With the Florida Gators preparing for their second game of the 2011 season (Sept. 10 vs. UAB), offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s 41-3 victory over Florida Atlantic and the team’s upcoming game.
Redshirt senior John Brantley: “I thought he managed the team as well for an opener as you can possibly do. He had only one error that I would question his mental on the whole evening. For a first rattle out of the box, to have minimal mental mistakes at the quarterback position, that’s a very good start. I thought that he showed very good accuracy; he showed very good poise. There were a lot of things to be pleased about. Now, turning the ball over twice, that’s not what we’re looking for.”
Freshman Jeff Driskel: “He’s very, very athletic. The one thing with a young guy – I don’t encourage this from No. 12 by the way – the one thing with a young guy who is very athletic is you allow him to [tuck the ball and run]. You don’t discourage him from pulling the ball down and going because a lot of times that’s better than the alternative of them trying to force the ball down the field and have something bad happen.”
Weis believes in the mental aspect of football just as much as the physical. To this end, he has a particular method in which he likes to coach up his players while sitting on the sideline, one he has abided by throughout his coaching career.
“When I’m on the field you can sit there and just have a conversation and go over things and it’s kind of settling for [the players],” he said. “As a matter of fact, when they first come off the field, I don’t talk to them. Whether it was good or bad, I don’t talk to them. If it was good, I let the players all celebrate together so that I’m not looking for the kudos. If it’s bad at the same time the camera’s there looking to see what you’re going to say. That’s not the time. Let them get to the bench, let them go ahead and sit down. Then you come over and say, ‘OK, what were you thinking?’ And there might be an adjective or two in there.”
That is how he dealt with Driskel, who entered in the game in the second quarter and – on the first pass of his career – threw an interception. “We wanted to get him in when we felt that the game was still competitive. We weren’t looking to get him in for 20 plays. We were looking to get his feet wet, which is what we did,” Weis explained. “You couldn’t have choreographed it really any better. He comes in, he’s nervous, first time out, 90,000 people in The Swamp, it’s exciting for a kid at that position. But you saw how much more poised he looked the next time he came out there. He kind of got it out of his system. Will [Muschamp]’s plan, which I agreed with 100 percent, was, ‘Let’s try to get one of the young guys some experience so that – who knows when it’s going to be or if it’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen – you have to have the next guy ready to go.’ We didn’t want the first snaps that the backup quarterback got in a super-pressure situation.”
Speaking specifically about Saturday’s game, Weis said the turnovers were undoubtedly an issue. “When you have a minus-three turnover ratio for a game, usually you’re going to lose. That’s one of our points of emphasis [this week],” he explained. Weis added that there were three other potential turnovers during the game as the ball was put on the ground by redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison (bad snap), senior running back Jeff Demps (fumble) and redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (ball popped out early). “Ball possession I think is a critical factor and one of the points that we’re emphasizing this week,” he noted.
RUNNING WITH THE BACKS
Weis noted that the offensive line and tight ends played quite well throughout most of the game but one other position group really helped spring the backs into the open field. “I was exceptionally pleased with the downfield blocking with the wide receivers,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’ve challenged them [to do] – we can’t play with receivers who don’t block down the field.”
Asked how pleased he was about the performances of Demps and Rainey, Weis smiled but also said he plans to be effectively cautious with them long-term. “I tried to forewarn you of what I expected and what I expected was basically what you saw. They’re both exceptional football players,” he said. “Our job is to make sure that we utilize them enough and not too much, and I think that’s important. Because you’re going to play a 14-game season, which is what we intend to do. If you’re going to play a 14-game season, then you have to worry about the stamina of guys that aren’t 230 pounds.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Weis believes that only touchdowns count as successful red zone possessions. “Sixty percent touchdowns in the red zone – that’s not a good number,” he said. “People will say 80 percent with the interception, but I don’t consider a field goal in the red zone a conversion. That’s a win for the defense.”
» On redshirt freshman right tackle Chaz Green becoming a starter: “He really struggled in the spring. He was also kind of a one-man gang because you had no X[avier Nixon] for half the spring, no [Matt] Patchan for the whole spring as far as full-time go. He was like a man in his own country. Once he got into that rotation with those other guys and competition started getting better and better. He’s a very competitive person and I think the competition made him play better.”
» With Tommy West stepping in as UAB’s new defensive coordinator after a year off, Weis said he had to go back to tape of Memphis in 2009 (in addition to watching UAB’s players from last year) in order to prepare for the unknown defense he will face. “The one thing about UAB is, once again for the second week in a row, we have no evidence for sure what they’re going to do on defense,” he said. “You have two volumes of stuff right here.”
» Weis joked about Rainey’s comment that Florida only ran six offensive plays and explained that the Gators did a lot more than that during the Florida Atlantic game – even if they didn’t give away everything just yet. “First of all, [the players] don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just calling plays. They’re just running the plays,” he said. “For Rainey to try to give you an analysis of what we’re doing – that’s comical in its own right. For him, there were six plays that had No. 1 attached to it, so as far as he’s concerned, those were the only six plays that existed. He forgot about all those other ones that [No.] 1 wasn’t getting the ball. We obviously didn’t throw out the kitchen sink there, but we did enough things in there. We upped the tempo, we went in and out of modes, we went in and out of personnel groupings. There was enough for our first game right there to let them kind of get a feel for the different things that we would like to do.”
» Though he scripts anywhere from 12-24 plays for each game, Weis explained that a lot of times you have to go with the flow and change things up early on. “Sometimes you run it down just the way you have it. Now there’s been other games where it just hasn’t gone very well, where it might be after three series you say, ‘Welp, let’s scrap this and go on to something else,’” he said.
» On first downs not always being the most important thing on offense, speaking specifically about the plays after Harrison’s bad snap: “When the ball is down, unlike what everyone else is thinking, I’m not trying to get the first down. I’m trying to get into field goal range. I’m trying to get points. It’s third-and-25, we get 18 [yards], that was one of our non-conversions on third down, but to me that was a conversion because that got us points. That 18-yard comeback to Quinton [Dunbar] on the left sideline got it close enough where [Caleb] Sturgis could go ahead and get three on the board right there.”