Here's what I just transcribed of Al Golden with us on a teleconference tonight:
Is this week most complete in terms of everybody being back from suspension?
You’re exactly right. I thought last week would be and then obviously we had a suspension during the week. This clearly will be the first time… barring any health issues. We have a couple of health obstacles here we have to overcome but we don’t anticipate any suspensions or off-the-field issues at this point.
How good does that feel to have your team in tact and what are you guys capable of and how much better can you be at full strength?
I think we’re making progress. The guys are starting to understand the process and going back to work day in and day out. If you have a team that does that and is consistent and executes on a daily basis you have a chance to improve.
It’s a short week. We’re coming off an option on our defense and our offense is coming off a 3-4 week so we have to adjust very quickly here going into this game.
With a week this short, are there things you won’t be able to get done?
No question. Both teams have the same issues though. There are no excuses here. It is what it is. The game is Thursday night. We manage our side of it and Virginia manages their side. I don’t think either side can say they can do everything they could normally do in a full week. We were very banged up coming out of that game on Saturday so we have to get our team healed up and ready to go for Thursday.
One penalty and four over the course of two games. Is that a sign they’re hearing your message?
We’re making progress there. We have a long way to go, but clearly as a team we’re starting to understand what we’re trying to get done there. .. We just have to keep moving forward..
Any word on Feliciano or McGee?
Feliciano doesn’t look good right now for this game. Of course it’s a short week but we’ll know more tomorrow. I don’t anticipate there being anybody else that’s out. Mcgee would be probable until we see him on the practice field.
We have a lot other guys, to be honest it’s still too early, we have to see how they react tomorrow. Our meeting is after this. It’s hard to gauge where they’re at.
Micanor Regis, has he learned his lesson for lack of a better way of putting it?
I hope so because it’s zero tolerance, I’m not putting up with that and we don’t want that on our football program. Certainly he paid a price. It’s his senior year. He lost a whole game. And instead of being at the stadium with his teammates he was doing community service. He filled his end of the bargain so now its on to reinstatement and then getting back to competing for a job. The bad news for Micanor is that Darius Smith played his best game of the year so he has his hands full in terms of a short week competing for a starting job. (Note that Smith is the new starter at left defensive tackle on the depth chart just released)
Was that something you saw watching film?
No. It does not show up on our sideline or end zone copy of our game film. I wasn’t made aware of it until I came off the field on Wednesday morning. What time is that, 11:30? By 1:30 he was suspended. I did my ACC call, got off the phone, brought the kid in, interviewed him, learned more about it, talked to his position coach. Brought the AD in and told him what was going on and that was it.
Who let you know?
I guess there was some kind of TV video that was circulating that ended up getting to me and I immediately called [North Carolina} Coach [Everett] Withers once I saw it and apologied once I saw it and handled it accordingly.
Could you put into context the type of season Sean Spence is having and how important he has been to the ups and downs of this defense and getting them ready?
Sean Spence right now is playing lights out. I’m happy for the young man and I’m proud of him as his teammates are. He prepares, he leads, he’s the same guy every day. And he plays is how he practices. Right now he is invaluable to us and clearly having a special year. There are good years, there are great years and there are specials years. Right now he’s having a special year.
If Feliciano can’t play this week, will you stick with Bunche or will there be more evaluation of the offensive line?
I apologize if we did not release that, but Seantrel and Bunche will fight for the starting job at right tackle and we’re bringing Jermaine Johnson up at left tackle to back up Brandon who played his best game of the year.
What happened on the play he got injured?
I think he got stood up on a celebration and came down on someone’s leg. I didn’t understand the extent of it because when I got out there (laughing) to check on him all the offensive linemen were laughing. They were telling me he got hurt during the celebration. I thought they were kind of joking around because they knew he was going to be all right. But the X-Rays were negative. He’ll be OK, but it’s such a short week and I don’t think he’ll be all right right now. We’ve got to celebrate a little smarter than that I guess. [We’ve] got to coach everything.
If you’re asking me right now, I’d say doubtful.
We didn’t get out of there until 8 O’Clock last night and I have no idea what his status would be until we get out on the field.
He went to jump up, you know how they jump up together and chest bump or whatever they do. Whoever he was doing it with decided at the last second that wasn’t a good idea and he came down on someone’s foot.
At that position, Bunche is going to be competing at the right side. In the spring, Bunche was leading at left tackle and it seems like he fell off the earth in a way. We haven’t really talked to him that much. How is he doing?
I don’t think he fell off the earth. Clearly he had a back injury in Week 2 or Week 3 where he was out for whatever it was – 14 days. But the five guys we’re playing with we felt like they’ve been doing a good job. They’ve been protecting the quarterback good. We’ve been running the ball fairly well. The last two weeks we encountered some trouble but prior to that we were running the ball real well and we’ve maintained our pass protection really well. It hasn’t been an issue, it’s just that the competition there is real good. Seantrel is another guy that’s trying to fight in and get in and so is Fig and Wheeler and Shane, so there are a bunch of guys competing there.
