Both coordinators went into detail Wednesday night about what they learned from Iowa State and the challenge that Kansas State presents on Saturday.
On how to stop Jesse Ertz: Nobody has. He needs to be in the discussion with all the big time guys in this league. He is so impressive. I went back and watched multiple years of film. He’s dynamic in terms of running the ball. He turns it on. He’s got great vision. He’s instinctive. In terms of the pass game, he can make all the throws, too. He’s going to be a handful. You can sit there and you can have a guy one on one with him, and the majority of the time he’s going to make you miss. Our kids absolutely respect his game. I do personally as a coach because I’ve done this for a very long time. He plays with unbelievable savvy, he’s got great vision. We’re going to have our hands full.
On why the defense is clicking one month in: I don’t know. It’s to be seen. I think the number one thing is trying to understand that if you do your job, the ball will find you and you don’t have to go outside to try to find the football. I think we’ve done that a couple of weeks in a row, so I think that there’s more trust in it. Sitting there and being unified as a group to say ‘it’s okay that Malik (Jefferson) makes a play, (Anthony) Wheeler makes a play, (Naashon Hughes) makes a play, I make a play,’ and collectively spreading it out. I think at the end of the day it’s a trust factor, and I think a part of it has to do with the way that we call the game, too. It was different for them. They’re waiting to sit there and just do nothing. That’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to push in, we’re going to go, this is the way we’re going to play. It’s going to be up-tempo, and learn how to do it. It’s still to be seen. Honestly, you can sit here and you can put a string together and everybody’s patting us on the back and saying this because it’s been a while since we’ve done something like this, but to me it’s to be seen. With a team like this that’s going to come in there and has a mobile quarterback, has a big o-line that prides themselves on being physical, what a great test for us to see what we’re all about.
On how much of the success is having experienced players on his defense: I do. I do think that’s a part of it. I think the way that we train, what we’re asking to do, their comfort level to ‘what is this guy thinking?’ There are 5,000 calls, what does he really want to do? I think they’re starting to understand our personality in terms of what we want to run. I think you’re exactly right. I think at some point it’s ‘I’ve got this. We’ve done this a million times. This is the way he wants to do it.’ Or they’re anticipating what we’re going to call. ‘Let’s go, man. Call this. I’m ready for it.’ I think they are a seasoned group. They’ve been through a lot of defenses, too. So I think that does help.
On Naashon Hughes: He needs to give us more. He does, in my opinion. He’s a big, big kid. Big and strong. He needs to pick it up. He knows that part of it. I’m not talking to you like I didn’t tell him. Like I said, that position, we’ve had some guys when I was at Houston and Utah State, those guys were draft picks. Third round or second rounder last year at Houston. He needs to be more productive. In my opinion, some of those plays, even at Iowa State, finish those things. Pick those balls off. Do those things we need you to do to be a dynamic playmaker.
On if confidence is snowballing: I think so. I think any time that you have some results, it makes going to work a lot easier. That’s anybody in any profession. I think there is part of that. I think there’s a lot to prove. I think there’s a lot to prove this week because all they’ve heard is ‘they’re going to come in physical.’ They are physical. They’ve been physical for 30 years since Bill (Snyder) has been there. We’ll see. We’ll see. Nothing leads me, but I’ve been wrong before. I told you that going into Maryland week that I feel good about where we’re at and we laid an egg. We’ll find out in this game where we’re at from a physical standpoint. That’s what I’m anxious to see. This is going to be a four quarter war, this is. We know it, they know it, let’s see what happens.
