Quotes from Head Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference
Sept. 2, 2002
'Thanks, for coming on Labor Day. We've been laboring since 7:00 this morning watching UCF game film; they gave Penn State quite a scare, that was a good game. Central Florida, since they've been on the schedule, we've been trying to tell people that these guys are pretty good. They were 6-5 last year, they lost by a touchdown to Arkansas, they lost by a point to Syracuse, they lost a close game against Clemson. They have really good team speed but they did lose nine guys on defense, they only have two starters back on defense. On offense, their quarterback has a cannon for an arm, they have three receivers who are good. They're going to be a true test for us. They got off to a bad start against Penn State and made it close at the end. They have a new defensive coordinator, a guy promoted from within staff, so we've been watching last year's game film and film from the Penn State game to try to study up for them.
'On the Eastern Washington game, it's pretty much what we expected. Eastern is very well coached. Paul Wulff [Eastern's coach] told me that they only brought 55 players with them on the trip so, let's face it, they were outmanned. We went out and scored the first four times we had the ball and I was telling our team that I don't think we're a mature enough team right now because when we were up 28-0 some guys were too happy on the sidelines. We don't know how to put people away for four quarters and we really just haven't done it very much.
'We did need to get the running game going and we did that. Our plan going in was to have the tailbacks carry the ball approximately the same number of times because I thought that if they had a chance to get into a rhythm that they would play better rather than if we subbed them sporadically like we did at Nebraska. Mike Williams got so tired on the first drive that he didn't get to finish it, Hakim got to go in and score the first touchdown.
'Defensively I'm pleased about what was, in essence, a shutout. In two games now our defense has only given up 20 points, but the rest of the team has given up 30 points which is not good. For the season we're minus two in turnover margin and we'd like to be better than that. We got off to a bad start [in the Eastern game] when the nice kickoff return turned into a fumble at the end. As far as takeaways go, R.J. [Oliver] got the interception that set up our second touchdown, we should have had at least two more interceptions, Jason Shivers dropped two and he feels bad about that. The other thing, on third down-a big point of emphasis for us this season-our defense has only allowed 32% conversions and our offense right now is converting at 44% which is excellent. If we could stay at those two numbers for the season we'll be in good shape.
'Our players of the week for scout team, on offense was freshman offensive lineman Zach Krula, on defense was linebacker Jordan Hill for the second week in a row and special teams was Terry Richardson who continues to do a great job in practice everyday and is going to be a great player for us and he will redshirt this year.
'As for our game balls this week, Greg Pieratt earned one on special teams. He kicked off seven times and had excellent hang time. On one of them he had 4.5 second hang time, kicked it two yards deep in the end zone and when the guy caught the ball we had three guys inside the 15 yard line, so that's where the hang time comes in. Greg did a nice job on his kickoffs and we're blessed with having two guys that can kick off outstandingly. Mike Barth barely missed that 56-yard field goal and he regularly hits them from 60-plus yards in practice so they're both strong-legged guys.
'Terrell [Suggs] received our game ball on defense with his three sacks. There were several other guys who played well on defense, Matt Fawley had 42 snaps in his debut as a true freshman and made nine tackles. Riccardo Stewart played 51 snaps and played well again so there were a lot of different ways that the game ball could have gone.
'On offense, we gave the game ball to Cornell Canidate. Cornell went into the Nebraska game as the second tailback but this week he ran as the third tailback. He's one of those guys who the more he plays the better he gets and I thought that he really did a nice job running. He continues to improve as a blocker and receiver as well. Grayling Love, a redshirt freshman, was another guy who played well on offense. He played both center and guard and got 35 snaps so I felt good about that.
'Around 65 guys played in the game, non-kickers, with eight true freshman, 11 redshirt-freshman and 12 sophomores, so we played a lot of young guys. With those eight true freshmen, the one who played the least was Ali Likio, a defensive tackle, who played 14 snaps. So we had a low with 14 up to a high of 42 [snaps played by true freshman]. Mike Talbot had17 snaps at fullback, Mike Davis had19 snaps at corner, that will all be good for us this year and in the years to come.'
