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Syracuse Preview: Coach Wannstedt Looks to the Orange Match Up




Oct. 29, 2007

PITTSBURGH - Opening Statement:
Our guys are disappointed with the Louisville loss, to say the least, but we came out here yesterday and had good meetings and good practices. We have to build on the positives -- which I believe we will -- and take another step forward. There were a lot of good things that happened in that Louisville game and a lot of times it's very difficult to talk about them in the right tone or the right frame of mind, but I believe - with where we are at as a football team -- that's what we need to do. We need to keep a good frame of mind, keep working hard and go out here and see if we can find a way to win the game this week and go from there. The attitude of our players is good. We have some real, real good leaders on this team. Jeff Otah, Joe Clermond and Mike McGlynn, those guys have done a heck of a job and they are all playing at a high level. I think, as a head coach, whether you're struggling or not, you're always banking and depending on your seniors doing everything they can do from a performance standpoint. For the most part, our guys have done that and have continued doing that and that will set great examples for some of these young kids. Nothing happened in that game (against Louisville) that I don't anticipate happening in the Syracuse game. It's no secret that we are going to do everything we can to run the football. We have to make more plays in the passing game. We need to make smart plays in the passing game. The plan that Louisville presented us with last week was not a surprise to players, coaches or anybody else. We had prepared for that, we knew what they were going to do; we just didn't make enough plays for several reasons. That'll be the focus this week as we get ready for Syracuse.

On Pat Bostick and LeSean McCoy growing from the Louisville game:
They will. Where they were at Saturday after the game to where they were at yesterday was very encouraging to me and I think it showed how resilient these young kids are. They want to get out there and better themselves, get another opportunity. I'm glad we have another game this week. It's all part of it. I corresponded with both of them that night. I had contact with both LeSean and Pat that night and made sure that they were fine, but it's also part of the game. LeSean was heading out (to the bus) with his uniform on; he wanted to fly home with his equipment on. I said, `No, you can't do that. You have to change before you get on the plane.' His emotions were that strong that he didn't want to be in the locker room. I think that they handled it as well as could have been expected and neither kid has been in that situation very often. So it was all part of the game and they need to grow up along with that and know that they have my support, the team's support and know that we wouldn't be in position to win any games if those two guys don't do their part -- so that's the other side of the coin. It's just where we're at right now.

 

 

On LeSean McCoy's maturity and perseverance in the fourth quarter on Saturday:
The one thing I said to him at halftime was a story, because he loves hearing the Emmitt Smith stories, the Ricky Williams stories and the Tony Dorsett stories. I made a comment to him about Emmitt Smith. You don't know how many games that we went in at halftime and he was averaging two yards a carry and he ended up with four and a half or five.

On Mo Williams' ascent up the depth chart:
I've always had the belief that the coach doesn't usually eliminate you from playing, you normally eliminate yourself because of various reasons. It might be, at the receiver position, that you're not running the right routes, you're not making a catch, you're not blocking or you're making mental mistakes, whatever it might be. Because of various reasons, he just kept working and we're constantly trying to get better. A couple of injuries, a couple of guys got banged up and all of a sudden his opportunity comes and we were confident that he would make plays. I think he's going to be a great football player for us, I really do. They guy has a lot of ability and this is only his first year playing receiver. The guy was a quarterback in high school; a quarterback and safety so he's been a receiver for about three months.

On how this year's team is better that last year's:
I know we're better on defense in all phases. We haven't popped a big return yet, our punt return average is up a little bit, our kickoff coverage is good, our punting is good. What have we blocked, four or five kicks this year already? I like where we're at on special teams. Our offensive line has come on and I think that we can line up, and if someone wants to let us run the football, we'll run the football with the best of them. The position, and unfortunately it's the most critical position when you're playing catch up is the quarterback. There's no easy solution for it. If it was easy to line up and play true freshmen every year, everybody would be doing it. Pitt hasn't done it in about 25 years and there's a reason they haven't done it. That's probably the only frustrating thing right now. I think our running game is better, our defense is better, I like where our special teams is at. I like the attitude of our team, I think were better conditioned and we're stronger mentally. When it's 14-0 against Louisville at their homecoming game, it's easy to fold your tent with a freshman quarterback and our kids didn't. The seniors of this team, they just kept plowing and I like where we're at. I think we've made some strides from a mental toughness standpoint in the last few weeks. We were probably better than that earlier, but we didn't have a chance to show it. When you turn the ball over six times in one game, I don't care how tough you are mentally, it's not going to make a difference. It's not. It's slow, it's not as fast as I would like. It's not as fast as anyone would like, but we're dealing with a great group of kids. The attitude for where our record is, 3-5, you wouldn't know it if you watched these kids practice and study and get ready to win.

On whether Pat Bostick is still evolving:
Mentally, he's farther along than any freshman quarterback in the country -- the guy is incredible. But the speed of the game, arm strength and all those things that happen as you mature, we're playing a little bit of catch up there.