On his relationship with Malik Jefferson: It’s good. There’s a part of him that there’s a fine line between coaching a guy up, and he’s so intelligent. He’s got great parents. He’s been raised the right way. There’s a fine line between coaching them up hard, the respect level that you have to give each other coach to player and player to coach, but there’s things that we addressed early on that we saw. The thing that’s been great with him is he’s accepted that part of it. He hasn’t tried to make excuses off of it. He’s like ‘teach me, coach me up.’ I’m doing the same thing. The thing that I just want him to do more of, and he’s starting to do it, is be a football junkie. Go in, put a film on, you tell me what they’re doing before I even have the chance to get through it, and he’s starting to do it. He’s going to have to be ready for that once he makes the jump. Be a pro, man. It’s what it’s all about. Spending more time at your craft. He is, slowly but surely. Our relationship is getting better because we can separate the football part from the personal stuff right now. He knows how I feel about him and when I coach him, it’s not personal. It’s not about me and Malik and what’s going on in your life. It’s about ‘we’re here to try to make you the best player humanly possible.’ Don’t get that separated from me and you talking. He’s been good about that. He understands what we’re trying to get accomplished. To me, his practice habits have been better. When you look at him in a game, you look at it and say ‘oh that’s pretty good.’ When you look at him in practice, compared to what he’s been in the past, completely different kid. Just keep training him that way. Like I said before, and he’s a very mature guy, he gets it. He really does. It’s just now ‘teach me through the finer parts.’ That’s our next step with his development is teaching all the stuff that can grab you four or five extra plays that maybe the untrained eye doesn’t see on film. Like here, this is what I want to show you. This is how you can pick up four or five different plays. This is how you can get a sack. This is how you can get a pick. I’m trying to teach him that stuff.
On Jefferson shooting the gaps: I think it’s completely different than what I’ve seen beforehand, but I think it’s his comfort level with the package, also. I think at first it was kind of diagnose, read, do this. Now he’s like ‘okay, these are the parameters you’ve given me. I’m taking full advantage of this stuff.’ I think when we first started off he was kind of like ‘am I allowed to do that? Am I allowed to do this?’ I think it’s just a learning curve in terms of ‘okay, you’ve given me this much space, I’m going to take that sucker. I’m going to go with it. I know what you don’t want.’ He’s able to separate that in his mind, and I think when you look at it from the stands, it’s like he’s playing a lot faster than what he is. That’s what’s happening.
On Chris Brown: Chris is in a backup role at safety. The thing that he does is Chris brings great physicality. If we were to get an injury in the back end, you would see Chris. The thing about Chris in terms of, not to get too specific with our opponents, but there’s some things he wouldn’t be great at in our package (at nickel). He’d be a great blitzer.
On DeShon Elliott: Trust me, you guys see him on the games. We see him every day. I think there’s a part of it that he’s got a lot of confidence right now. Sometimes you fight the ball in the air. You miss it like ‘how come he didn’t make that play you don’t finish?’ Then you get one. Then all of a sudden you get two. Then all of a sudden you own the ball. I think that’s where he’s at right now. When that ball goes up in the air, it’s not like ‘okay, can I make this play?’ (It’s) ‘I’m making this play.’ There’s a lot that goes into that. Playing that boundary safety spot, which he’s what you kind of want – a physical guy that can strike people in the run game, then he’s been great in the post. Most of his picks, I think three out of the four, was him in the middle of the field just reading the quarterback. He’s got really good instincts. He’s got really good ball skills. I think he’s just taking off. There’s some things that he’s doing right now. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.
On if nickel P.J. Locke will come off the field at times and what a four LB defense looks like: He will be. You’ll see four wide and three wide probably about 60 percent of the time. Then they’re going to come out in two back stuff. When they go two back, we’ll get into base and we’ll do what we’ve done so far this year. 60 percent of the game, you’ll see P.J. in there. The rest of the time you’ll see four linebackers. It’ll be Malik playing on the outside and Gary Johnson will come inside.
On K-State fullback Winston Dimel: I love him. I love him. Old school guy. Guys that block. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s another guy that’s extremely savvy when he plays. Love that kid. You watch his film, and he never takes a play off whether he has the ball in his hands, whether he’s blocking, it doesn’t matter. He goes full speed all the time. All those guys, they’re warriors in my opinion. That’s what they are. They play the game the way it’s supposed to (be) played. That position, obviously, is part of a dying breed. That kid will have a bright future. He really will. He plays extremely hard.
