab. Then they go over and get all the plays. Maybe they aren't practice, but they are working. It's just a different structure than the other guys. I think we have a chance to get Hyppolite and Jerome back by October 1."
On assessing the quarterbacks after the first week:
"Well, I'd say this. First of all, they have all done good things. Certainly there's things they need to do better. Everybody on the team has to improve. They are all doing well. They are making this a very fierce competition. I like that it's a no-nonsense "I'm competing for this job" approach by each and every one of those guys. Each of them has not given one inch. They are going out there and we are all on the same team. They are teammates in the same room every day but they are competing against each other. That's the first thing I like. I like the focus and attention of the group. At the same time, they are helping each other too. They are practicing as a unit as well.
Obviously, the older guys in Mike (Box) and Johnny (McEntee) know a little bit more. Even though Johnny hasn't taken many snaps in games, he's a little more poised. He's really improved since we started in spring practices. His drops, his reads, his production from drop-back passing have been improved.
Mike Box is working hard. He's doing everything he can do. He's really paying strict attention to his footwork, his reads post-snap where the secondary is located. He's really showing a lot of progress there.
Scotty McCummings is really throwing the ball with a lot more accuracy than he did in the spring. His accuracy is really improving. That's going to come with experience, knowing the depth of the drop and what the concept of the route is. The more confident he becomes, the surer he becomes of his reads, and the more productive he'll be getting the ball out to the receivers. He needs to continue, he has improvements to make.
Michael Nebrich same way. Young guy. Got the ability to scramble. He's shown that when he scrambles, he can reset and deliver it. That's an important tool. At the same time, he's shown an instinctive ability to take the ball down and run with it to get the first down, which is really good too.
Each of them is a bit different. They are working hard. We look forward to this week to see how far they can go again."
How are you looking to reduce the quarterback competition? Will it go from four right to one or will you narrow it down to two first?
"Right now we are just looking to find out who the starter is. We're just gonna keep going to see who can work here. We're gonna work hard, grind it out and let the cream rise to the top and see where we stand one week from today. I'll say that I'm very pleased with the work they are doing. Which is terrific."
Is there a drop-dead date set in which you have to make a decision on the quarterback?
"Yeah, my drop-dead date is September 1. The game starts at 7:00. We go out an hour and 50 minutes before. SO somewhere around 5:00 that night. That's my drop-dead date. That's what it was the last time. Last time, everybody in the media had Kevin Johnson starting and Donovan McNabb walked out for the first snap. Everybody was scrambling to get the press guide to see where he grew up. So I don't know."
Each guy has a skill set. Are you looking for a something specific or a comfort level from the starting quarterback?
"Well, here's the theory. We have this big playbook. It's a lot to learn. The way we do things, we install the whole playbook. Over the course of the year, we won't use the entire thing. Once we figure out who the quarterback is going to be, then we'll take from the playbook the areas that really fit the guy we've chosen. We'll narrow it down. We'll feature what we feel the strengths of this quarterback will be. Then we'll go from there. We'll have to be able to put the playbook to the side and figure out what to do once we select a guy."
Have you ruled out playing two quarterbacks throughout the year?
"We haven't ruled out anything to tell you the truth. We haven't ruled out a thing. We're gonna play the guys all the way around, including the quarterback position, we're going to play the people that we feel can be productive and help us win. So whatever that turns out to be. I'm telling you, I don't know right now. I'm not ruling anything out, not a thing."
You've been down wide receivers all camp. How does that affect the wide receiver position and special teams?
"We're working with seven guys at wide receiver. I like the guys we have. I think Isiah (Moore) and Kashif (Moore), two seniors, give us excellent leadership over there. They've been productive. They are having a good camp. Nick Williams is a terrific guy. Both he and Kashif can play in the slot. I think you have two really good slot guys. The two young guys, (Tebucky) Jones and (Geremy) Davis, are really making excellent progress. They are like twins over there, 84 and 85. I call them 84 and 85. They do everything together. They study together. They eat together. They walk to the facility together. Which is great. Two young guys trying to make the team. I really like what they're doing as well. I think we have got on campus some guys who are going to be able to contribute and help us. You're always concerned about depth; I'm not going to deny that at all. There's other guys who may have been able to help us on special teams. I think we have guys here that will step up and help us on special teams."
Any talk of moving someone from defense over to wide receiver?
"We have a few guys who might e able to help us on both sides of the ball. We've done that in the past. I had a guy at Syracuse Diamond Ferri who one game played every defensive play, carried the ball 28 times, played every special teams play and played 128 plays in one day. We're not opposed to doing everything that we have to do if it's gonna help the team and help us win. We'll play offensive guys on defense and defensive guys on offense. Maybe not every play. We'll give them a role."
#99 Kendall Reyes, RS Senior, Defensive Tackle
Can you describe the installation of the offense and defense this year and how it's going overall?
"We've gone over it before, so it's kind of review for the guys who got a lot of reps during the spring. For some of the young guys who haven't played college football yet. It's tough for them to pick up. I think that for starters, we're picking it up pretty well. We're bringing the young guys aboard as well."
How would you describe the differences in camp with the new coaching staff?
