Oct. 15, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team is back in action this Saturday when it travels to Cincinnati for a noon American Athletic Conference game against the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network
Interim head coach T.J. Weist will be at the helm of the Huskies for his second game as UConn is 0-5 overall and 0-1 in the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati is 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the American after defeating Temple by a score of 38-20 last Saturday.
To read the UConn games notes, CLICK HERE.
UConnHuskies.com will once again host a live chat during the game and please scroll down for more information. Tuesday was media day for the Huskies and here are some quotes and video from the event.
Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist
Opening Statement: "Well, our team is ready to get refocused for Cincinnati. We're anxious to get back on the field today and make up for some of the mistakes and some of the things that cost us this last game. These last few weeks have been emotional and, I wouldn't say draining, but our players have really put up signs of being all in. I was proud of the fact that they were all in for this game. I think that our players are really learning that the truth is that what happens on the football field is the most important thing. The fact that we have to make plays on the field, transmit everything we do from a motivation and technique standpoint from a practice standpoint, everything goes down to what happens on the field and us having the ability to make plays in critical situations. I think that's the point that I've made to my players, to our players this week. It's been a point to stress every single snap, it comes down to us executing. We're going to have very competitive practices, we're going to have some positions, especially offensively, and we're going to compete and find out and put our best players on the field against Cincinnati. That's going to be an emphasis for the team is to be in a more competitive situation, so we can find out what guys can really truly make plays in some of those critical situations."
On movement at the receiver position on the depth chart: "The way I'm going to approach it, obviously I coach those guys. The mistakes they made on the field Saturday, that's my responsibility. I'm going to create some more competition from that standpoint. Deshon [Foxx] is a great kid. He works hard. He does everything I ask of him, but he knows he's got to make those plays. That's what I have to do - I have to find not just great players or guys who make plays, not just good kids, not just hard workers, but a combination of all three: players that are smart, players that work hard, and players that work hard. And yes, we're going to look at all of our freshmen. We've got two true freshmen, really three true freshmen that are playing right now at wide receiver and really open up that competition. I'm pleased with Geremy [Davis], I think he's stepped up and made plays in critical situations, so I'm pleased with him but I'm going to open up that competition for the rest of the wide receiver spots."
On Tim Boyle's Performance against USF: "The majority of the game he really made good decisions. He had good poise. Early on he was a little hesitant and going through the process of how we run our offense in terms of checks and some of those things. We had an offside penalty and we wanted to change the play a little bit and he was a little anxious, so that really wasn't on the offensive line it was more about him running the offense. He settled in, especially after he ran the ball and got hit a little bit, he jumped up and got in their face a little bit, patted the guy on the head like "hey, give me your best shot," and I think he got settled in after that. Late in the game in the two minute drive I think he tried to force too many balls. I think he'll learn from that. We're lucky we just didn't have multiple interceptions on that drive. So I think he'll learn from that, but the good thing is he's a very conscientious player. We've learned that he can handle the pressure. Sure, it's easy to say we didn't catch balls. It's easy to say that and it's obvious, but some of those balls could have been thrown a little bit better. I think that we have to improve our timing and body language and everything between him and the timing between him and our receivers, all of them - tight ends, wide receivers, running backs - in practice, and we think we're only going to get better at that."