On why the pass rush is better: Because we’re covering better to be honest with you. Giving guys a little bit of time to do it. I think we’re blitzing better. Like I told you beforehand, the hesitation on some of this stuff – we’ve been really on our guys. It’s almost like you have to tell them it’s okay to fail. I think when you have really good kids and they really want to be pleasers, that’s almost like you want to stop them from doing that. It’s almost like ‘I’m a little bit tentative. I don’t want to let you down.’ It’s like ‘you’re not going to let us down, just go.’ That’s a piece of it, but I think we’re doing a decent job in the back end with hiding coverages and covering guys to allow us to get to the quarterback.
On offenses trying to pick on Kris Boyd: To me, it’s the same thing, consistency. We talked about it last week, I know. He knows how we feel and we know what kind of talent he is. He’s just got to put it all together. He’s long, and to me if he consistently plays with pad level, he’s got great feet, he can go up and challenge every ball, it’s just getting him dialed in all the time. It starts with practice. It starts with everything that he does to take him out there. There was an improvement. You didn’t see a kid that was out there kind of just lost. He went out there, got on his guy, challenged guys, and if we can get a 6’2” corner to run side by side with somebody, you’re going to be in decent shape. That’s what Kris has to understand. I just want to see Kris finish more plays on those 50-50 balls.
On motivating the team after Maryland: To be honest with you, we can go in there and just tommy-gun everybody. We didn’t. Me personally, I did not. We tried to correct the mistakes and find out the why. P.J. is a great example. Why can’t we set an edge? Why can’t we do this? I think once you find out the innards of ‘I want to make a play for you, coach.’ You need to do your part and then let this thing play out. If it’s all messed up you can blame me. That’s where it starts out. I think after that, like I always say like my old man says, sometimes you can get your ass kicked and you get humbled, and sometimes it’s the best thing that can happen to you. I think that’s a piece of it, where you sit down and say ‘this way can’t work. Let’s all hone in and do it the way we’ve been trained to do.’ I think that’s the results of San Jose. I think there are still some things that, consistency wise, a trained eye looks at it and goes ‘whoa, what the hell was he doing there?’ There’s thing that we have to get better. Heat of battle, talking about game on the line stuff. Can you perform when the heat is on? We still need to get better there.
On the Jefferson sack and other plays that jump out to him: Put your foot in the ground and go. I think there were some things, off the top of my head, that one really sticks out. There have been some other ones where guys have just cut it loose. It might be a sideline tackle, might be something where you can see some hesitation, but that’s all we want them to do. It’s not me versus all 11 out here. Running collectively to the football as hard as you can and not thinking. That goes back to the same thing. You can write the way you write because that’s what you do when you work at it. That’s your craft. You put yourself in the situations where ‘I’ve got a deadline, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do this.’ You train yourself to do that so when it’s heat of the battle and you’ve really got to get it done, you’ve already done it. You don’t even think about it. This is what I do and I do it. That’s what we’re trying to get our kids to understand in practice. If you go with that mindset every day in practice that ‘okay, this is fourth and inches, game on the line. We’re at SC, final drive, this is what it’s about,’ then when it happens, honestly, if you’re trained the right way, you look back at that play and go ‘my goodness, that was a pretty big moment in this game. I didn’t even realize it.’ In general, you train so hard that it’s just a regular play. I don’t even think it’s game on the line, fourth and four, I’ve got to make this play to win the game. That’s where we have to get our guys to. That’s what we try to do more than anything else in practice. Coaches, put some heat on them. Let’s make them work, let’s make them think the game’s on the line so they’re trained that way. It’s not the first time they go into it and they wilt.
On Malcolm Roach: Good. We need to see more production out of him, too. He’s another guy that’s got tools, that can make some plays. He’s starting to steadily come along. I thought he played solid. He’s on some of our specialty groups, but he’s a guy that we know can get after the quarterback, and that’s what we need to see more than anything else.
