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October 20, 2008

Weekly Coordinator Q&A: Mickey Andrews

Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews spoke with the media Monday about the Seminoles' victory over North Carolina State, the struggles the defense had against the Wolfpack, whether or not he has any great players on this year's squad, about preparing for Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, and more. Here is a transcript of that conversation.

Opening Comments:

"I guess the best thing to say is that we won the football game. That is what you go out to do. We didn't think our defense played all that well in the ballgame but winning is more important than playing well I guess. We played pretty good against Wake Forest and lost the football game."

"There are some things in there that really concern you as a defensive coach, that you have to get corrected and do a better job of. It looked like we came out flat. We weren't really ready it didn't seem like to go play football. We had too many plays that broke the line of scrimmage either on a run or on a pass where we gave up easy yards that could have been corrected simply by making a tackle, winning your gap, or getting lined up right. We just weren't mentally as sharp as you need to be to compete at that level."

"The first half especially wasn't good, we gave up 10 points on two straight series. We had a couple of missed assignments that gave them the points, where we busted coverage. All in all, we just didn't do very well fundamentally. We didn't tackle well, we didn't compete with the kind of effort, intensity, and mental toughness that you have got to play with and consequently we were fighting for our lives."

"Second half was a little bit better except for one play in the fourth quarter. We played very well. They had the 67-yard touchdown pass where we had a blitz on and we didn't blitz very effectively nor did we cover very well. You just have to give them credit for execution on the play and just outdoing us on that particular play. Other than that I don't think they have any first downs in the fourth quarter. They had one first down on a long play. No more first downs and they had 28 yards of total offense. Part of it was because we raised our level of play but a big part of it was because our offense was dominating the possession time. They were controlling the football. Certainly that is good and you look for that."

"All in all, we felt like we were fortunate to come out of the ballgame with a win and we will have to play much, much better this week in order to help us win a football game."

Q: On designed runs for Russell Wilson, how well did you defend those compared to when he broke off big runs on his own?

Andrews:
Well, he hurt us a few times scrambling. We will have to be much more conscience of it this week. We had too many people up-field, to far, you can't do that against a guy who can scramble. You have to stay at his level and be ready to fall back if he dips inside. I don't remember the exact number of plays but we got hurt. Their running backs hurt us a few times just taking the ball and sticking it in gaps. We didn't play pulling linemen, whether it be center, guard, or tackle, whoever they were pulling and fitting our gaps as well as we have got to. And then simply didn't execute, didn't tackle. That is something like I said we will try to get improvement in this week. One thing, we go out and tell our players each week that you have to be better than you were the week before and I am not sure we did that this past week. That is a challenge to our coaches and our players to make sure that we don't make that mistake again.

Q: Do you still have a lot of guys not hitting in practice?

Andrews:
I think we were looking out there, in fact one of the coaches made a comment about it when we were watching tape on Tuesday after practice I believe, that out of the group that was out there seven of them had blue shirts on which means no contact. We still have too many guys that cannot practice during the week. It is awfully hard to prepare physically to play the game you have to play and mentally as well. The game just moves faster when you are moving full speed and when you are going on full contact. There is nothing you can do about it. Hopefully you will get some guys mature enough that, it is like Jamie Robinson, he got hurt on Sunday's practice which was like a Tuesday. That was the first part of that practice and he didn't practice all week. He came back and played some on Thursday. That is hard to do. That is awfully hard to do. Somewhere along the lines somebody has got to step up and make the difference on what they are doing on tape, studying materials that we give them, and those kinds of things. Hopefully we will get a little bit better at that.

Q: Do you think Wilson was good preparation for Tyrod Taylor this upcoming weekend?

Andrews:
They are similar in some ways. The thing that you can say about Taylor, I remember, it doesn't take long to go back and remember about him from last year. I am not sure they would have won the football game if he hadn't ended up being the quarterback during the course of the ballgame. We had them in like 3rd and 29 or 3rd and 32, something like that, and they get a first down out of it. He runs the football. He is one of the most talented scramblers that we have faced since we have been here and we have played against some good ones. I think out of 94, 90-something passes, 98 maybe that he has set to throw, he has taken 24 of them and scrambled with them. That is one out of every four, one out of every four times they call a pass he ends up running it. It is hard enough to defend the pass but when you have to defend the passer and the runner at the same time it makes it a little more difficult. What we have got to do is find a way to do it with great discipline and not take our intensity and pressure off of the rush. You have got to find some way of doing that without creating big gaps and places for him to dip up and run.

Q: Wilson had one long run when the pass was covered. Are there times where the defense can be doing what they are supposed to be doing and you are forfeiting something that allows a player to just create like that?