On receivers adjusting to Tim Boyle: "There is a timing period with them. It comes down to the rhythm of a quarterback and how fast he gets a ball to you within your routes. Some quarterbacks may hesitate just a little bit before they get the ball to you, sometimes the ball's right there when you come out, sometimes he reads your body language better and knows you better and knows when you're going to come out to break and accelerate out of cuts, so he puts the balls in certain areas. Those guys have to build that rhythm together and do it at game speed. That's where, right now, we're missing that with Tim because we haven't had a lot of game speed at practice lately. I think this is the first time he's played at that speed under these conditions with all the different looks that we saw. There is some adjustment, I think the receivers are learning that. What I told the receivers is they have to trust their techniques, they have to stay with the fundamentals and then adjust from there. I tell them they have to adjust back to the ball, not forward, which means like Deshon, when he came out of his last move, he should have run out of the cut assuming that that ball was going to be thrown deep, and if it was thrown short he could come back and get it. But if he doesn't run out of the cut and assumes the ball's coming short and it's thrown deep, he'll never get to it. And that's part of what happened. So they have to stick to their fundamentals of the breaking point, separation, running out of cuts, and then adjust to any ball that's thrown after that. That's probably their biggest issue. Same thing with Spencer [Parker] on his catch. He's got to understand that that ball's going to be coming right through him and he's got to adjust to that ball. We always talk about just running out of cuts, follow the track of the route, stick with the fundamentals. We had another receiver ran a hitch route who got a little hesitant, he got a little impatient with the hitch route because he was open, so he started running back to the quarterback. You never run back on a hitch route, so before you know it he's running back to the quarterback and the ball goes high because he shouldn't be going back, he should be staying there. So there are little fundamentals of patience at times. Receivers have to understand there's progression that a quarterback goes through. He looks at one receiver, then another receiver, and then another receiver. Whenever we test our receivers we have them draw up the play and we ask `what is the progression? Are you the first read? Are you the second read? Are you the third read?' So you have to be patient, you have to be open at the right time. That's all part of playing offense and being a good receiver.
On wide receiver Dhameer Bradley's strengths: "To me he's very consistent. He's also one of my smartest players. I'm always questioning my players, always questioning the wide receivers about what their assignments are and he's very smart from that standpoint. It gives them a chance to go out there and know what to do. He's been the one freshman that at more than one position - I've played him at almost every position. In the game on Saturday he played both X and Z and he started out the season as a backup slot receiver. He's got the ability to move into any position and it's very rare that you find a freshman wide receiver that can do that.
On the Cincinnati Offense with Brandon Kay at quarterback: "They've shown the last couple of games that they're more of a spread team. They're more of a ten personnel, eleven personnel and less of a twenty-one personnel team. Kay has more experience spreading the ball around and throwing the ball to be more effective so I think they developed and kind of found their way with him. Munchie [Legaux] starting the first couple games and being injured, I think they shifted gears a little bit and found out who they are a little more. They've got talent at wide receiver, they've got some talent at tight end and skill positions, so I think they've gone to more spread sets. That's more of Kay's strength, he spreads the ball around the field."
On Honoring Cincinnati's Ben Flick: "Yes right now we're going to have a helmet sticker with #77, Ben Flick's number, on it. We're going to have that at the game for them. I think it's an appropriate gesture for us, seeing that other teams did things for us, for this program when Jasper Howard died, and I think it's the right thing to do. Me, personally, obviously I knew him as part of his recruitment so, either way, whether I was involved or not, it's still the right thing to do."
On if there are any advantages on becoming a head coach on the fly: "There's nothing I can do but gain experience and get better every day. You either get better or you get worse. For me, every day is a new experience. Every day is a great experience trying to juggle the things that matter most. We're building a program and sustaining certain things and talking to alumni and anyone involved in the program that supports us. Every day is a learning experience for me. I have to stay focused on everything I do because everything I do affects this program. I understand that responsibility and every day I have to do the best thing for the program. The best thing for this program is to make sure that this offense and this football team knows what it's doing when it steps on the field and can make plays. If we want to win, that's what we have to do."
On improvements to be made in the run game: "I can call more run plays, that's what I comes down to. Going through the game film, I always look for ways to get better. I make the players evaluate themselves, I make the coaches evaluate themselves and I evaluate everything that I did. There are times that I probably could have stuck with the run more so that maybe I wouldn't depend more on a freshman quarterback or receivers that were inconsistent. I understand, just like any coordinator, that when something is going well you need to stick with it. We struggled a bit early on in the second half. We could have been more patient, I'll do better from that standpoint. I was pleased with our run game. I think they came up with some things that slowed us down, but I have to get the ball more to Lyle McCombs."