On Charles Omenihu’s development since Orlando got to Texas: Charles is a guy who works on his craft, but his length is the one thing you can’t teach. I think he’s learning. Oscar (Giles) has done a really good job of teaching him. If you’re 6-foot-4 or -5, put your arm out and you’re 7-foot-5. That’s what he has to play with. He has an advantage physically over people. It’s just being a young guy and not being real strong, he didn’t know how to use it. Now I think he’s starting to understand how to play with leverage. I think he’s a natural pass rusher, but I think if he can get his hands on you and get some separation, he’s the guy that’s right now, if you told me in the beginning of the year ‘would Charles lead you up front in terms of sacks,’ I’d probably say no. I would probably say Malcolm would be the guy, but he’s doing a really good job. He’s been real, real solid. He’s actually turned it up the last couple of weeks.
On Omenihu understanding nuances of the position: He is. Absolutely. I think he’s starting to play with a little bit of confidence. He’s not analyzing and looking around. Do I belong here? He knows he belongs there. Like I said beforehand, if he continues to use his length he’ll be even better for us.
On if his call sheet opens up due to player buy-in: It absolutely does. You look back at some of the things, even at Maryland. There’s a certain type of trust for any coordinator, it doesn’t matter what it is. ‘If I put him in this thing, they run this, maybe we can’t react to it.’ So you simplify and you do things, and the training wheels are off now. It’s full go. There’s going to be some times where we screw some stuff up, but the thing that makes this package is being multiple. That’s the part that I think they’re starting to understand. It’s hard in this league. This league goes fast now. This league goes fast. You’ve got to signal it in, they’ll check at the line of the scrimmage just like K-State will check at the line of scrimmage. We’ll have to flip things around. It puts a lot of strain on the play caller to make sure that your kids are actually lined up. Forget about executing the play, it’s like ‘did I get the call? Did I change this? Am I doing the right thing?’ To answer your question, there is a comfort level and I feel comfortable, along with the staff, of being able to call a handful of things instead of a few things.
On what he learned from the ISU game: We’re continually improving and evolving. We’re a young football team. We have to do a better job of protecting the football and eliminating self-inflicted wounds. We’re playing behind the chains way too much. We’re not at that level yet to overcome those things. I like our guys continuing to work hard. They continue to find a way. Kudos to Iowa State. They came out and played a completely different thing. With a young offensive football team, as we are continually to evolve who we need to be, that was a for the most part, with a veteran team, probably not as drastic of a thing. But to us, a young team and an offense that’s evolving, that was kind of drastic. I thought our guys settled in a little bit and were able to make some adjustments to that and enable us to score enough points to win the game.
On concern over two of the four opponents presenting defenses they hadn’t prepared for or seen in film study: You can only practice so much. You only have so much time in hours. We’re new. These guys are new. First time running it. There’s a lot of firsts. That was their first time seeing a 3-3 stack, first time seeing 38 double cloud, and so we hadn’t even seen it to coach them through it, to teach them it. You’re trying to do that on the sidelines. When you’re confused or you play hesitant because you’re not quite sure, you’re not playing real fast. Maybe the timing is off and you miss a step, something like that, and a guy beats you. Some of that took place. I think the more we play, the more you’re going to be able to say ‘hey, remember against Maryland when they did this?’ ‘Oh yeah coach, I remember.’ ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ ‘Okay, gotcha.’ We can’t do that right now. ‘Hey, remember this?’ And they’re like ‘no’ because they haven’t gone through it. There’s some growing pains there for us right now.
On his assessment of his quarterbacks: Like our offense, inconsistent. When there’s opportunities to make plays, we’ve got to make them. We’re inconsistent. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. I think Shane (Buechele) has obviously been a little more accurate than Sam (Ehlinger) has. They both are a work in progress. Both continually need to improve to play at that championship level that we need them to play at. We’re not at that championship level right now.
