Sept. 20, 2010
Dave Wannstedt Press Conference
September 20, 2010
“There are a couple of different subjects to address today. I know it’s been written, and I mentioned it in my earlier press conference, but we want to acknowledge the passing of Greg Romeus’ mother yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with Greg right now. He’s had a very difficult five or six weeks. He’s going to come over here today, and I’ll talk to him. He’s with family members right now, and once the arrangements are made he’ll be in South Florida.
“Brandon Lindsey will start the game. He started last week, and he’s had a good week of practice. We’ll rotate some guys in there as we did last week. Nate Nix will get some time, and we will take the redshirt off T.J. Clemmings. He will play this week. The plan was to try and redshirt him initially, and when Bryan Murphy broke the bone in his foot, now he’s not going to be ready to play for a couple of weeks. T.J. gives us some size and depth at the defensive end position along with Justin Hargrove and Shayne Hale. T.J. has really done some good things at practice, and we’re going to need him. We’re planning on playing him some in the rotation this week.
“I mentioned that the last couple of weeks our players and coaches did a great job of taking advantage of the extra days that we’ve had. Having the extra week, we came back and worked four days, with half of those practices against ourselves, Pitt versus Pitt. It was Jabaal Sheard against Lucas Nix, so the competition was great. The way that they’ve approached practice with the attitude and energy leading up to our Miami preparation, we became a better team. I told our players this, and I meant it, I was really pleased with what we were able to get accomplished.
“On another subject, I was very disappointed with what happened this past weekend with Keith Coleman, particularly in the wake of what happened a week or two ago with Jason Douglas. It was not a good decision. Obviously, with all those decisions getting made like that, there are consequences, and Keith (Coleman) has not previously been a problem whatsoever. All you have to do is ask some people about his character, but it doesn’t make any excuses. He was wrong. He knows he was wrong. But that is not an excuse.
“People know what our track record has been. We have an outstanding group of young men here at Pitt. We’ve had a couple of bad decisions in the last couple weeks, or month and a half, but that is not an indication of our football team. We are doing everything that we can do to get the issue resolved. It is not what we were in the past, it is not what we are now and it won’t be what we’re all about in the future.
“Talking about the past, this weekend is a game that we’ve invited all our past players to come in and participate in the pre-game and post-game events going on. I think we have close to 350 former players coming in: Jim Covert, Tony Dorsett, Ruben Brown, Al Romano. They’re all going to be here. It’s going to be a great group of guys. I’ve talked to all of them, E.J. Borghetti has spoken with them and so has Steve Pederson. They’re excited about coming back and being a great part of a great football atmosphere on Thursday night.
“When you look at Miami’s football team — when you look at what they do on offense, defense and special teams — you see some very similar characteristics to our team. Randy Shannon and I go way back, I think you all know that. I was part of the staff that recruited him out of high school. I coached him for his whole college career. We drafted him at the Cowboys, I hired him at the Dolphins. I was responsible, or a big part of him getting the coordinator job at the University of Miami when he left me at the Dolphins to go back there. Randy and I have had a long association since his high school days.
“He comes from a very similar philosophy background as mine, and you see that when you watch them play. When you look at their defensive line, they played 10 guys last week in their game. We take great pride in trying to play eight. They play 10 defensive linemen. That tells you about the kind of depth that they have.
“They’ve got very talented skill positions. This is one of those games when you miss a tackle in the backfield, you miss a tackle on the perimeter with a receiver, and they are capable of going 60-70 yards. They’re a very talented team. Even though they’re coming off of a tough loss, they’ll respond. We have to be prepared to go out there and play as good as we can play as a team. Our players know that, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. “
On improving the running game:
“Number one would have to be that we have to be more efficient up front. When I say up front, you have to include the tight end. What we do is block, so the five offensive linemen, the tight end, the fullback. We’re not as efficient as we need to be. We had some great sessions this week with Ray Graham and Dion Lewis.
“We tie every play in with the offensive line and the running backs. We go back and talk about each play. We went back and said OK on this play, this is where we’re trying to attack the defense, and this is where the soft spot would be. We really had a chance to come back and pull things together with the entire group.
“It’s a combination of up front, backs, tight ends, of just getting cleaner. Anytime a guy is turned loose in the backfield, it’s because we’re not blocking and being as efficient as we should be.”