On the defensive pressure against Louisville and the plan for Syracuse:
It played out pretty good. We got picked on that last series and the holding call was big on that last drive. The rest of the game against Louisville really played out; we pretty much eliminated the big pass which killed us the last two years. We kind of contained the run and we gave up a little bit on the run to help with the pass. We did pressure them some, but for the most part, when we got after them and got our pressure and our sacks, it was with our four down guys rushing and that enabled us to be safe. The quarterback situation at Syracuse with (Andrew) Robinson, he doesn't have as much experience, but he's a lot better athlete. He's a dangerous guy on his feet. They run option with him and he will keep the ball. He probably throws the deep ball better than he throws the shallow ball. If you look at their passing yards and you look at their two wide receivers, they have a large number of big plays in the passing game. He can throw the ball down the field, so we're going to have to do a good job of pressuring him. Probably the strength of their offense right now are those two wideouts and we have to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a bad position and give up any big plays.

On Mick Williams and Tommie Duhart giving more than what was expected this year:
I thought that Mick would be a contributor if he was healthy coming off the shoulder surgery. Tommie I wasn't sure. When you bring in a player from junior college, it usually takes one year to make the transition, not just on the football field, but in the classroom and the whole change over. Tommie has done one heck of a job bridging that a lot faster than I thought. And we have them for two more years after that; I can't imagine what these guys are going to look like a year or two from now. It's going to get exciting, it really is.

On getting Greg Romeus more snaps:
We're trying to do that and Chris McKillop and Joe Clermond are playing extremely well and everybody's getting their snaps. We're trying to do what we have to do to win the game, but keeping those guys fresh definitely helps. And as he (Romeus) gets better and more experienced, I would like to see him be a guy that plays 75 percent of the plays and the guy whose rotating in for him next year is getting 25 percent. Right now, we're trying to split him and Chris (McKillop) up. And Joe Clermond is the guy that's playing the most, everyone else is rotating pretty good.

On Aaron Berry:
Aaron came out of the spring with some high hopes. He went into training camp and hurt his ankle and didn't start the opener and limped around really for about three weeks. He tried to play through it. The third game of the season he jammed up a thumb and he was unable to use his hand the way he wanted to. He played but he taped it up, and then he gets two or three pass interference calls on him. So you've got a true sophomore out there who is limping around and he's getting some penalties and we're not winning games. I think the last couple weeks he's made a few plays and he's pretty confident right now. That's the type of player he is. He'll get up in your face and challenge you and if you throw that way, you'll get him a few times, but he'll make some big plays. We haven't seen the best of what he can do.

On how close the defense is from reaching their potential:
Some of the best defenses I've been involved with got an opportunity to show what they do. What we do on defense is run and get after it. When you've got a 14 point lead or a 20 point lead, I think we can give you a lot of problems. We haven't had that luxury, it's either been even or we've been down. I mean we were down by 14 points again last week and I'm sitting up in the box saying, `here we go.' So now it's very difficult to get after the passer and it's very difficult to turn them loose, when they (Louisville) are in a conservative mode and they're running waggles and throwing the ball out into the flat. We're making progress, but we're probably about 60-70 percent of where we need to be.

On the similarities between Pitt's and Syracuse's programs:
I was looking at their roster over the past couple days and they've got some young players in there playing too, particularly at quarterback and now at tailback. Yeah, it's probably similar; they recruit a lot of the same guys that we're recruiting on the east coast. They're in New York and, obviously, New Jersey a little bit more than we are, but I would say it's a similar situation. I don't know where they were talent-wise two years ago, but they've added some good players.

On building a program:
I think you try to build a program, but at the same time you're doing what you feel is necessary. You're trying to go out and get the best players to come in and play. When you bring those guys in, you hope that a few of them are going to be difference makers. If they are difference makers, things will happen a lot faster than if not. If somebody gets hurt, it's not going to happen as fast.

On Syracuse's defense:
Greg (Robinson) is a very good defensive coach and with them having the bye week last week, I would expect something different than what we've seen. I'm sure they're going to do everything they can to make Pat Bostick's life difficult. They'll do a lot of disguises; I would expect a lot of pressure. I would expect a similar philosophy as we got at Louisville, get as many guys up at the line of scrimmage as you can and make us throw it to beat you. That's what I anticipate.

On goal-setting for the rest of the season:
I think it's pretty simple. If you're team feels like you're going backwards and you're not making progress and you don't have a chance it's one thing, but our guys don't believe that. I think they understand that we were right there with an opportunity to have a chance to tie that game and have a chance to win the game if we could take it to overtime. Our focus is Syracuse and just going out there and playing better. I still don't think we have played as good as we can and a lot will have to do with some of those young kids getting better in a hurry.

On being on the field or in the press box this week:
It depends on if I get the stitches out of my Achilles or not. I'll see the doctor Wednesday. If I don't get them out, then I'll probably be up in the box for one more week.