On communicating with the coaches: There’s no doubt. That’s part of all of this. Me coming in and there are some new things that, again, Tom (Herman) can talk to Derek (Warehime) and Drew (Mehringer) and go ‘hey, remember when we played Memphis we did this?’ I wasn’t at that game. I don’t remember that, so they’re coaching me up on some of those things. There’s some of that that does go on through the course of the game. I think for the most part, again, we’re all on the same page. The players are all in. It’s just a learning process. We’re a young team. You go through our lineup. We’ve played four true freshman. I don’t know how many true sophomores or redshirt freshman that have been playing for us and contributing at a high level. That’s probably, back in the day at the University of Texas, you wouldn’t see that very much.
On Buechele’s growing injury list and how it’s affecting them: I don’t think it’s alarming. I don’t focus on those things. I try to coach the guys that are playing as hard as we can, all of us. We’re trying to give our guys the best plan to win. Obviously, (head football athletic trainer Anthony Pass) down in the training room and their staff are doing everything they can to keep those guys healthy. They’re doing everything they can to keep themselves healthy. It is what it is, we just go about our business and play the guys that suit up and get out on the field.
On the response from his O-line since Connor Williams’ injury: They’re improving. Denzel (Okafor) and Derek (Kerstetter), two young players, I really like both their work ethics and what they do. I thought Derek actually played really well for us in the ballgame for a first start for a true freshman on the road in a Big 12 Conference game. I was really pleased with what he did. I think he’s got great potential and will be a really good player for us and help us. But again, there’s going to be stuff that’s going to happen in this game that he’s probably never seen before or never had to deal with, and that’s part of the learning curve that we have to go through. Derek (Warehime) does an outstanding job as an o-line coach. I’m really pleased with the toughness that he’s developed in those guys and the work ethic. It’s just you can’t teach them all in one day. They’ve got to learn and make mistakes at times. You’ve got to learn from those things. You just hope that you can coach them enough that they fall back on their rules. ‘Here’s what I’m supposed to do. Coach taught me to do this.’ They don’t get frustrated. They just keep going. Eventually they’re like ‘now I know what’s happening,’ and they can make some adjustments. They have to be able to do that in a game. It’s ‘I’m stepping too wide because every time I step he comes underneath, so I’ve got to shorten my step’ or whatever that might be.
On if counter, power, and inside zone is what the o-line does best based off last year’s offense: I think they can. Again, we’ve done some of that. Last year, I know they had Andrew (Beck) and another tight end that graduated. I think they even had a lineman that they used at times. At this point, we’re not in that position. You have to play the cards that are dealt you and figure out how do you move the ball and score enough points to win the game. Ultimately the goal is to do that.
On what he needs to get from the running backs that they haven’t gotten so far: Probably the thing right now is breaking a tackle and prolonging it. I think they’re running hard. I think that they might break a tackle or make a guy miss. Prime example is Chris (Warren’s) touchdown. He made a guy miss, stayed on his feet, and scored. That type, we need more of those types of things because when we do get the guys blocked, there might be a safety or a corner coming in. If they’re making a tackle, it’s a gain of four or three as opposed to having that guy miss and it’s a big play. We’re not getting that right now, the big play.
On possibly using Daniel Young and Toneil Carter: We talked a little bit about getting those guys in. You saw a little bit with Toneil. He played a little bit more against Iowa State and actually provided a spark. He showed fresh legs and made a big play on that little pipe route. He plays fast, that’s one thing about him. There’s no evaluation or ‘should I hit this hole or that hole,’ he just goes.
On Reggie Hemphill-Mapps: It’s part of the young inconsistency that we’re going through as an offense right now. Reggie is just a part of it, just like I mentioned the quarterbacks. You can go through anybody. One guy shines one day and the next day you don’t see him, that’s the inconsistency.
On finding ways to get Collin Johnson the ball: We tried and the plan, obviously, is to try to create match ups for him. They were doubling him quite a bit. They were putting two guys on him. It’s not like basketball where you set a bunch of picks and all that stuff to try and run him free. There’s not much you can do when you put two guys on him. Your other guys need to step up, make some plays, and make them say ‘okay, we can’t double him anymore.’
