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Aug. 29, 2011

Coach Graham Press Conference

Buffalo Game Preview

August 29, 2011


Opening Statements:

"Well it's finally here and I cannot tell you how excited I am for Saturday. The sense of anticipation among our staff and players is quite present in the building. We have a countdown clock downstairs for this weekend's game. It has been fast and furious to say the least since the press conference in January. 

"I wanted to start off today talking about my players and how proud I am of them. I am so fortunate and honored to be their coach and my staff wanted me to echo that today as well. These players have been through an awful lot. They have faced some adversity and responded like champions. I have been so impressed with the things they have accomplished in spring ball and our summer program. They have also impressed me physically in the things we have asked them to take on and with so many other adjustments. I have asked them to trust me and I am really proud with the relationships we have built. They have really bought into our philosophy. I am excited about the Pitt way and I am excited how these guys are starting to do everything they do every day.

"We have learned three completely new systems: offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. I am very proud of where we are and I can't wait to get these guys out on the field. I'm very confident in how they're going to perform. I can't wait to put it in the left lane and put the hammer down. We have some great players and outstanding young men on this year's team. 

"I am also very proud of our staff. A lot of people don't realize in that regard that we work together all the time and there have been a lot of adjustments. I have challenged them each day to adapt to the skills and talents of our players whether it be our administrative team, our offense, our defense or our special teams staff. We made sure to design according to them as players instead of taking a playbook and running (forcing) it. I am very proud of what they have been able to accomplish as well. I am most excited about the fact that we have a team that's close and that has bought into our new system. We have a team that has a learner's mentality. Whether they're a coach or player, they are here learning each day. I also tell them each day that I don't want the Coach Graham from last year; I want the new and improved coach. I think each person is taking that task on whether it be myself, Coach Magee, Coach Patterson, Coach Randolph, our trainers, our managers, you name it. I think everybody has improved and has focused on bringing out the best in each other.

"One of things I wanted to talk about and address is our fans. I want to talk to them today and tell them how excited I was to see their energy at Fan Fest and to see them in that stadium. What I want to ask of them is the same thing, I want it to be the new and improved. I want to create an atmosphere unlike any other atmosphere we have ever had at Heinz Field. I can't wait to hit that field and I can't wait to run out of that tunnel. I want them to know how thankful and grateful I have been for their support. It has been overwhelming and exciting but that's why I do this because I love competing and being a part of this family. The Pitt family is a very special group. 

"Now I want to talk about Buffalo who I believe is a very well coached football team and a dangerous football team. They look a lot like some of the teams I competed against at Tulsa. They are very skilled and the quarterback is a very accurate passer. I watched some of their films back (when Coach Jeff Quinn was) in Cincinnati. I think they have three wide receivers that are special, they can hurt you and can go out and make things happen. I think this whole game is about us going out and performing the best we can. Early in the season I am always a firm believer that the team who makes the least mistakes is going to win. You can't beat yourself. We're going to be high octane about everything we're doing from how we take the field, to how we call the plays, to how we execute those plays. Our guys are going to play Pitt football, the Pitt way. Were going to play with a lot of passion, hard-edge mentality, and were going to fly around a lot. I tell my players in the locker room, I want people to hear, feel and see Pitt football. I want it to be old-fashioned football and played very physical. We're excited and I am honored to be heading toward this game. I woke up about 4:15 this morning ready to go. I'm really looking forward to this week with great anticipation. I am both honored and thrilled to be the head football coach and to lead this program at Pitt. I like this team and how they are responding to our program. We're going to face some adversary but I think this team is going to respond well."


On Buffalo's no-huddle strategy:

"All I can go off is what they did last year. I know Coach Quinn's background with Coach Kelly at Cincinnati and he's a believer in the no huddle. They have a similar philosophical approach we have here at Pitt. They didn't get it going as well as they wanted to last year but they did have some big plays in their offense. It's tough and it's not going to be smooth sailing for us either. This is third time I have had the opportunity to do it (make a coaching transition). I think the key is to focus on what you want out of it. Buffalo is very capable even though they struggled last year. They have big-play capabilities with their three wide receivers. Now with this new quarterback, Anderson, they have a player that can throw the ball deep down the field and be accurate with it.

"Our whole deal in what we're trying to do is to emphasize our tempo. We need to master what we're doing and not take on too much. I think the challenge is you always think you are where you need to be but you have to wait to find out. You won't know until you get out there on the field and you see how they react. Buffalo has been a no-huddle team and that is what I expect them to be. Again, they are a very dangerous football team but our focus is not on Buffalo, it is on Pitt. We have to get out there and take care of the football, run the football, play good run defense, don't give up cheap plays, win explosives and that's how you win football games. You can't have stupid penalties. This first game is all about focusing on what we're doing as a team. If we do that then we will be fine."     


On Andrew Taglianetti playing both safety and spur linebacker:

"We are not trying to be deceptive on what guys are playing. Andrew Taglianetti is a winner in every way and is a kid who does everything right in all areas of his life. He is more of nickel spur so you're going to see him in the game if it's ten personnel, eleven personnel or sets similar to that. He's not a base down spur. Our base down spur would be Todd Thomas or Greg Williams. We wanted to list him and he is a starter in my mind. Taglianetti is also the backup free safety and the backup bandit. He's probably the next safety to go on the field. We will use him in a nickel a lot like they used Dom DeCicco last year. He is more of our nickel strong safety and Todd Thomas is more of our true outside linebacker."