On past experience with Cincinnati helping in preparation: "It's a small factor because I know them. Obviously, they have developed more and gotten more experience since I've been there. I haven't been there in nine months since we played last. I know their strengths and their weaknesses but they've also gotten better. They've got some players that I don't know and some guys who weren't playing last year that are playing now. It helps but it's not that big of a factor."
On the impact of Cole Wagner: "He's a great weapon for us. I think him punting like that and our punt team downing that ball inside the ten was a great advantage. I can use that more. That's one thing I have to learn about being a head coach. I'm the one who made the decision about going for those field goals; I made that decision. I probably could have made better decisions from that standpoint."
On Andrew Adams getting into the game: "He got into the game for about 20 snaps and played well. He got some hits and felt good about it. He's come a long way. He gives us maturity and depth back there and I'd like to see him keep getting better." On playing against players that you had an impact in recruiting: "It'll be interesting. We just had South Florida and a lot of the guys on the field before the game are guys that I've worked with forever. It's part of the game. But when it's time to snap that helmet on and set your jaw; it's war. Those guys become your opponents and your enemies. That never changes. Before the game I may say hello to them if the chance presents itself but I'll probably stay away from talking to them this week because they've got to get focused and we've got to get focused. They're all good kids; I've recruited a lot of them. When we play them, it's war."
On his time in Cincinnati: "It was a great time. My family loved the city. It was a first class institution with great facilities. Being in one of the oldest stadiums in the country was a good experience. We had success, even though we struggled in the first year coming off a 12-1 team but we built something good. It was a really good experience. I was with a quality staff, we felt like we recruited well there. We had a great Athletic Director and the administration supported us. It was a good experience for my family and my career."
On the final play of the game: "Tim Boyle did exactly what he was supposed to do which was put the ball two yards in the end zone. We had a receiver in the area to make the play. The defensive back tipped the ball and we had everything we wanted. Geremy Davis really was in position to make that play. Once the tip was up we didn't have a receiver behind like he should have been. That play is believing. You have to believe that that play is going to happen. If you don't believe it then you're not going to do your job. The receiver could have done a better job on the outside getting behind, like he's supposed to do. The tipped ball was there. You see it all the time, not on every play, but it happens three or four times a season that guys catch that ball because they're in the right position and they believe it's going to happen. It's the last play of the game, you have to give everything you have to make that play."
On what concerns him about the Cincinnati linebackers: "What concerns me is they have experience. They've proven that they are very solid linebackers part of a very solid defensive front, obviously by their statistics. I know Nick Temple, great player, Jeff Luc, I mean I know those guys and they're solid players. Greg Blair was a great player last year. I'm not sure exactly how many tackles but probably over 150, was probably one of the best players in the league and he's still doing well now. So yea, it's a concern for us, just like anything, these guys are experience and solid players. We're going to attack them, just like anybody else."
On the play of defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Julian Campenni: "They're coming along well. Shamar is a team captain for us and has really stepped up from that standpoint and been vocal and he's backing it up with his play. I think our defensive line has really done a good job. You always rotate guys in there, you're not just going to play four guys you're going to play four, five six guys at a time. Julian has done a good job from that standpoint of pressure, I think they're getting better. I think our defense is getting better every game. I think they're going to continue to dominate from that standpoint, getting back to a lot of the pressure they had last year and being a top-10, top-15 defense."
On watching the film immediately on Saturday night: "Me personally, I can't go to sleep without watching the game. I got the game film right away, right when we got on the bus and I put the game film on to come back to the facility and watch it. I need to either confirm my thoughts on what I thought I saw or I need to see what happened so I can coach the players, I can coach the coaches and get a true evaluation right away. I can't just let it sit and nag me. "