On guys who have stepped into on-field leadership roles: Obviously, Patrick Vahe and Jake (McMillon), they’re our two juniors. They’re our oldest guys playing right now. Tristan (Nickelson), as a senior, that are playing every down, that are out there all the time. Armanti (Foreman), Dorian (Leonard), and all those guys are running in and out, but they’re not playing all the time like those guys are. You need some of that to step up on the offensive line. Obviously the quarterback. Shane has to continue to do that and/or if Sam’s playing, then Sam has to do it. Whoever that quarterback is, that’s part of the leadership role that he possesses. He’s got to be able to do that.
On Kansas State: Same. Well coached. It’s interesting. They’re well coached, real tough, physical team. They’re not going to make a lot of mistakes. They know all the idiosyncrasies of their defense. If this hurts them, they’re going to do this. If this hurts them, they’re going to do that. They know exactly what they’re doing and they’re really good at what they do. It’s why they’re one of the top defenses year in and year out. They don’t beat themselves. You’re going to have to beat them. Good tacklers in space. Good d-line. Physical. Plug gaps. A challenge. We’re challenging our guys to be able to run the football on them. We’ve got to be able to do that. If there is a good thing, they don’t do a lot. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but you kind of know where they’re going to be, unlike some teams you play and you come out, like we mentioned, all of a sudden you come out and ‘oh my gosh, what is this?’ I wouldn’t expect that necessarily from this group.
On K-State’s offense controlling possession and what he in turn emphasizes: We’ve got to make every drive count. That’s real. They’re going to snap the ball with one second left and take their time. Very meticulous and well thought out offensive plan. You’re going to get limited touches. When you get them, you’ve got to make them count.
On if Buechele left some plays on the field: No doubt. He’s got to get rid of the ball. Again, confused. In the old system, he never worried about coverage. The system was just throw it to the open guy. Now all of a sudden I’m like ‘if it’s 2-high zone, do this. If it’s 1-high zone, do this. 1-high man, do this. Here’s where you need to go with the ball.’ He’s like ‘coach, there are three dudes deep and they’re clouding. They’re dropping 8 and rushing three, what do I do?’ He’s never seen that. There was some of that. He settled a little bit but he did miss some throws we had available. He didn’t get to him.
On Cade Brewer: I like Cade. He’s a very smart, heady football player. He’s where he needs to be usually in very good football position. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but I like his work ethic, toughness, no nonsense guy. Doesn’t say much, just really busts his butt. Those four freshman we’re playing are all very similar. Those four guys in particular that we’ve played, I really like them. They’ve all got a bright future.
On the failed reverse, the decision to call that play, and if that affects his decision making: The first part, why’d I do it? We felt like we kind of had them on the ropes. We had a reverse called trying to get the ball to Armanti to the open field. Iowa State was jacked up trying to play really good defense, something different. They were running the ball pretty good, playing good run defense. We thought we could maybe get them on a reverse and get Armanti to the open field. Just wasn’t a very smart play. We got penetration in the B-gap, Chris (Warren) was just trying to make a play pitching the ball. Definitely wasn’t the smartest thing to do. The second part, does it refrain you from trying to do those things again? Sometimes. Sometimes as a play caller, you call a play that looks good and you feel like schematically is a good play against this defense and you don’t execute it, you have a hard time going back to it again. It’s like when a pitcher in baseball throws a curve and a guy hits a home run, the next time the catcher says throw the curve, he’s like ‘I don’t know if I want to throw that.’ That’s real. That’ll happen. That’s human nature that sometimes that takes place. Probably not a good thing, but it is real.
On what he got from 2 back sets: We did. We jumped in there a little bit. For the personnel issues that we had and wanted to play, I don’t think they were prepared for it so they didn’t play for it like some teams will. Some teams know you’re running that kind of personnel and you’re going to get different looks. I think we were able to catch them to play personnel like speed and 11 personnel. It helped us a little bit, but to sit here and say that every team’s going to do that same thing, I don’t know that.
On what Shane does better than Sam: Very accurate with the ball. He’s really accurate. I think his numbers even show that. He’s very high percentage in terms of that. He does a good job of getting the ball out and giving our guys a chance to make plays.