After Jon went out, it was Bunche mostly. How much did Seantrel play on offense? Seantrel played a couple of series and Bunch played somewhere in the 30s. He played a good number. He did a good job. He did a really good job. That’s why we have the confidence right now. There are a lot of different ways we could have reconfigured it this morning but we thought the way Malcolm played he and Seantrel should compete for the starting job over there.
Jermaine Johnson is going to back up at left tackle? What has he been doing that you’ve seen lately?
As I said earlier, for us it’s just a function of who is playing the best, not who has played the best or what did they do last year. I look at all these guys as how they’re practicing and how they’re playing. Malcolm, we thought, coming out of the spring was our best offensive lineman. Malcolm had a tremendous spring. But Harland Gunn has been playing really well and Tyler Horn has been playing well and Linder… They’ve been playing good football. Jermaine has got an opportunity to be with the varsity this week and not on the scouts. He has a chance to come up and see what he can do. And then we’ll go from there. Clearly, Brandon played his best game of the year. He was 90 percent with his grade and 98 percent finish. And some of the plays he had were tremendous in that game. We’re excited about the way he practiced and the way he performed in the game.
UM’s offense and Va’s pass defense seems to be one of its strength. Could you talk about UM’s offense?
No question. We weren’t as sharp on offense. Give Georgia Tech a lot of credit. They weren’t ranked 20th because they’re not any good. They’re well coached on both sides of the ball. Now we’re going against Virginia. They’re 19th in total defense, 12th in pass defense, and if my memory serves me correct, they’re Top 20 in red-zone defense and top 40 in scoring defense. It’s a team that has active linebackers, one with 65 tackles, another with 49. Eight interceptions – the corners are really good. The safeties are active, they play a lot of quarters, from what I can tell. The ends do a nice job for them. The Snyder kid and Cam Johnson. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys on a short week but we have to play better on offense than we have the last six quarters.
How pleased are you with your guys as they’ve fought back to put themselves in this position with everything that has gone on this season?
They’ve done a great job. I don’t really pay attention to it, but there are a lot of teams in our conference that have played really good out of conference schedules and I think ours is right up there. We lost at Virginia Tech in a heartbreaker and we lost to Kansas State on the 1-yard line and those teams are whatever they’re ranked right now. I’m sure they’re both in the Top 12 or so. So, we’ve played a tough schedule amidst a transition year amidst a lot of adversity that we could not foresee coming. So there has been a lot of transition, there has been a lot of inconsistency now we’re starting to get some traction. They’re starting to understand the process, they’re starting to understand what it means to be consistent and to take care of your business everyday and they’re starting to see results.
In retrospect, how much of a factor were the suspensions?
I think we all know they were a big factor. I don’t think there’s any question when you look at the players involved, and then, of course, the impact that they’ve made. To say that Jacory Harris or Travis Benjamin or Sean Spence or Ray Armstrong or any of those guys wouldn’t have made a difference early in the season. I think it’s fair for us to say they would have made a difference.
Couldn’t help but notice that you guys had over 50 yards on kickoff return yesterday. A lot of people call that hidden yardage but I guess that wasn’t so hidden. Can you talk about your return game?
Well, we weren’t pleased with it the week before. North Carolina did a good job against us in special teams in general. I thought we responded yesterday. And the one that we got yesterday with a minute left in the half was big because it set up a touchdown and chance to go up 21-7 against Georgia Tech. So that was big, and clearly we got a touchdown from our punt-coverage unit yesterday, which was really good and we got a fourth-down stop from our punt-return unit. So special teams were pretty good yesterday and we’re going to be challenged again. I’ve already seen Virginia’s special teams and Virginia’s defense and we’re going to have quite a challenge there.
Your defense has been good, but it seems like yesterday it really rose to the occasion?
The last six quarters or so, maybe the last seven quarters, they’ve kind of grown up, playing with more unity and clearly there’s more continuity there despite the fact that we’ve had some injuries inside and some guys that have gone down we have more continuity. They’re playing the defense called. They understand it and everybody is executing their job right now. We’re improving. We’ve got a long way in all three phases but certainly improving in defense.
How is the process affected with the short week? Are there elements of the process challenged? Studying, how they have to do their classwork today because it’s a short week?
That’s it. That’s a challenge enough. That’s what we’re constantly talking to the players about. Basically, human behavior, what we ask them to do today and what they need to do during the week is what we’re trying to... That’s what makes up a culture, your decisions and the things you have to do on a daily basis, They have to be disciplined, they have to get their schoolwork done today, we have to watch yesterday’s game and then move forward to Virginia. So, it’s a short week, so not only do theyhave to do the things that we ask them to do, they have to take it a step further and do a lot of things on their own. It’s going to be that kind of a week. We need discipline right now and we need a smart football team.
NEW DEPTH CHART
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN