Oct. 25, 2010
Dave Wannstedt Press Conference
October 25, 2010
“A quick little recap from last week: On Saturday it was great to see the Tino Sunseri-to-Jon Baldwin connection come alive. We’ve all seen it in practice; we just haven’t gotten the chance to get it going in live game competition like we wanted to. That was good to see.
“With Greg Romeus being out it’s been a challenge for us defensively. Jabaal Sheard continues to make plays at a high level. He’s been double teamed, triple teamed. He just continues to make plays and play at that high level. His counterpart, Brandon Lindsey, has stepped up obviously. Between those two guys and our defensive line, anytime you come up with seven sacks, you’re pressing the passer. Overall I thought that our front guys showed up and made plays. It was a difference in us keeping constant pressure on them and forcing a couple turnovers.
“On special teams, Cameron Saddler was recognized. Kevin Harper is kicking off very well. I think he had three touchbacks on Saturday. His hang time, even on the kick returns, is over four seconds so that’s real positive. It was good to see Cam (Saddler) average over 15 yards per punt return. When you’re doing that, you’re going to be at the top of the averages in the league and the top averages in the country. I thought that Cam had a good day there and we improved a little bit in that area.
“I see Henry Hynoski back there (in the room). Who would have ever thought that our fullback would be our leading receiver with seven catches?
“It was a good team win — a win that we obviously needed in order to continue to build some confidence. As we get ready for Louisville this week there’s no question as a football team from top to bottom, that they’re the best team we’ve played in our conference. All you have to do is look through the Big East statistics. They’re in the top-third, top-quarter of every category — offense, defense and special teams. They’re protecting the football, they’re plus four on turnover margin and they’re running the ball. They’re right behind us in sacks. We lead the league with 21 sacks and they have 20, right behind us. They’re doing a remarkable job, they really are.
“They’re a senior team. When you look at their football team they have eight starters on offense and five starters on defense. They have a group of guys that have been there, played and have game experience. Charlie Strong has obviously implemented a system and an attitude that the kids have bought into. They’re performing at a high level. We have to continue to prepare. The message to our guys this week is that we need to continue to work hard, improve, prepare and to go out there and find a way to take our game to another level.”
On Louisville’s offense:
“The first game their quarterback started was a year ago against us. He’s a senior kid; he was a junior college kid too. He’s a good athlete. He can get out of trouble and run the football. He’s the third-leading rusher on their team.
“They have giant receivers. Rutgers had good size, but these guys have a group of receivers that is experienced and have really good size. They’ve been scoring points running the ball. They’re balanced. They’re throwing the ball and running the ball effectively. They’re not a one-dimensional team.”
On the second half of Saturday’s game against Rutgers:
“I thought that was probably as good a half as we’ve played this year with contributions by everyone. For us to win a game and really play well, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham have to be a factor, Jon Baldwin has to be a factor, Dom DeCicco has to be a factor and Jabaal Sheard has to be a factor. They’re kind of the (more) senior guys that have been around, and we expect those guys to make big plays.
“When you see Tino progressing, the offensive line coming along and when you see Henry making plays, that’s a type of team effort that we need to be successful.”
On playing time on the defensive line”
“We played less than 60 plays on defense. The whole second half we wanted to get Bryan Murphy in there and T.J. Clemmings a little bit more playing time. It was three and out, and there wasn’t a whole lot of possession (time for Rutgers) in the second half. It was about 40 plays. Aaron Donald played a little over 20 plays. He played the most out of all the freshmen. I think that Murphy and T.J. (Clemmings) played about 10 or 12 plays. They all got some playing time, and we’d like to continue to do that. We’d like to rotate them, but not at the expense of not being effective as we need to be.”
On Lucas Nix:
“He practiced last night, so he should be back this weekend.”
On Dion Lewis reaching 100 yards on Saturday:
“I said this, and it might sound like a strange comment, but standing on the sidelines you just had this feeling in your stomach that when Dion was getting the ball, it was the old Dion. Every play he had the chance of breaking. Why? I don’t know. But he was in sync and he was into it. He was making cuts, he was making reads that he’s capable of making. It was nice to get him the yards, but I also think that he probably walked off the field Saturday feeling the best that he’s felt all year.”
On Greg Gaskins:
“If he was not working hard and approaching it the right way when your number’s called, the odds are against you going in there and performing. He’s preparing. He knows he’s one injury away from being in the lineup. He’s disappointed (about being second team). Obviously he’d like to be playing more, but I think he’s approaching it the right way. I’m sure that before it’s over he’ll be getting a lot more playing time.”
On the Big East race:
“I really felt that looking at everything and knowing where we were at, the players that had graduated, how long it takes to bring players along and everything that really goes into coaching and putting a team together, I really thought that there were five teams capable of winning the Big East. That’s probably holding true.
“Our guys are coming along. As long as we continue to work, I think that if you look at our team now, compared to five or six weeks ago you’re seeing improvement in the offensive line. You’re seeing improvement in our running game. You’re seeing improvement in Tino Sunseri and defensively up front and all the way across.
“That’s the key. The team that can stay healthy, continue to work hard with the right attitude and get better every week is the team that will make an impact. I think that the conference will be decided the last week of the season.”
On being undefeated in the Big East:
“We’re undefeated after two games. I think that we have to keep it in perspective, and our guys will. This is the toughest conference game that we have to date this week. We’re focused no further ahead, or on anything else than just Louisville. It would be foolish to try and look at it from any other angle.”
On Mike Cruz:
“That’s the great thing about college football. It’s a little bit different for the professional teams. Every year you’re counting on (proven) players like Dion Lewis, Jon Baldwin and Dom DeCicco — we’ve all talked about that. But for us to be a really good team, the Mike Cruz’s of the world, the Jarred Holley’s of the world and the Brandon Lindsey’s of the world — guys that people aren’t necessarily talking about — have to step up. We know that they’re as valuable as the best guy. All of a sudden these guys are stepping up like Dorin Dickerson a year ago. Players like this step up. They have big days and big seasons. It’s a team game, that’s what gives you a chance to improve.
“Mike Cruz’s blocking has improved. That’s been a point of emphasis. Brock DeCicco has gotten a lot better. With Brock improving I believe that our tight end play has improved, just as other positions have.”
On Tino Sunseri’s improvement:
“The thing that Tino is doing right now is that he’s managing the game. He’s taking what the defense gives you. When we have the opportunity to take shots he’s making good choices.
“For a young quarterback you couldn’t really ask for anything more. I think that everybody just evaluates the quarterback position by how many passes you complete, and there’s so much more to it. He’s getting the call, managing the huddle and getting us in and out of plays. We’ll have run checks; we’ll have pass checks all depending on what the defense does. Pressure-wise, coverage-wise or front-wise, all those little things that go unnoticed he has truly improved on week after week. Obviously, we can’t win without good quarterback play on any level.”
On offensive balance and confidence:
“I think that if you sit back and look at it, that’s been the pattern the last couple of weeks that we’ve seen from defenses — just being a little more honest. We’ve said from week one that until we start hitting some of those passes and they know that we’re not afraid to drop back and throw the football and do it effectively, until you do that, it’s just lip service. I think that now people know that if they want to play certain coverages we’re going to throw the ball.”
On Louisville’s running game:
“They have a very good offensive line across the board and two good tight ends. Their running backs are running the ball with more consistency. By that I mean numbers. If you look at the number of times they’re running the game and their possession time, they’re committed to running the football. They have good schemes.
“Their center and left tackle are probably the best that we’ve seen in awhile. They do a lot of schemes with their offensive line — block down and pull, stuff like that which forces to be secure. They keep you balanced. They’re playing very physical right now.”
On the impact of junior college players at Louisville:
“I’m not sure which ones were junior college players or were not. I know that they have 13 seniors starting on their team. We have five. How that works out, which ones were junior college players and which ones were not, I don’t know.”
On Greg Romeus:
“Greg Romeus is making progress. We’re just week-by-week with him. There’s nothing new to report.”
On the defensive backs going against Louisville’s receivers:
“When we talk to our defensive backs and talk about another team having big receivers, the first thing they say is that they’re not as big as Mike Shanahan or Jon Baldwin. It does help (facing big receivers in practice). I think that good competition in practice helps you gain confidence for the game.”
On Pitt’s cornerbacks:
“You say this in a positive way — we’ve been very consistent in our coverage. The guys are making good checks in the back. Guys are in place. Since the Utah game, we have really tightened it up back there. The kids have done a good job of being where they’re supposed to be. Guys are going to make plays. There are going to be good throws and good catches, but there has been improvement at that position — no different than most of the other positions on our team.
“Ricky Gary is really having a good year. Antwuan Reed has really gotten better. We have Buddy Jackson not just on special teams but in our nickel back position. Dom DeCicco is still working both spots out there. He was on three special teams and played nickel back and played safety. I don’t think that we have anyone on our team that contributes more than Dom DeCicco does.”
On the special teams against Rutgers:
“I’m just disappointed that we gave up the block because we’ve worked on it. We just tried something a little new from a call standpoint and it probably screwed us up. We probably out-thought ourselves.”
On Devin Street:
“It’s pretty exciting. He’s a guy that has ability. I didn’t think that Devin Street would be ready mentally to go out there and compete week after week. He continues to make plays for us so he’s been a real bright spot.”
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