"Camp is camp. It's all day every day. I get up at 7 and I get back to the dorm around 9:30, 10 at night. It's an all-day event. It's physically hard, camp always is. For some of the young guys it's the mental part. During high school you do camp for two hours. You have two hours of this and that. Here, you have camp for two hours but then you have meetings all day. It's an all-day grind instead of going to play football for four hours then you're done. It's the other aspects besides football that makes camp so tough. It's my fifth year, I know what to expect. The coaches maximize the amount of time they are allowed to use to prepare for the season."
Can you talk about your journey as a player? How much better have you become?
"I definitely came a long way. We had a lot of great players I learned from in my younger years. I tried to absorb as much as I can. Every year when the season is done, I try to look back and see what I need to improve on. Before, it was my body. I was at 270 pounds playing defensive tackle. I still needed to put on more weight. Obviously this game is very specific and fundamental. There's things I still do wrong that I've been working on for four or five years. Trying to get progressively better each year, I can feel the changes from my freshman year till my fifth-year senior year."
#6 Kashif Moore, RS Senior, Wide Receiver
Does the loss of wide receivers at the start of the year affect the quarterback competition?
"No not really. I feel like we have good depth at receiver. Receivers and quarterbacks are all rotating so much."
Do the young guys have to grow up quick here?
"Yeah definitely. That's something I've been telling those guys. It's a great opportunity to get in there and play so early. Every day you come here, make sure you get better."
Is it tough to judge the quarterbacks?
"Every practice they all rotate. There's not one main guy at all. That's something that the coaches are trying to evaluate right now. So the best guy will play and that's up to the coaches. I'm out there only controlling what I can. That's blocking and running my routes. That helps to make the quarterbacks look good as well."
Do you want someone to get the quarterback job soon?
"Yeah, I feel like that would be better for the offense. The sooner the better."
Have you ever been around a quarterback competition with four guys like this?
"I've never been around for four guys like this. My past four years here, we've never had one steady quarterback so I'm used to it really."
What are the challenges as a wide receiver with four different quarterbacks?
"This just makes the wide-outs better as receivers. You can't get used catching one type of ball. You have to get used to catching all types of passes because each guy throws the ball a bit differently. Depending on which quarterback it is, some have more zip on the ball. Some guys put more air under the ball."
#57 Moe Petrus, RS Senior, Center
The quarterbacks all have different styles. How will that affect the style of game and your role as a lineman?
"The coaches are gonna tailor the offense on whoever they pick. I think the coaches will tailor the play calling to suit their strengths. I prefer myself a pure pocket passer. We know where he is all the time. Rather than a guy who scrambles. Sometimes you lose track of him and the defense can see him but we can't. It gets tough for us."
How are things going overall? How's the mood?
"Things are coming along at a good rate. It's always tougher for the offense during preseason, gelling and timing. We are putting together some big plays. We have some stuff to sharpen and fine tune. But we are doing well as an offense."
Do you make adjustments personally based on the quarterback?
"No, not too much. I try to put the ball on his numbers consistently. We'll adjust a little to whoever's back there. If he's gonna scramble we have to maneuver as well."
Where's the offensive line right now? How's the combination coming along?
"I think the coaches are trying out a few guys to get the best five on the field wherever they might end up. Adam Masters has been playing well at guard but he also has tackle down pat so that's a nice asset for us. I think the coaches have an idea of what direction they are going in and are looking for the best five to take us down the road."
#5 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RS Junior, Cornerback
What are your thoughts on Coach Don Brown (Defensive Coordinator)? Did it take time to get used to him?
"When he first came in and we were in the defensive room, you see this guy walk in and he's like, "gentleman, I'd like to congratulate you on your recent success defensively you are a good squad. I know you had your way of doing things." Then his head flipped around and he yelled, "But I have my way of doing things! We aren't gonna let people dictate. We are gonna attack, attack, attack." You can see on the board everywhere, it says; solve your problems with aggression. His defense is different. We have multiple fronts. We have a lot of guys coming from different places. As a corner, you see that and think "oh I might be one on one there, or susceptible to this and that". He handles us every day though. We are slowly developing his mindset. Do what you do, don't worry about it. You'll be on an island out there sometimes. We have it hung up in our room, "only the great ones survive on this island." He's preparing us for whatever is going to come this season."
What were you thinking at first?
"For someone to come in like that on his first day and act like that... we were like, ohhh man. What a first impression. Then we see him around, he's a level-headed guy. When he's on the field though, he's in the zone. Like I said, his head turns around or something."
Did you think he was crazy at first?
"I won't lie; I didn't know what we were getting into. I heard good things about him from Maryland. I started looking at the schemes and that, whoa. This is confusing. I'm looking at it and it looks like there's no rhyme or reason behind it and there's guys just running at the quarterback from everywhere. Then we started doing it in the spring and I started seeing the ball coming out quick and I like seeing that as a corner back. It's less time I have to cover. If I can see the ball come out quick I have a better chance to make a play on the ball."
Who does the best impression of Coach Brown?
"I know David Kenney does a really good one. A lot of guys do a really good Pasqualoni impression. A lot of guys. I like it around here with all that going on."