Questions for Coach Koetter
How well did the Eastern Washington game prepare you for UCF?
'We're going to have to play a lot better than we did against Eastern. They had all new starters on offense and a transfer quarterback so they were very basic in their attacks. Central Florida's QB completed something like 70%-75% of his passes for 350 yards against Penn State last week. We're going to have to work on ones versus ones this week in practice to prepare our defense for that and this is going to be much more of a speed game. This team has speed on both sides of the ball so I don't think the [Eastern Washington game] was a good test for us going into this week.'
How was UCF's defense against Penn State and what kind of scheme did Penn State use?
'I have to be honest, I haven't watched that side of it, Brent Guy our defensive coordinator has watched that side of the ball while I watched Penn State's offense. Penn State ran almost all two back stuff with a little option out of the shotgun and had some success with it. As far as Penn State's scheme, I couldn't tell you what they did but Dan Fidler our safeties coach used to coach at Penn State and our defensive coaches have talked to Penn State's defensive coaches this morning, so they've exchanged some notes on that and that's all I can tell you.'
You used a shorter passing game against Eastern Washington, are you going to use the longer pass?
'Our game plan is always based on what the opponent is going to do. Eastern Washington was a two-deep shell, in essence double covering your wideouts the whole game. We were fortunate to get the tight ends the ball and get Mike Pinkard the ball, and we used the screen more. Central Florida against Penn State was similar to Eastern Washington in how they cover so draw what conclusions you will from that.'
You used a three back rotation, is that something you want to do all season?
'That's a good question. I think everyone would like to have one back who is the 'do everything' type of guy. Unfortunately we're not there right now and the other night was a good example. Mike Williams was so tired after carrying seven times in a row that we had to put our second back in regardless. It's hard to get the guys in the kind of condition where they're taking those hits that they take as a running back and always be ready to go. The second part of that is that Hakim and Cornell are still learning, because no guy coming out of high school knows how to pass block. For a guy to be an every down back he's got to be a great blocker. Mike Williams is one of the two best blockers on our team at any position. Along with Mike Karney he's an excellent protector. We're probably going to have to use some kind of combination and I think Hakim and Cornell have some ability and we need to get them the ball. Long-term I'd like to settle on one guy, but I don't know how long we're talking about there.'
How has the tight end position improved from last year?
'I'm very pleased, Mike Pinkard has worked very hard on his game. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten faster, he's gotten more competitive, he's gotten tougher, which he wasn't great in any of those categories a year and a half ago. You know he played d-line and isn't a natural tight end. He's worked very hard on his game and, I think I mentioned after the Nebraska game, that that was the best I had ever seen Mike compete even though he only got the ball thrown to him once. In the Eastern Washington game Mike made two really nice catches and on another time Chad [Christensen] was throwing to Shaun [McDonald] and Mike caught it and it wasn't even tipped. I guess when you become a star you go for all the balls. We need a tight end in our offense and the more he can contribute the more we will use him. I was also very pleased with Lee Burghgraef who got 35 snaps as the second tight end. Lee tries to do what he's coached to do and we need guys like that. We like to have a couple of different forms of two tight end packages and the more that Lee and Frank Maddox can develop the better off we'll be.'
The kicking game seemed a lot better this week as compared to the Nebraska game, what can that be attributed to?
'We didn't get to kick off that much against Nebraska, only three times. Two of [Greg Pieratt's] kicks at Nebraska were fine and he just tried to kick the other one of them too hard and kicked it to the middle of the field. For a guy who hasn't kicked too much I'm sure nerves were a part of it. Heck, I was nervous, it was a nerve-wracking situation. Greg has really worked hard on his game and for him to come in with very close competition and beat out Mike Barth for the kickoff job, that is good. I can't tell you how close that was for the kickoff job and we didn't make a decision until the day before the Nebraska game and we kept waiting. Mike kicked well but Greg kicked a little better.'