On recent adversity:
“We’ve had some early season obstacles, adversity to overcome, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle. It’s nothing that we haven’t ‘been there and done that.’ We have a group of young men on this football team that are ready for a challenge, and who are doing things the right way.
“Things happen in this game, it happens on the professional level, on the high school level. It comes back to your foundation. If your foundation is solid, you overcome these things. Whether it is injuries, things that happen on the field or off the field, you do everything you can to correct it. But when you have a good, solid foundation that is built on the right values, you can overcome these things. We know what the values of this football program are, and nobody knows better than I do.
“Our foundation won’t crack because of the backbone of our players. One or two incidents are not an indication of our entire team, of 120 kids. If I told you everything that we did over the summer, in addition to our life skills sessions every week, bringing people in to talk to these kids about drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. We’ve even brought in the NFL. Troy Vincent came in this year to talk about the image of a football player. Every week we do something to try and teach, educate and help bring these young men along so that they’re better people, so that they can go out and get a job once football is over.
“There are consequences when a guy makes a mistake and a bad decision. There is a lot to lose: his education, an opportunity to play football and his reputation. I think you just continue reinforcing the things that you’ve been doing over the last five years when there have been very minimal problems. If anything, we’ve added, we’ve strengthened our life skills and what we do with our players in the off-season. We have had a couple of unfortunate things that have made us mad to be honest with you.
“You can’t lump everything together, as people like to do. If your son is playing football for me, you want your son here, you want me to look at him and try and help him. Obviously, there are consequences when something happens, we all know that, but you also want it to be fair and you want somebody that is going to stick with him and make sure that it’s handled the right way. That’s what we try to do.
“If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you have to lose your scholarship, which we’ve had happen before, every school does. Whether it’s on the field, off the field or academics…those things do happen, and they will happen. You try to educate the boys, you try to keep reinforcing those values and at some point they have to understand, and they do, that there are consequences and a lot to lose if they make a bad decision.”
“(Alcohol) played a role in these incidents. We know what the law is as far as underage drinking. If a player is involved in an incident and alcohol is involved, which it was, that’s going to be a major factor in the final decision whether or not a player remains with us, or what the consequences will be.
“We have curfews. We have one night off every week, and that’s Thursday night. I meet with the team every Thursday night at 9 p.m. at the Pete, and we bring in a former player who has been successful in the community, and we talk about these issues.
“We’re going to continue doing the right things. There are certain places that are off limits. We have curfews, we’re checking dorm rooms, we’re doing all those things that everybody does. Sometimes it is just bad choices, I guess.”
“It does bother me. There’s nobody that is affected more than me when it comes to issues involving this football program. I like to believe that because of playing here, coaching here and everything that we have invested in the program, you look at these kids as your own. You care about these kids. That’s a big part of why you do what you do in this profession. Otherwise, you get out.”
“We always let the legal system take its course to find out what’s right and wrong.
“We get all the facts, and then sit down and make the decision. This is wrong, we’re not going to stand for this, you were wrong and lose your scholarship. It’s judged on an individual basis”
On Miami’s return game:
“Kick it out of bounds (laughter). It is interesting when you look at the two returns against Ohio State. I’m thinking of the film right now, in both of those plays Ohio State had pretty good coverage and the return men from Miami just made them miss. The emphasis this week is obviously the scheme that you’re trying to do.
“We’re going to need to make tackles in the open field, and that may be oversimplifying it. They do a good job, they have good athletes and they’ve got good blocking schemes. I’m not making light of that.
“The best thing that they have going for them is that they have such great guys. The one catch from a punt return for a touchdown, the guy caught the ball and was literally two yards away from an Ohio State player in his face. They’re courageous from the standpoint if they catch the football, they’re going to return it, there’s not going to be a lot of fair catches.
“With the extra days we put some emphasis on the special teams, particularly with things that we need to clean up. Our players are well aware of what they do well, their dangers, but we’ll be ready for it. Earlier in the season we know that special teams are always a big determining factor in wins or losses. I’m sure there will be a few plays in this game.”
