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Football Preparing For Conference Opener

T.J. Weist and the Huskies take on USF on Saturday.

Oct. 8, 2013

STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team returns to action on Saturday as it takes on USF at Rentschler Field at noon.

The game will be the first under interim head coach T.J. Weist and will be the Homecoming game for the Huskies. The game will be the American Athletic Conference debut for the Huskies as UConn is 0-4 and is looking for its first win of the season. USF is 1-4 overall and 1-0 in the American.

The game will be televised as the American Athletic Conference Game of the Week on ESPN Regional Television and will be seen locally on SNY. The game will be seen on a total of 40 stations around the country and available on ESPN3, WatchESPN and ESPN Game Plan. The game will also be heard on the UConn IMG Sports Network.

Tuesday was UConn media day for the game - here are some quotes and video.

CLICK HERE for the UConn media notes.

Also, UConnHuskies will also be hosting a live chat during the game and for information please scroll down.

Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist

Opening Statement: "Well, to start out it's been a hectic week. It's been full of emotions for all of us, for our team and for our staff and for everybody involved and I think we've made it through. We had three solid practices last week and before letting the players get on and coming back on Sunday, ready to get after South Florida. The practices were spirited. I think the players have reacted well. They've responded to our challenges of refocusing, of being, as we say, `all in,' buying into everything that we're doing to have a successful season, to handle this transition with class, to making sure all of our decisions are based on what's best for the team. Our team is focused. We're ready for our heavy practices today, tomorrow, and Thursday, and we're excited. We're excited about getting on the field at the Rent on Saturday at noon, 12:08, to get our first win and start off this conference 1-0."

On using the week off to get everyone acclimated to Weist as the head coach: "I don't think it's happened yet. I don't think there's a time frame for that to happen. I think you don't find out about people, you don't find out how a group of people coming together are going to react until you go through all the different situations. I think we're all still learning with this direction. I'm still learning about this team, how they're going to react to us on this staff. The game will be the ultimate test. For us, it's one day at a time, one step at a time. We're not going to focus and say "we did this in X amount of time," or "we've accomplished this so far." That time factor is not an issue for us. We don't look back - we're going forward and just taking it one step at a time and we're going to focus on what we have to do in front of us."

On Tim Boyle's response to the move naming him the starting quarterback: "He's responded well, he's shown a maturity that we saw in him since coming out of high school and have been seeing with him since he stepped on campus. Every day he knows he's got to get better. He knows he's got to get better in the next four days. From an experience standpoint, he gets more mature every day, like any young man does. He's shown good pocket presence, a good grasp intelligence of the game plan, of the things we want to do. He's still got to go through these next three practices and really understand the looks and go out and make plays. Because he's still untested after this level, we've got to put him through some pressure situations and heat, so he can handle some things in practice, handle some looks in practices, so he's better prepared for Saturday."

On what he's seen from Boyle to prove he is ready: "There's really three things involved. One's maturity. As a young player you have to be mature to handle situations, on and off the field, whether it's academics, going to school, balancing that with practicing, playing time. As a quarterback, it's twice as much. Now you've got to handle the pressure of the expectations, the media, all the things that are involved, the expectations of leading a team, of leading an offense. So I think number one he's shown the maturity. Number two, he shows a presence on the field, in practice, in scrimmage situations, in situations that he has a command of the offense. Not just from an intelligence standpoint, but from a mentality standpoint, from a decision-making standpoint. That's probably the bigger thing for us, that he's shown it on the field so far. So it's about his maturity, it's about him making plays, and, with that, I guess the third thing, I said three things, make sure - it's his intelligence. Can he handle the amount of game plan that we have to win a ball game, where it's just not a simple game plan. We can't really lighten the load for him to handle it because we have to win a game. Can we go into a game with a full game plan ready to go? That's what we've been looking for and that's what he's been able to handle."

On the importance of getting the running game going: "Yes. To answer that question, it is imperative that we not so much to prove something, but to prove something to ourselves, that we can run the football and be successful in a major part of any offense. Part of our philosophy, as I've said from day one in our offense as our coordinator, for us to be balanced because I believe we can be better to win the football, to win, to win a championship, and less to prove that we can throw the football every snap. That's been our philosophy and we're going to have to go out and execute. Every game, not just this one, every game we're going to look for whatever it takes to win. If that means running more, running less, throwing more, we're just going to see as the game's going - what we need and how it's going. But with a new quarterback, a new perspective, different things, we'll see how it goes. You never know. You just don't. Some running teams come out and you think they're a running team and then all of a sudden they throw it 50 times. Sometimes you get to another team and all of a sudden they run more than anybody thought. And a lot of times as a coordinator you see what the defense is giving you. If they're putting everybody on the line of scrimmage and saying you can't throw the ball, then you come right through them. If they back up everybody and say we're going to take away the pass game go ahead and prove you can run, then some of that, a part of it, is what their philosophy is to try and stop you that day."