Andrews:
Well it was just like on the long pass, they sent two receivers out there. The guy who caught the touchdown pass and one of the tight ends. They had three tight ends, and we had an all-out blitz and they picked it up and executed the route. Their execution was better than our defending was and it just boils down to the fact that when you blitz everybody is in a one-on-one situation and somebody has got to beat somebody. Their guy beat one of ours that was covering and none of our guys got to the quarterback in time. They completed the pass and got a long touchdown out of it. You can't say simply because you have got a play designed that we were in the same situation and we had a guy drop the ball or a quarterback under throws or over throws and we got out of it. It was as much what we didn't do as what they did that enabled them to have a successful play. We prevent that score there, then it will put pressure on their offense to have to take the ball and go down and score again or kick a couple of field goals to put it out of reach. There is a factor in there that you cannot account for, somebody just making a great play whether it is the quarterback, the receiver, blocker, or whoever. When you look at the bottom line and you grade all 11 of their guys, it would be interesting to see if they had 11 pluses or how many minuses we had out of our 11 guys playing. Yet, when you look at it, it looks like one guy wasn't covered and he was, he was a guy that allowed the touchdown pass. We have got to be more accountable to each other to do our job. That is true on every play, not just a blitz but on just a base play. We have to do a better job out-fighting people when it counts the most.

Q: You praised Myron Rolle's play a few weeks ago, how did he perform this past game?

Andrews:
He didn't play very well when we started the game. He had a couple of missed assignments, a couple of bad plays that are very uncharacteristic of him that allowed them to score 10 points. I reminded him that he looked a lot like he did last year when he wasn't, when he didn't play like a great player. So much different than what he has been this year. I kind of challenged him a little bit and he accepted the challenge and played very well from there on in. I think he was our leading tackler, which is not what you want out of your defensive backs.

That is just like Korey (Mangum) gives up the long touchdown pass, that was only one of three minuses that he got in the entire game. He graded great but he really hurt us on that one play. That is the thing that we try to get our kids, don't get wrapped up in what your percentage grade was, how did you play when you actually could have affected the game whether versus the run or the pass. We all still have some growing to do and we will keep working at it.

Q: Rolle dropped another possible interception, do you think he has something in his head about that or what is going on there?

Andrews:
You will have to ask him that question. I can't answer that for you.

Q: That is part of what safeties are out there for though, isn't it?

Andrews:
Yeah. I will take a guy that can tackle, a guy who can be a consistent tackler, over a guy who may drop a pass or two any day of the week. Like I said, he has some areas that he has to grow in and one of them is getting to where he can make those types of plays, intercepts. That is what separates greatness, from being an average player to a great player. You broke up the pass, he caught the pass on you, or you intercepted it. He is still working to get better every day.

Q: I think you are leading the country in third down stops.

Andrews:
Yeah, we were going in. We gave up one on a 3rd and 2. They made one third down conversion out of nine plays. Our problem was we didn't get them into third down enough. We allowed first downs on first and second down, so we didn't get them in thid and long. It doesn't matter how good you are at third and long or third down. That is something our guys take a lot of pride in but I think for the first time this year we didn't win the first down battle. We didn't put them in 2nd and 8 enough times. Too many first downs on first down or first downs on second down. That is certainly an area that we need to do a better job at this coming week as well.

Q: While you have evaluated the film and everything, if you just got up on Friday morning and looked at the stats and the points wouldn't you be pleased with how this defense performed?

Andrews:
It is all based on where you want to set your standards and where you want your players' standards to be. My first statement was that we won the football game and that is better than playing good and losing than still not playing quite so good and winning.

Q: What were your missed tackles?

Andrews:
10 (missed tackles).

Q: Isn't that one of your goals?

Andrews:
Under 10 is our goal. But we had some missed tackles that ended up being pretty good runs too. 10, 15 yards, whatever.

Q: What is Dekoda Watson's status?

Andrews:
Well, I think we had him five or six plays last week. His hamstring is what his problem is, as much as his elbow. He tried to go, he just couldn't run. You can't put a guy out there who can't run. He is one of those guys, we have had about three or four linebackers, that have not been able to practice in about two or three weeks that are trying to play a little bit on Saturday's. That is just hard to do.

Q: Kendall Smith got back in the mix out of necessity due to that, how did he perform?

Andrews:
He did pretty good. He had a good lick early in the game. He got lined up wrong and missed a call one time and it gave up a 14 or 15-yard run, whatever it was. It would have been nothing. I think it was the 3rd and 2 play. I think it was the only one they converted. But he is coming along. We were talking about him today, he is making progress. He is starting to grasp things. He just needs to stay there and keep climbing.

Q: Has Rod Roberts been out there in a lot of moments like that?

Andrews:
No, Rod hasn't practiced in two weeks either. There at the end was the only play he had on defense. He goes in and breaks up a pass on fourth down. He made a very nice play out of it.

Q: In terms of Virginia Tech's offense, when you have a quarterback like Taylor who is running the ball effectively but may be struggling throwing, how do you approach him on defense?

Andrews:
Well you hope he hands off or throws the football because he is such a threat when he has the ball on his arm and is running. He has great mobility. He is one of the most unique awareness's of where pressure is around him and finding creases to escape. It seems like lately he has started scrambling to throw instead of just scrambling to run all the time. But when you look at the group he is playing with you have four starters back on the offensive line plus their tight end. They are a very solid group up-front. The running backs and wide receivers are new. But since that first ballgame until last week, they have gone out there and done what they need to do to win football games.

Q: How much do you go back to last season's tape to get a sense of what they do offensively?

Andrews:
Well, like I said they have new people at wide receiver and at running back. You can go back and look at the things they did and the personnel up-front and whatever but you pretty much have to go with what you see this year because they are a different ballclub than they were last year.

Q: How much better does your defense have to be for the second half of the season for you to get through those last six?

Andrews:
You are asking me something I don't really know the answer to except that I can tell you what is going to happen if we don't get better. It is going to put too much pressure on our kicking game and on our offense. We have to play a stronger role in the win on Saturday than we did last week is probably the best way to put it. We did so many things good the first part of the year and then we have become a little inconsistent. You are not going to be successful on defense if you are a roller coaster, you have to go out there and play solid. Hopefully we will be able to do that.

Q: Where do you see the potential of this defensive unit being?

Andrews:
I don't know, it is a little bit like the down home country logic it is not about what you have done, it is about what you are going to do this Saturday and that is every Saturday that we play. I think sometimes you get bogged down looking at numbers and those numbers can lie to you sometimes. When you get to feeling good about what you have done and you don't get ready to go out there and defend and do what you have got to do this week. Maybe we were a little guilty of that last week. Certainly there is a lot of progress when you look at the tape that can be done coaching-wise and playing-wise to make this group a little more solid.

Q: You have coached a lot of great players, do you have any great players right now?

Andrews:
Well we are only halfway through. I don't think we have got anybody that is satisfied with the way they have performed right now. Probably cant find a coach who is satisfied with the way we have coached so far neither. So it is just like I said a minute ago, we didn't perform at the level we expect to and that we want to. We will find out if we have enough passion. If you are going to excel at anything, you have to have great passion. We didn't see great passion, we didn't see great enthusiasm, great intensity you had to go and pick out plays that looked like the way you want your defense to play. I think our players and coaches will all agree with that.

Q: One of the players who has really seized the opportunity that suspensions presented him was defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart. Can you just talk about where he has come from as a football player?

Andrews:
Well, you look at Kendrick he is a little undersized for what you want in a defensive lineman and he is not much bigger than some linebackers and yet what has enabled him to become a solid performer for us is that he is a smart player. He does not get himself out of position a lot. He knows that if he doesn't maintain good football position or low pads, if he doesn't use his quickness, he is going to get overpowered. From time to time we have to move those guys inside just to free him up. Our guys are nowhere near as big as most guys we play against each week and certainly not this week. I would say that what he has done is that he has learned to use what abilities he has to compensate for maybe some efficiencies that he has that tells him that he isn't big enough to play.

Q: You coached Odell, do they share some of the same qualities?

Andrews:
If you remember when we moved Odell from linebacker he only weighed about 230 pounds. He didn't have the luxury of doing that through a spring and summer to get bigger and stronger. I think it was in the summer when we approached him, right before the two-a-days started. He shares some of the same characteristics in there. Both of them have a good motor, good feet, quickness, strong, compete, and I think Odell would tell you the same thing about him.

Q: The way the offense has controlled the clock, has that resulted in any changes for you guys?

Andrews:
Yeah, the thing that we didn't do in the first half, we didn't get a three and out. It actually didn't occur until the fourth quarter. The last three possessions, like I said in the fourth quarter they only got 28 yards and one first down on that long play. When you look at the bottom line, the thing that we have got to do, we just have got to find a way. It is hard to understand, we go down there and play Miami and I don't think we can play much better than we did down there, we had about five three and outs in the first half and it just goes back to what was mentioned a minute before. It is not about what you have done but what you are going to do. When they kick that thing off, you have to show up and be ready to play at that time and play with a little more hunger than we showed in the first half.

Q: With a mobile quarterback like Taylor, is it key to make him not want to run the football by punishing him?

Andrews:
Well you know you want that to happen but you never want to hurt anybody. But our kids understand that if a guy wants to take himself out of a ballgame that is his business. But you have got to hit him, you have got to inflict some pressure on him with contact for that to happen. The thing you have to be really careful of with a guy like that who is so quick and is so shifty, is that you will miss more tackles than you will make if you don't get under control and wrap up. You cannot play him off your feet.

Q: This game Saturday is between two teams who started the season off with two fifth-year senior quarterbacks but will be playing with younger, more mobile quarterbacks. From a defensive coordinators position, what is going on with us starting to see that trend?

Andrews:
I don't know if it is a trend or not, I think it is just about trying to get production out of your offense. Sometimes a certain chemistry develops different ways. Sometimes a simple change can spark the kind of chemistry that you want. Maybe the guy is struggling a little bit and you need a new spark. Maybe the things that your team can do lends itself more to the talents of the other quarterback Those two things probably have as much to do with it as anything and then the leadership factor that goes with it.

Q: How much of a factor would it be that it seems like defense's haven't quite caught up with the spread?

Andrews:
Could be. I think that might have a bearing on it. If you are a great passing quarterback and you are off a little bit that day, it is a little different then. Most people don't like to play with two quarterbacks. I think offensively they would want to do the thing with whoever can be more productive with the whole group. Getting the whole group combined to play as a unit.

Transcribed by Chris Nee


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