On Miami QB Jacory Harris:
“He’s a quarterback. As we evaluate the quarterbacks every week, there will probably be four or five of them who can make the big-time throws, and he’s one of those guys. We’ll play a lot of quarterbacks where we can play some coverages on defense because the quarterback is not capable of consistently making a deep ball, or whatever the play might be. You can see him on film making all the throws; he can throw from sideline-to-sideline, he can throw deep very accurately. He forces you to defend the whole field without a doubt.”
On Miami’s running game:
“It’s been Damien Berry, he’s been the guy. But Graig Cooper was the starter last year. He got hurt. I think he’ll be back for our game. I think we’re going to see Cooper, I think we’re going to see Berry, and then the freshman, Lamar Miller.
“He’s (Miller) the biggest and the fastest of them all. He returned the one kickoff two weeks ago, and had a nice return. I expect to see him in the game in some capacity. How much? I don’t know. They do a little bit of two tailbacks in the game at one time. We could see some of that.”
On Miami’s linebackers:
“They can all run. They’re good athletes. I think they’re very similar to us. They have guys that you wouldn’t categorize as big, 240-pound linebackers. They’re 225-pounds, 220 or 230, but they can all run like our guys can.”
On the competition at right guard:
“Our right guard position, as is the case with every position on our team, is one where we have a competition going. That’s a position that’s probably a little more active right now, and Greg Gaskins knows that. We’re just trying to get the best player on the field, and right now it hasn’t really been solidified.
On whether Dan Mason will play against Miami:
“I don’t know if he will. He’s practiced with the second team. If there would be an injury, or if something would happen in the game, he would play. But as of right now he is not on the depth chart as a starter, and he’s not starting on any special teams.”
“They’re both improved and feeling better. They both practiced yesterday.”
On Jack Lippert:
“He’s making progress. We’re probably trying to squeeze so much out of Jack right now…guard, center. Last year at this time he was a defensive end, tackle. Because of our lack of depth right now, we’re asking a lot out of him, probably more than we should be. We really don’t have a choice at this point.
“If something happened to Alex Karabin, he would have to play center, without a doubt. He’d be ready to handle it. Mentally he’s fine. It’s just some physical things that he’s still working on”
On Miami’s early performance against Ohio State:
“When you have the talent and athletic ability that they have, they’re capable of breaking the game open at anytime. Every game the coach preaches a 60-minute game, but when you’re playing a team as dangerous as them, it makes me look back at the Notre Dame game last year. We felt like we were playing really good defense, we felt like we had the game somewhat in hand and all of a sudden the punt to Golden Tate. He splits us up, goes 75 yards for a touchdown and there we go. From an ability standpoint and explosion standpoint there’s a lot of similar traits between their skill guys and what Notre Dame had last year.”
On Ray Graham:
“He’s got it all. The second play of the game, if he’s forced to play, he’s capable of doing that. We don’t have anything different for Dion (Lewis) than we do for Ray. They’re both interchangeable.”
“The only thing that we had last week against New Hampshire was if we had a lead, we wanted to give Ray (Graham) some carries. It wasn’t anything that was planned from the standpoint that, ‘things are going well, let’s give Ray (Graham) the ball.’ That wasn’t it.
“We’ll go in this week knowing that they’re both going to play, but with no specific plan that Dion (Lewis) will get so many carries, and Ray (Graham) will get so many carries. If we get a hot hand, we’ll play the hot hand.”
On whether Pitt will look to pass more against Miami:
“I think we have to be balanced, we really have to be. I like where Tino Sunseri is going, but we have to be careful that we don’t fall in a trap. When you have backs like Dion and Ray Graham back there, we know where we’re going with Tino (Sunseri), and we know the progress that we’re trying to make in the passing game. But our priority in our running game is, ‘where are we going so we can be balanced?’ We can’t go out and be one-dimensional. We can’t go out and win a big game being only one-dimensional.”
On the wide receivers:
“We go into the game with the fact that Jon Baldwin will be double-teamed in the back of our minds. You go in as a coach thinking what happens if they go in there and double up on Jon Baldwin, but you go in there not knowing what the plan is going to be. If they do, the great thing is that we have confidence throwing the ball to Mike Shanahan or Cam (Saddler). Last week, we even got the screen game going a little bit.
“Mike Cruz is a better receiver probably from the tight end position than people give him credit for. If you were to ask Tino (Sunseri) right now, he’s not wearing blinders out there. We’re coaching him up to get the ball to the open guy.”
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