On coaching responsibilities after losing two staff members: "Right now we have not added anyone to our staff. We're still evaluating that situation. I'm taking my time with it to make sure if we do make any change it's the right change. From an addition standpoint, I'm trying to stay away from bringing anyone in who doesn't fit, fit with me or fit with our staff, or to take anyone from another staff in a key role. That limits my pool a little bit, but at the same time we've got good coaches on our staff. I've got some good young coaches that have taken over this week some offense positions. They've done a good job and I'm evaluating them every day as we go. We'll see how much we need it and go from there. Right now we don't have any changes, as you know, as has been said, Mike Foley has taken over the offensive line. We've got two graduate assistants Doug Shearer has coached the tight ends this week, and Michael Dignam is another offensive graduate assistant that's been handling the wide receivers, helping me with the wide receivers. And right now we're going with that until further changes. Box-wise and press box-wise, I'm going to be on the field, obviously. Mike Foley is going to be on the field, both of us come down from the box. Also Doug Shearer, one of our offensive GA's, he's going to come down from the box. He's also one of our assistant special teams coaches, which means Kermit Buggs, our running back coach/special teams coordinator is going to go up in the box, along with Shane Day, our quarterbacks coach. Defense is going to stay where they were."

On Coaches Day and Buggs now being up in the press box during games: "I'm going to call the plays and they're going to help me. They will be my eyes in the box. We've been working together closely all week long and putting together a game plan as we always do. We're going to work together to call plays and execute this offense."

On the decision to play Tim Boyle at quarterback now instead of redshirting him: "We always have to evaluate number one what's best for the team and two what's best for the player. If we're going to play a true freshman we have to play him and get him on the field. We don't want to waste a year in any situation but quarterback is different because you play one position. All the other players on the team, if they do play are they second team? Are they first team? Are they rotating? If it's any other position then they play and we get them on special teams when we can. As a quarterback obviously it's a little different because he doesn't play special teams. It's a longer evaluation. When you play him he better be ready to play and at the same time we have to have patience with a young quarterback and allow him to develop. Whether that's through making mistakes so be it. You hope that those mistakes aren't critical but any player will make mistakes. We just have to move on and live with them. As a young player, he has to learn from the game."

On if he was part of the decision to start Boyle when Pasqualoni was still the coach: "I was part of that decision. We sat down multiple times and evaluated every week. Obviously the head coach has the main say in personnel decisions but we were an active part of that. That was the direction we were headed in before last week."

On the challenges of getting Boyle ready for his first game against USF: "Everything that we do in practice is about him. We don't go scout teams all week, because you don't get the true pressure that a young quarterback needs. He has to feel that pressure of a number one defense with guys coming off the edge. When we developed our game plan, we developed our practice schedule and look at it from his standpoint and say how we can give him the looks and situations he needs to see. The speed and pressure looks. It's in everything we do, whether it's in warm ups or on the first day. Making him think as he's moving his feet and making him think as he's calling out numbers."

On the difference between calling plays on the sideline versus up in the press box: "I've done both. Sometimes as a veteran play caller, it's easier to do it on the field. I don't think any play caller can do it without some eyes in the box. When you have veterans in the box that can help you it's just as good." On if he wanted to start Boyle at the beginning of the season: "No. We hadn't seen his development and had time to see him in practice because we had three freshmen quarterbacks come in and they were all good looking players. We had to find out what they could handle and see their decision making process. All were very competitive from day one. We made the decision at the right time we thought."

On what set Boyle apart from the other young quarterbacks: "All the young guys have been pretty close to each other, but it was probably his maturity and decision making. Tim and the other quarterbacks have all done a good job from a standpoint of studying film so it's been a pretty close competition."

On how Kamal Adams is doing after getting hurt earlier in the season: "He's getting back into form when he was a fourth receiver and part time starter for us. He's back to almost 100 percent, and he's going to be a key factor for us this week."

On if there are any timing issues with the receivers and Boyle: "No, no issues. We just have to get Kamal and Shakim back and get them on the right timing. It's about getting them in a game rhythm, where the timing is a little different. It's hard to simulate."