On Lafayette Pitts as a backup safety:

"Lafayette Pitts is going to play boundary corner and bandit safety so we're trying to bring him along. How we develop those guys is playing with boundary and field people. If you play him at boundary corner then you better learn boundary safety. Right now he's taking most of his snaps at bandit safety or boundary safety. He's been progressing well and he's a guy who is going to help us this year. It's a little tougher in the back end because there's a lot more to comprehend. We're running over 20 different coverage looks so there is a lot to learn. Pitts has done very well at corner so we're pretty solid at that position. We want to provide a little depth at safety. We think the bandit safety is a position that is going to be his primary position and he will also be in depth at the boundary corner position."


On who would be the first quarterback off the bench:

"Trey Anderson would probably being the first guy in the game. It depends on the situation so it's either/or right now. Trey Anderson and Mark Myers have battled tremendously through camp so we have a lot of confidence in both those guys. They are very different and both have a diverse set of skills. Mark has a tremendous arm and is a great thrower. He is accurate with the deep ball and can really do all the things in the passing game. Trey does a great job operating, very accurate with his intermediate passing game and can throw the ball as well. The first guy if something happened would be Trey Anderson."


On the Woodland Hills High products:

"Ejuan Price is a starter in my mind. Brandon Lindsey is the starting Panther and then on third down you will see Lindsey and Price as the outside linebackers. Those guys will be on the field in third down situations. Ejuan has tremendous talent. The only thing he has to do is keep learning what he is doing. Every snap just keeps getting better and better for him. K.K Mosley-Smith is basically in the starting rotation up front on the defensive line. He plays behind Myles Caragein. Naturally Myles can't play every snap so K.K will be in the rotation up front. We will play a lot of defensive line when we rotate those guys. The Woodland Hills guys are representing well. I am pretty proud of those guys and how they came in. All three of those guys (Price, Mosley-Smith and Lafayette Pitts) are leaders in that class in how they work and how they go about things."


On the inside linebackers:

"I think Shane Gordon has had a tremendous camp. We consider all three of those guys (Gordon, Max Gruder and Tristan Roberts) starters and you will see all three of them play. Max Gruder and Tristan Roberts have tremendous experience and knowledge of what they're doing. Executing what we do is somewhat complex as far as the multiple fronts so it is very important we have experienced players there to get us lined up. Shane has tremendous physical talent and we're excited about what he can do. He is listed as a starter. Tristan will play there some considering how well he progresses, but we will start the game with Shane there. Max will be with Tristan and be the swing guy there. All three of those guys will play inside linebacker and I think all three of them are starters. We have it listed that way for a reason and it is reflective of their potential more than anything."


On the defensive line:

"Our goal going into each week is focusing on our players and what we can do. We have some really quality players up front on the defensive line. I am anxious to turn them loose and see how they're going to react to what we're doing schematically. We have adapted quite a few things to their talents. I expect them to be dominant no matter what week it is. That is the key to being successful defensively. I have challenged these guys to be the best in the country and that is where they have set their standards. We have set our standards awfully high but I have great belief in them and their talent."


On Buffalo's freshman offensive line starters:

"Obviously if they're playing as freshmen then they must be pretty talented. But I like our guys up against just about anyone. We have a really good defensive line."     


On the offensive line:

"I have a lot of confidence in them. It has been feeling around and trying to find the right fit. We have settled in with Ryan Turnley at center, Chris Jacobson and Lucas Nix at the guards and Jordan Gibbs and Juantez Hollins at the tackle position. I have been really pleased with Juantez and I think Greg Gaskins is going to see playing time as the first guy in at tackle. Cory King will be the first guy in at the guard position and then Chris Jacobson is our next center. We have settled in on that for about the last week and feel good about it. I think those guys have gelled well. I think Lucas Nix really makes us strong in the center and on that right side. I like looking at that right side with Lucas and Jordan Gibbs standing next to each other. We will see but we think we have the right mix. I have a lot of confidence in this team. The key is to not have stupid penalties and not turn the ball over. If we don't do that then we're going to score some points."


On the ideal number of touches for Ray Graham

"As many as he can get. We definitely have a set number of touches but I don't really want to say what that number is right now. The key to what we will do as an offense is we'll take what they give us and we're going to execute our system and attack. We will spread that ball around and Ray will have plenty of touches. The key is to making first downs and then you will have a lot of plays. We have 80 plays and everyone is going to be happy with how many times they touch the ball. Ray is no doubt a guy that we want to get the ball in his hands."


On how fast they want to snap the ball:

"We would eventually like to get around 12 seconds. I think we tend to forget that this is all new to these guys. Our quarterback has the biggest strain on him because he has to do everything he did last year and probably more. He has to communicate the call, protections, and checks while reading coverage at a lot faster pace. I would say if we're at 18 seconds then we will be excited about that time, but I won't be satisfied with it. We like to have the ball snapped every 15 seconds in our first year. We were doing that early and we've slowed a little bit. Our time is going to be the focus for us and we can't start trying to scheme too much before we get the tempo established. That will be what sets us apart. I would like to be at 15 seconds but I think for the first game we will be around 18." 


On returners:

"Ronald Jones has been very impressive. I have a lot of confidence in Cameron Saddler and he is ready to go but he has been dinged up. We will have to see but that will be more of a game time call for us (at punt returner). Those are two guys who will see action there. On kickoff return, Buddy Jackson and Corey Davis are going to see most of the reps there."

Meet the Press: Coach Todd Graham Previews the Buffalo Game

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