What kind of an offense does Central Florida run?
'They do a little of everything. They'll run some conventional two backs, one tight end although that's not their main thing. They sometimes run three wide , sometimes four wide, a lot of shotgun, they'll run the ball out of the shotgun some. Coach Kruczek [UCF's Coach] was the offensive coordinator there before he became the head coach, so they make good on offense. As their team has moved up divisions they've been good on offense every year. The returning quarterback has a really strong arm and he can stand in there and take a hit. A couple of his throws that I saw on TV I was really impressed with so we're going to have to do a good job of putting pressure on him, do a good job of changing coverage so he doesn't think we're just sitting in one thing and we're going to have to cover a little tighter than the other night.'
Many people have been impressed and surprised with the play of your defensive line as a whole, could you comment on that?
'I think that one of the keys is that we've been able to play a lot of guys and keep those guys fresh. We played 11 defensive linemen the other night. Terrell [Suggs] played 38 snaps but the two guys that give us versatility on that line are Brian Montesanto and Jimmy Verdon who both played 40 snaps the other night. Now, in our starting group in run downs, we play Brian Montesanto inside at tackle and Jimmy Verdon at the other end. In passing situations we bring in our pass rush groups and put Jimmy and Brian at the tackles and bring in freshman Nick Johnson at the other end. We kind of thought that the other end in passing situations was going to be Ishmael Thrower but he can't get over his hamstring situation and Nick has just been a huge surprise. He played 31 snaps at Nebraska, 29 snaps the other night. The rotation inside of Khoa Nguyen, Shane Jones, and Phil Howard has really been a big plus and [defensive line coach] Ted Monachino is rotating those guys and keeping them as fresh as he can. Matt Mason had 13 snaps this week but they were all outside where in the Nebraska game they were all inside. Then we got Connor Banks back who is another end who can go play in pass situations with that rush group. So I think the big key is the fact that we've rotated them and kept them fresh and then you have a great player in Terrell. And I think Brian Montesanto has found his spot at defensive tackle.'
Could you comment on your offensive line and how does the offensive line change from playing against a division I-AA team to a I-A team?
'To be honest with you, I thought the offensive line played better against Nebraska than against Eastern Washington. A couple of things there, one, Nebraska's front was outstanding and our guys were fired up for that and, let me say this, this is Central Florida's strength, their defensive front. Their two ends, I think one guy was honorable mention All-American last year, rotated and I think we will have our hands full this week. We had a little different style of game plan between the first two games, against Nebraska we tried to help our offensive line a little bit because we were nervous about Nebraska's end so we tried to give him some help. I was real pleased with how the offensive line competed [against Nebraska]. Against Eastern I thought we did well in run blocking but I wasn't happy with some of the individual breakdowns we had that hurt us. Maybe that's just a lack of maturity with not being able to put an opponent away. When we got ahead in that game, I wanted to do some different stuff and I wanted to do some stuff with Chad [Christensen] to make him better. Really we didn't do a very good job with that and we had some letdowns on the offensive line that are inexcusable and we're just going to have to learn. The nice thing is that we played 13 offensive lineman in the game where we usually only get to play seven or eight. To play 13 will be a good experience for them, including Chaz White who got 21 snaps as a true freshman. Anytime you start subbing your offensive lineman you start to have breakdowns and we did.'
Could you make some general comments about playing UCF?
'One thing our fans have no idea of is the kind of athletes [Central] Florida gets. Florida is one of the three best high school football states there is and there's just a zillion players there. If you read their guide, they have several guys that they claim turned down Florida or Florida State offers to go there. Some of them are JC guys who were offered then went to JC. I would equate it to what our fans say Fresno State does on the West Coast. I'm not trying to label anybody but let me tell you, nobody wants to play Fresno State...and no one is dying to put Central Florida on their schedule I guarantee you.'