On the difficulties of juggling all of his new responsibilities: "It's not difficult, it's challenging. I've been in this business long enough to understand it having listened and watch head coaches my whole career. I tried to develop my style to become a head coach someday so it's not like I'm not ready for it. You have to go through a process just like with anything else to learn. You're going to meet the challenge head on. It's more of handling all the other stuff a head coach has to do but the football part is more natural to me."

On what he sees from USF: "Number one they're a well coached team. I know that because I know the staff. I know how they coach, I know their mentality and I know their style. You watch them on film and you watch their games and you can tell they're well coached. They're athletic, I've played against these athletes or coached against these athletes for the last three years, so I know what they have, what they recruit from that area of the country. I've recruited a lot of their players, recruited against their coaches. So I know they're very athletic, very well coached again, and you know, turnovers have been a factor for them just like they would be for any team. Turnovers had been critical for them in the first four games. I think they got better, I think they put it together, this game [against Cincinnati] they had a good game plan. They schemed well, they went out and executed and took advantage of the opportunities and the turnovers they had. I think that was the key in the game."

On his involvement with Hank Hughes and the defense: "Well I think that, yes I've been more involved with the defense but I have great confidence in Hank. Being around him long enough now and knowing his past and his history and his mentality, obviously we talk about mentality a lot but it's a big part of what we do, so I trust my coaches and trust him. I'm also going to be involved because I want to know what we're doing and I need to know personnel more. I've been focused on our offense more than anything obviously so for me it's more about personnel, schemes in situations that I can understand and what calls are going to be so I can help him on gameday get this defense, just like I'm doing with the offense, back to the UConn standard of defense that we've had. That's more for me, I want to be able to help him and make the decisions I have to make from a gametime stand point and all those things. It's part of my job to motivate the whole team, offense defense and special teams."

On Mike Foley transitioning back to coaching the offensive line: "It's not difficult at all. He loves it. He loves coaching the offensive line. It's tough when you move from a position that you've coached most of your career. You know, I'm a receiver coach, I'll always be a receiver coach. Same thing with [Former Cincinnati and current Tennessee Head Coach] Butch Jones when I went to Cincinnati with him being a receiver coach. You never want to be a position coach where the head coach is your position coach because then you're going to get it every day. So I kind of lived that, I understand how it was when Mike moved from offensive line away from offensive line. He's so happy to be back coaching the line. It's not difficult at all. He loves it, he lives it, and he's done a great job with it. Any coach has to infuse his temperament and his language and his everyday teaching process to his players. Luckily we had an off week where we could all adjust and he had an off week to put his offensive line together and put his system in. That was similar to what we were doing before but his own personal style of coaching with it and he's done a great job with it. "

On the "All In" mantra and signs posted in the building: "I think me personally I try to stay away from too many mottos or sayings or things because I don't want to thin it out. You always look at what motivates players. You look at our situation and we have to have everybody together. `All In' is fairly easy to say. A lot of teams use it, a lot of people use it from that standpoint but it fits us well right now. We need everybody together whether it's staff, players, everybody. So I think they've responded well, I think they believe it. That's the key is that you don't want to come up with some saying that it's just `ah that's just coach coming up with something that doesn't mean much'. Well this thing means something. It means that all of us have to come together and focus on one purpose in everything that we do. And it starts with us making decisions that are best for the team. That's what it comes down too, and obviously football included. For us not just win this game but to go on and have a successful season."

On Chandler Whitmer's influence on Boyle: "He's done a good job of mentoring him. He's done a good job of accepting his role and what it is now, which is right now he is the second team quarterback for us. He's done a good job of trying to teach him and get him ready for the situations. The gameplan, understanding the defense, and he'll be right there with him on the sideline for every snap. He'll be there talking to him when he comes off and also be ready to play."

On the automatic respect for Boyle coming with the quarterback position: "I think like anything respect has to be earned from that standpoint. You don't just say someone is a leader, I can't do it for him. I can't say `guys you have to respect him.' Sometimes you have to respect the position, so I think they have to respect that at times he's the one in charge. He's the one making the calls and adjusting things. The rest of it comes down to more they trust him, they more they respect him, the better his place. So it's up to him. But we're always talking to our quarterbacks, we're always teaching them to command presence. And the more you work, the harder you work, the more knowledge you have, the more respect you'll gain from your teammates, from the guys that are working with you. So it's a constant development."